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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.