If you are a wine lover visiting Salta in the northwest of Argentina, I highly recommend that you include Cafayate wineries in your itinerary. They are located around 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Salta. Cafayate is a wine-producing region located within the Calchaqui Valley – one of the highest places in the world suitable for viticulture. The Calchaqui Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges, with an average height of 1,700 metres (5,600 feet) above sea level. It has more than 300 sunny days a year. Cafayate has a desert climate with low rainfall and humidity. The dry weather and the wide thermal amplitude, along with the irrigation of the rivers, are the main reasons for the unique microclimate of this area. Around 70% of the vineyards of the region and 99% of the highest quality wine come from the Cafayate area. So check out the three best and very different wineries to include in your Cafayate wineries tour.
Before introducing them, let me tell a bit about the grapes and wines of Cafayate.
Grapes and wines of Cafayate
Cafayate wines are perhaps one of the best wines in Argentina. Torrontes Rioja and Malbec are the most popular and high-quality varieties from Cafayate. The area around Cafayate is particularly well suited for the white grape Torrontes Rioja, a variety native to Argentina. This variety, grown in the Cafayate Valley, produces fine white wines with a fruity, floral, crisp taste and surprising depth of flavour. Full-bodied, richly structured wines from Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are also produced in Cafayate. By the way, Malbec was actually first introduced from France to Argentina in Salta, not in Mendoza. Malbec is originally from Bordeaux, but it needs heat and sunshine to ripen; therefore, it’s suitable for growing in Argentina.
Finca Las Nubes
Best for gorgeous city views and a tranquil mood
Located at the foot of El Cajón Hill, 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) from Cafayate, is Las Nubes Rural Estate. It’s an exceptional place surrounded by carob trees, cacti, terraces and millenary ruins. With two hectares (4.9 acres) of vineyards, the small Finca Las Nubes was established by the Mounier family at the beginning of the 21st century. Coming from Mendoza, they realised their dream of making high-quality wine in the province of Salta. Finca Las Nubes is open for visitors every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. As they offer guided tours only in Spanish, I recommend sipping their wine in a cafe with some cheese and enjoying stunning views over vineyards instead of taking a tour. The cafe also offers different local food to try while enjoying the best views of Cafayate and the beauty of its surroundings.
Also, you can buy their wines at promotional prices. Wine bouquets vary widely, where the dominant ones are those of red fruits, i.e., plums and cherries, with a slight touch of vanilla and wood fragrances.
A long tradition of winemaking in historic colonial-style buildings
Located in a gorgeous colonial-style white building just outside the centre of Cafayate, Bodega El Esteco winery offers to enjoy the wines and beautiful scenery. One of the longest-running wineries in Argentina, Bodega El Esteco winery was founded in 1892 by French brothers David and Salvador Michel, along with David’s Italian wife, Gabriela Torino.
The winery was one of the first to commercialise Torrontes wines, which became one of the first Argentinian wines to be exported internationally. With over 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of vineyards, El Esteco is the most important winery in the Calchaqui Valley. All the grapes are hand-harvested and benefit from sustainable and environmentally friendly viticulture. Owned by the Penaflor Group, the winery produces a diverse range of wines, including red, white, rose and sparkling wines, all of which you can taste on a visit to the winery or while staying overnight at their luxury wine hotel, Patios de Cafayate.
Book your guided winery tour on their website.
Luxury feel, new generation industrial winery
Jon Malinski, the North American owner of Piattelli, has decided to combine the tourism business with the production of high-altitude wines. Under his supervision, Bodegas Piattelli planted dozens of hectares of vineyards and built a winery from scratch in Cafayate in 2012. Bodega Piattelli exports 80% of the production. The United States is its primary customer, but it also exports to many other countries. Between its establishments in Agrelo, Mendoza and Cafayate, it has the capacity to produce 1.2 million litres of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Torrontes and Chardonnay wines. The winemakers at Piattelli have demonstrated their outstanding viticulture practices in the undisputed quality of excellent wines. Book your winery tour and wine tasting on their website. Make sure you taste the wine with cheese. It’s just delicious.
Piattelly restaurant offers meals paired with its excellent wines.
Want to stay longer? Piattelli Wine Resort offers accommodation with a restaurant, SPA, free private parking, a bar and a garden. Book directly on the resort website.
Where to stay in Cafayate
My choice was Viñas de Cafayate, located amidst a vineyard plantation at the foot of the impressive San Isidro Hill. Viñas de Cafayate is where you can be in touch with nature and Salta´s wine tradition. Not only is it a pleasant setting where to relax, but it is also ideal for going on treks and walks through the region. The hotel has a big inner yard and an open-air swimming pool. I recommend their restaurant to enjoy gourmet dishes prepared with traditional products. Their wine list invites you to discover outstanding wines with body and flavour that only Cafayate can offer. I made a booking through their website. Make sure to book well in advance as the hotel is quite popular.
I advise you to visit Cafayate as a part of your road trip in the Salta region. The road from Salta to Cafayate is very scenic, so allow time for sightseeing stops along the way. You can use taxis to reach wineries in Cafayate if you want to do a serious wine tasting. Learn about the blue dollar rate in Argentina and use it to your advantage. Bring enough 100 dollar or euro notes and change them using the blue dollar rate to save massive amounts of money. Use only pesos and pay in cash everywhere. Forget about credit cards.
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