First of all, I want you to put away from your mind any images of driving along a winding road with valleys of lush vineyards unfolding one after the other. La Ruta del Vino from Salta to Cafayate is not like that at all.
Don’t get me wrong, the Wine Road to Cafayate is very scenic – but mentally prepare yourselves to see a lot more mountains and desert, and a lot less vines and cottages! And wind up those car windows, it’s dirt tracks for five of the seven hours drive (so you can forget renting a convertible!).
The drive began with a wild landscape of colourful mountains. I had already seen these beautiful rock formations for days (starting from Purmamarca), but I still can’t get over how stunning they are.
Danny and Damiano drove, but travelling in two cars with a group of eight meant that there were a lot of pit stops! Sometimes we stopped for cute animals.
Sometimes to snack on amazing goat cheese tortillas that were being freshly toasted by local mountain folk along the road.
And sometimes for bathroom stops. By bathroom err, I mean behind that hill over there…
There were hardly any other cars on the road …
In fact, you’re more likely to run into this kind of traffic.
We stopped in Cachi (nothing photo-worthy there) and continued on the dirt road until … can you believe what happened next?
You can’t call it a real road trip until you get a flat tyre!
I have to say that only fools would attempt this road trip in one day. It’s a comfortable drive to do over three or four days, taking your time to detour to the wineries (all of which are some 20km along dusty roads off the main road).
But young fools we were – and that day we were determined to reach Bodega Colome, a beautiful old vineyard off the beaten track from Molinos. It doesn’t sound that far away, but believe me it is! We drove through whirls of dirt in extreme heat with dodgy rental cars – it took us an hour and a half and the ride was long and bumpy.
Fiiiiinally, we arrived at Colome.
The girls and I wasted no time and went straight to the wine tasting room.
Torrontes is the signature grape in the Cafayate region and you will only find it grown in Argentina.
It produces a delicate white wine that smells quite sweet and on the palate it tastes fruity, floral and yet still quite dry.
Marica and I were big fans on the Colome Torrontes.
But the Malbec was pretty good too.
Irene was quaffing down the Malbec varieties and she doesn’t usually even drink red wine!
What makes the wines so special here is that the grapes are grown at high altitude – the vineyards sit between 2300 and 3111 meters above sea level.
But at Bodega Colome, it’s not just about wine.
The James Turrell Museum rests casually among the rows of vines at Colome.
We rushed inside the museum for something special at sunset.
During the day there is a permanent art exhibition, but the real treat is when the sun sets. We lay down on the museum floor with cushions and blankets and gazed up at the sky for an unbelievable light show as the sky turned from day to dusk.
I wish we could have stayed inside the museum overnight, drinking wine and gazing up at the stars.
But instead, we got back on the road and bulldozed our way through the dirt and dust to Cafayate in the dead of the night … I did warn you that this road trip was not going to be a slow and romantic day of vineyards!