Cafayate was pretty far off my radar when we were planning out our time in Argentina. When we started doing research for our road trip, I started to realize that it might be somewhere we’d want to spend a bit of extra time. As it turned out, the city had even more to offer than we’d expected, and we ended up spending a lot more time there than we thought we would.
One of the reasons we had such a great experience in Cafayate was the excellent advice we got at the hostel we stayed in. As soon as we walked in the door, one of the owners sat us down and gave us a full overview of the activities she recommended in and around town. She also showed us a book they’d created that had instructions and maps detailing everything she’d explained to us and how to get to each place she’d suggested. This was SO helpful, and more hostels should really adopt this practice. After her fifteen minute explanation we felt totally prepared to plan out our days in Cafayate. Many of her suggestions involved wine, food, and being outdoors, which was just perfect for us.
After we’d dropped our things off in our room and gotten settled at the hostel, we decided to check one of the suggested activities off our list and go for a tour of a local cheese farm. Located a couple of kilometres outside of town, Cabras de Cafayate offers tours every hour on the hour, with a mid day break for lunch. We were lucky enough to be the only people there for the 5:00 tour, so we got our own private visit! They only offer tours in Spanish, so I asked our guide to speak slowly and let me translate for Zevi as we went along and he was happy to oblige. We visited the goats, and even got to see some little babies as it was birthing season. Unfortunately they were a little bit camera shy but just trust me when I say that they were painfully adorable. After learning about the process from milking to transportation to processing to the shaping of the cheese, we got to sample some of the goat and cow cheese that is produced in the farm. It was all delicious, and if we’d been closer to home we definitely would have taken a few different varieties home with us.
The next day it was time to truly get down to business and check out a couple of wineries. The first winery recommended by our hostel was Piatelli. We weren’t surprised to learn that this vineyard had been started by a Californian, as its grand buildings and architecturally impressive grounds reminded us of the wineries we’d visited in Napa a few years ago. Piatelli’s restaurant is touted as one of the best places to eat in the area, so we sat down to grab a bite to eat before taking a tour. We were not disappointed, as Zevi’s chicken was perfectly cooked, my corn pie was full of balanced sweet and savoury flavour, and our bottle of torrontes was crisp and refreshing on the sunny spring afternoon. The beautiful views didn’t hurt either!
When it came time to take a tour, we got lucky again. The next tour was supposed to be in Spanish, but since we were the only ones there at that time our guide agreed to do the explaining in English, which meant that I could leave behind my role as translator for the time being. Though it’s always interesting to learn about each winery’s unique wine making process, we’re always in it mostly for the tasting, so we were excited to sample the wines produced at Piatelli’s Cafayate location at the end of the tour (they also have a location in Mendoza). We were already fans of the Torrontes, but the reds were equally good. I really enjoyed the Cabernet, while Zevi was a fan of the Malbec.
Our second stop that day was at Domingo Molina, a smaller and more unassuming winery than Piatelli. The wines here were some of our favourites of the entire trip, and the entire tasting experience was a highlight for both of us. We were the only ones there that afternoon, and as we sat in the sun overlooking vineyards that stretched to the majestic mountains, sipping wine and munching on cheese and crackers, it seemed that life couldn’t get much better. Although we really enjoyed all of the wines we tasted, the Finca Domingo Torrontes and Cabernet Sauvignon were standouts, and we bought a bottle of each for an astoundingly cheap $14 Canadian. This price included the tasting, which made us feel like we’d really come away with a steal!
We were only planning to stay in Cafayate for two nights, but we loved it so much that we decided to extend our stay for another day! I’ll wrap up our time there in a second post.