A two hour drive from Salta through the fantastically scenic landscape filled with cacti and wild animals bought us to Cafayate. With its plethora of bodegas and artisan craft markets, Cafayate is a lovely rustic town. It has decent restaurants and a laid back atmosphere, which makes it the perfect place to hold up for a few days. In all honesty we could have stayed for a few more days than the 3 we had planned but with onward buses booked our journey was short, sweet and wonderfully surreal.
Having sampled one of the local wines at dinner shortly after disembarking the bus we new like so many others knew we would be touring a few of the local Bodegas during our stay. So on our first full day there we hired two bicycles with more road miles on them than we had travelled so far in South America and set off to cycle 7km to Domingo Molina.
We had heard Domingo Molina was one of the best bodegas and after the purely uphill cycle (not for the fainthearted) we were not disappointed. The staff were welcoming, knowledgeable, fluent in English, and best of all the scenery was breath-taking. Sensing we and our companion were a little knackered after our cycle, we were offered some refreshments before our tour of the bodega. Tour complete, we were encouraged to spend as long as we liked sitting on the terrace sampling the wines, and were offered local cheeses which made the perfect accompaniment. To top it off the cost of the tasting is deducted from any bottles of wine purchased and with just enough room in our rucksacks for two bottles we had happily obliged.
Prior to the 7km cycle, on the edge of town we had met our guide, Tannat. Tannat was energetic, inspiring, charming, and most of all loyal. Tannat worked purely for tips; tips of leftovers, a bit of water, some biscuits and a few escapee grapes for good measure. We thoroughly recommend everyone pick up one of these invaluable local guides if off on a cycle, as cycling through the dust and the cacti with a dog running at our heels made the experience truly unforgettable.
It must have been more than just a simple canine desire to chase tourists on bikes that compelled Tannat to jog the 7km alongside us to the most remote of Bodegas. Some would say we adopted him but truth be told he adopted us. He sat loyally at our side through the wine tasting, charmed the Bodega’s staff (who gave him his name), made quick work of the escapee grapes during the cleaning process and happily bounded off after us as we headed off at speed down the 7km track back to town. When we reached the spot were we’d found him he trotted off without so much as a goodbye, clearly happy with his day’s adventure.
Another bodega that we recommend visiting is Bodega Nanni. Accessible on foot as its located in the centre of town it would be high on our list of favourite wines, and it’s organic too. Only downside is they don’t ship internationally…yet. We are keeping our fingers crossed that business goes well for them and they can ship to the UK in time for our return…they’ve got a fair bit of time… Likewise we recommend the restaurant, which so far has been one of the best meals of the trip.
On day two, as we approached Bodega Nanni, who should be sitting on the roadside but none other than trusty Tannat. The adorable pup proceeded to bound over to us like we were long lost friends and once again joined us on our days activities. We should probably note here that Cafayate is small town but not that small. It was wonderfully bizarre that Tannat had found us again and we allowed him to be our companion once again. Loyal and well behaved for a street dog he was as charming as ever. He only let himself down once: we had to pretend not to know him when we were browsing the market stalls and he peed on a stall full of alpaca rugs…
Finally Cafayate has a local cheese factory and goat farm that is well worth a visit. About 1km from town it is a pleasant walk alongside the vineyards or would make for an easy cycle. Tours seem to be only in Spanish, but our basic knowledge got us through and we came back with a couple of delicious cheeses to show for it.