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The highlight of this trip to Argentina was an extraordinary visit hosted by Claudio Z. and Inez at the Uraqui winery guesthouse. Not only is the vineyard itself the highest in the world, the project that encompasses the winery (as one of three aspects) is a study in ecology, low-impact farming, local Aymara culture, philosophy, and raising little girls.

After fording the river in our rental car, we were warmly welcomed by Caudio who proceeded to walk us through his organic seed operation.

Uraqui winery guesthouse

The guesthouse serves as a base of operations for meals and hanging out. It’s huge windows overlook farmland and the river. The humahuaca valley is surrounded by majestic Andes peaks.

Though the rooms are simple (and we won’t even bring up the shower curtains for this entry), everything else is overwhelmingly magnificent.

Of course, we’re here to see the highest vineyard in the world and to taste the exceptionally good wine.

Usually Uraqui wine is not barreled. These barrels are for a friend.

Dinner included vegetables that we picked the afternoon of our arrival, high energy little girls flitting around like birds, a violin, a broken D string, potent conversation, and laughter.

We were up early the next morning to ascend to the vineyard and the “cellar.”

The elevation of the vineyard is 10,922 feet above sea level (see this article by Sorrel Moseley-Williams for detail from a wine expert). What that means is a very steep, four mile or so drive up over an Andes pass in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The ascent itself is stunning.

We brought along coca leaves from the market in Tilcara (and used them to good effect).

Claudio says that the UV is the most extreme aspect of the mountain climate. The grapes he grows and blends on the property certainly make great wine.

After a brief visit to the vines, we climbed another 2000 feet (to 12,139 feet above sea level) where an old barium sulfate mine has been converted into a “cellar.” There is something pleasingly absurd (almost invoking the magical surrealism of Márquez) about a cellar being both above the vineyard by 2000 feet and close to the very top of the Quebrada mountain valley.

Claudio told us an incredible story about the naming of his wine, its label, and its current storage location. You’ll have to have him tell it to you one day.

A bottle signed by Sorrel

A tasting outside the cellar high in the mountains was in order. Incredible.

Uraqui which means “terroir” in Aymara, is a blend of Malbec, Syrah and Merlot. It is deep and flavorful.

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Overlooking its birthplace

The Andean mountain scene is stunning.

Eagle

After our morning tasting and adventure, we were welcomed for another communal lunch with the family which evolved into more philosophy with the help of some fernet and coke.

The national drink of Argentina

We said our goodbyes. And then it was off for an espresso pit stop in Humahuaca before heading back south to fly to Buenos Aires in a massive thunderstorm.

Forza

These memories will linger like wine on the tounge until we return for another glass.

Thanks Claudio

You so much want the super cute cabañas to be all they can be. Sadly, it’s close but no cigar at Los Colorados. Purmamarca is a cute town. The landscape is spectacular and easy to hike around. The design is enticing and nice. The staff is helpful and gracious.

 

 

So what’s the problem? The problem seems to be the plumbing. Swamp gas in the small bathroom (and also wafting around the property) is masked by deodorizer and insecticide to such an extent that breathing is non-trivial. Seriously, NPS gets a sore throat just thinking about it.

And the shower? Nope.

Anyway, just look how cute this place is. Here is Cabaña 2.

living area

bamboo ceiling

The tile is great. Even the bathroom (though very small) looks good. Sadly, that plumbing thing. Not only is the shower plastic (and over a tub) but the water goes pretty much all over the place. Just no.

Then again, there is a rooftop terrace.

rooftop terrace

We slipped into Pulmarca for lunch. La Posta is workaday, but not bad. Beer is always good.

And there is this.

A hike outside of Tilcara to Garganta del Diablo occupied much of the afternoon. No water. Dinner in Tilcara at El Nuevo Progreso was quirky and decent. Great trout in saffron sauce, outstanding fried cheese appetizer, and a great desert. Worth a visit.

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Nuevo Progresso

Back in Purmamarca, a hike around Cerro de los Siete Colores (Seven-Color Hill) is quick and easy. The landscape is remarkable (about more which later).

Cerro de los Siete Colores

So, in the end Purmamarca is well worth a visit (though we prefer Tilcara for its slightly more hip vibe).

Back to the hotel—if they rip out the plumbing and replace it, perhaps it will be what it needs to be. But for now, two sad showerheads for a place with lots of potential.

Pretty much the middle of nowhere—well kinda. There are 250K people in this city of San Salvador de Jujuy, and way more lights than we have any where within 8 miles of our house. However, when you are staying in the gateway to the Argentinean Andes, this is where you stay.

Hotel Altos de la Viña has it going on. We arrived around 9:30pm after negotiating a rental car from the airport and finding our way slightly north. What a room! But no time to explore that. Instead, it was “drop off the stuff” and head straight back down to town.

Dinner at Viracocha restaurant (Facebook sucks, but here) was all it was cracked up to be. In fact, the Argentine-bonus Fodor’s guide (which we usually triangulate around) is right on the money way up here in Jujuy. Make sure you get a copy when you come this way.

The food was remarkably tasty. Llama. Park illegally—everyone does it.

Then it was back up the hill to the unmarked 111.

111 entrance

el coucho

this desk is a great place to write some shit down

See?

Room 111 is a suite with the only real balcony on the property. Get this room.

111 sticks out

111 has a zebra bed

And a very fancy closet

And this chair, which you will never use

The bathroom is a good deal. As is almost always the case, glass showers come with ridiculous tubs that never get used.

like this

Euro-shower (Martin says this is not allowed)

If you travel for 24 hours in a row, sleeping comes easy.

Wake up to this!

one way

or another

Have breakfast on the hill

One of the main interesting things about Jujuy so far is the distinct lack of Norte Americanos. There are lots of tourists, to be sure. But there are Porteños all over, and a few others, but not many gringos. We approve.

Up in the morning, we had something that was supposed to be a cappucino but which may have just been a hot chocolate. Then it was north in the rental car.

This place is incredible.

More to come tomorrow.

Four showerheads, a view not to be beat, and some espresso for Altos de la Viña.

The flight to Buenos Aires from Newark is 11 hours and 5 minutes. The great news about such a long flight is that there is actually time enough to watch a movie, have a real sleep, and eat a good breakfast before you land. As has been the case for multiple trips in a row, United’s Polaris service (international) is second to none. Best pods. Best crew. Most flight options. Well done United. Please bring some of that goodness home to domestic flying!

Customs is now efficient in Argentina, and there is no visa tax for walking across the boarder. To be on the safe side, we set up our flight to JuJuy later in the day to give us plenty of time to be late, get stuck at customs, and otherwise be afflicted by travel woes. Of course, none of that happened.

Plan B was to take a taxi in to our hotel in Buenos Aires where we plan to check in on Monday. This was our attempt to shower in an unoccupied room, consolidate luggage, and then have lunch in the city. Thanks to the very kind people at the Fierro Hotel, we did it all and had a glass of wine in the lobby to boot. Awesome.

Room 42 is a standard issue Fierro room according to the map on the door. Modern appointment and amenities are all in abundance.

42 sitting area

From the windows in

The shower, though on the small side and a bit cramped in the bathroom, is not plastic. And boy does it feel good after being trapped in a plane for 12 hours!

ahhhhh

So a quick shower and a rearrangement of luggage (we’ll store two pieces in Buenos Aires) had us out the door before noon. That was plenty of time to find a cooperating ATM and a bistrot.

Oui Oui cafe in Palermo is recommended, but brig ear plugs if you are sensitive to noise. If you are used to rock and roll in small places, everything will be fine.

Coffee at Birkin is taken very seriously, and to good effect. (All they have is a lame ass Facebook link, so here.)

Then it was off to the other airport to fly to JuJuy.

Worth noting is the fact that Aerolinea Argentina has better equipment than United does for domestic flights. Better food too. The two hour and 15 minute flight was smooth once we negotiated the typical Argentinean boarding scrum (which for some reason always involves some sort of confusion).

Everything is slower in Jujuy, and that is just fine. For the record, that includes baggage claim, car rental, and dinner. Time to slow down.