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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

R2 Wine Luncheon Take 3

March 12, 2018

There are rumored to be more wine luncheons than those that we can attend, but rumor is just rumor unless there is photographic evidence. The latest incarnation that can be shown to exist happened in LA on March 9th. The target was Little Sister.

As you can see, nobody enjoyed themselves, least of all Donnie.

Also there was not enough wine.

The weather was terrible. Cold and snowy.

Obviously, we drove the waitress completely insane.

The food was delicious, a fusion of Asian and American (kind of like that helicopter sound that immediately brings to mind Vietnam).

Many courses, only one of which included shakey beef.

There was little wine.

Pinot noir from the wine club.

There was big wine.

Pinot noir from the cellar.

There was plenty of wine.

The selection

Then all of a sudden we were on a quest. First to the Athletic Club of LA. Very old school, but willing to learn how to make a Corpse Reviver #2.

Then to Miro (under an Italian eatery), which was very suave but still willing to make a great Sazarac with Willet Family Reserve 12 year old rye. Perfection.

Sazarac (with only ywo dashes of Peychauds)

Then to dinner, where the political state of Virginia became a problem for some of us with an overly sized buzz. No GOP weenie has been elected to state wide office since 2009 in Virginia DAMN IT! And that was before the sheer idiocy of fake president Twump.

Dinner was somewhere near these very tall buildings

Then to Cafe D’oro in Santa Monica to hang with Vincenzo and drink whatever the dealer dealt.

Dealer’s choice (mezcal)

By 1am we were back at the Georgian Hotel, a good thing since our departure was slated at 5am sharp.

Would we do it again? Of course.

Wine luncheon one was so much fun that even in a month of intense travel (three countries and 7 cities so far this May), NPS just had to attend edition two.

A great time was had by all. Our gracious and knowledgeable host was the owner of Bistro 45. The food was as outstanding as the wine and included Mexican shrimp, dry scallops, organic beets, and waygu beef.

Arrival

The supply grows and pairing planning begins

Wine range

Bistro 45 is highly recommended

The crew

The kitchen crew minus chef

Cigars and cognac spontaneously appeared after lunch.

Someone is having fun!

I know, lets do it again!

The quick answer is: there is no stay short enough to justify a plastic shower.

NPS set out to prove this aphorism at the truly style-free Renaissance hotel at LAX.

Renaissance is a Marriott property, so we of course made great use of our friend Mr. X who is a Lifetime Platinum Elite member. Mr. X books for us and NPS shoves all the points in his direction. This gets us superior rooms and concierge level hoo hah and whatnot at Marriotts. Sadly they are all still Marriotts.

The front lobby is in the middle of a massive renovation at the Renaissance at LAX. So that may be a good thing (but likely it just won’t matter). NPS was assigned a newly renovated suite (number 425) after much furious typing by the front desk staff on our very late arrival around midnight. If 425 is evidence of the style that is driving this renovation then NPS is worried.

You see, 425 looks like this. But looks (even marginal looks like this) can be deceiving. Super cheap, thin, veneer style is what we have on evidence here.

Like this crooked too big TV. WTF?

No. Not how to hang a TV. Why is there even one here?

The bed is comfortable, but the lights are so cheap a light wind would blow them over. Fortunately the windows do not open.

Comfy bed.

But what is this?

The windows overlook a glowing Burger King sign That pretty much says it all.

Yeah, no. This is not really a cool city view.

More sad, thin style evident in the sitting room.

Your mother in law called and she has some design ideas

There was a sad little plant on the desk wishing for some light. Flourescent bulbs should make it happier than they make the humans trapped in here.

And then there is the plastic shower bête noire—an actual plastic shower with an obesity bar.

no

no

no no no

Everything in the bathroom is very new, very clean and completely devoid of any taste.

no sense of style

Well anyway, the trip to LA was fantastic and the time in this hamster cage was short.

There was this wine thing with new friends.

Wine? Wine!

There was an old school whiskey bar.

And there was some sportsing with the boys.

So all told we would do it again in a second but we would get a real hotel without a shuttle bus and shlep to the airport from Santa Monica.

Speaking of the airport, this Virgin America meets Alaska thing is getting chunky. Remote gates? Wolfgang Puck bullshit? Overfull lounges gussied up in the ’70s? Uh oh. Where is my high style airline?

Let the record show that the Renaissance LAX barely rates two showerheads. Not going back ever. Nice people in a beige land devoid of style.

Wine

Wine

New friends, great wine, excellent food, great conversation—donnie, you sure know how to do it!

Lets start things off with a Negroni

Lets start things off with a Negroni

We convened slightly off the beaten path on a flooded, rainy day at Officine Brera in LA.

Convocation

Convocation

Tasting two

Tasting two

Everyone brought a bottle to contribute and describe. Probably the most interesting was a 17 year old bottle from China.

A flyer from Trentino-Alto Altige (Grenache, Syrah, Teroldego)

A flyer from Trentino-Alto Altige (Grenache, Syrah, Teroldego)

The food was just as good as the wine.

Cinghiale

Cinghiale

The menu

The menu

Chaos

Chaos

Delightful. Lets do it again.