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First of all you have to go north, over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast. Guerneville is situated on the Russian River.

Up the 101 in a convertible

But before you go to the cabin, a picnic at Preston winery is in order. There is some stocking up to do in the alcohol department.

Picnic on a perfect Spring day (preston winery)

After bread, cheese, some more cheese, salami, and different salami, olives, and hummus, and a couple of bottles of wine, and those wee little pills, it is off to see some big trees at the Armstrong Redwood State Natural Preserve. Make sure to see the amphitheater, but do not dilly dally.

Amy dwarfed by a giant redwood

The band at the crest

We did make it to the cabin after an espresso in town at Big Bottom. No really, that’s what they called it.

The cabin has modern sensibilities

Drama and moss is a thing

The a pit stop by the cabin to change clothes and it is off for dinner in Healdsburg. Chalkboard is worth driving way up to the sticks for. Excellent food. Fun, friendly service. Very good indeed. (We were slightly late the whole time, mostly due to amphitheater…LOL.)

One of the many superb dishes at Chalkboard

These doughnut things were out of this world

Sadly, we ended up being on time to see the show at the Raven. Eileen Ivers played a pre-compiled show of world music (many mixed genres). The show was solid, but also phoned in and somehow cloyingly fake. Still, it was fun singing along, and the support band was filled with excellent session musicians.

Everyone joins Eileen

The show was opened by JigJam who, other than desperately needing a new name, played an opener that topped the main event. The young fiddle player was far better than Eileen will ever be.

Then it was back home in the volkswagon and to bed by 1am.

A stint in the hot tub in the morning happened first thing, followed by some delicious eggy concoction with expert-level toast. Next, we attempted to cram 20 square feet of stuff into a 10 square foot space in the car. The stuff was consolidated, and the trunk was very slowly shut over the lil tiny bass through the use of random quantum properties, black magic, and the power of wishful thinking.

A call by the Pacific was next. The Russian River pours its brown self into the ocean at Jenner.

Then a short hike (maybe 3.5 or 4 miles) through the vernal wonderland (read “muddy”) of the California coastal hills. Sonoma is gorgeous and green for at least a week in the Spring, and we got to witness it.

Uncle Jim leads the way

Also Pacific ocean.

The Pacific at shell beach

By this time we were late again, but who cares? A drive down 1 took us directly to Rocker Oysterfeller’s where we partook of Negronis and oysters. Jim found out that oysters can be cooked and smothered in various things and still be delicious.

What an adventure! We’ll do it again as soon as we make up for lost time.

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