This morning we bid a sad farewell to the dog, cats and goats of Miraluna and headed for Molinos. We stopped quickly in Cachi to see if we could recover several key items that didn’t make it back with our laundered clothing yesterday (my only pair of jeans and Noah’s only two semi-decent pairs of shorts.) They were unable to find them, confirming my suspicion that it is unwise to combine a bread store and [pseudo] laundry service under one roof. Drat.
Despite that setback, our timing worked out well, and we arrived at the Colomé estate and winery just before 1pm. To set the scene, imagine that you have been driving for over 2 hours on a windy gravel road, the last 40 minutes of which was quite narrow and bumpy. During the entire drive we passed through a total of 2 tiny towns and met very few cars along the way. The landscape is arid and desolate, but beautiful, particularly as we get closer to Colomé.
As we finally pulled into the winery, suddenly everything around us looked professionally landscaped and modern. We could almost have been at a big Napa winery if we weren’t in the middle-of-nowhere Argentina. [We later learned that Mr. Hess, the owner of Colomé, also owns 2 wineries in Napa, as well as 1 in South Africa].
When we entered the visitors’ center, it was kind of a shock to the senses – a bit like walking into a 5-star hotel for the first time. There are high-end finishings both inside and out, a lovely outdoor terrace for dining, and even a private cinema with about 30 cushioned seats where they show a movie about the history of the vineyards. I just kept marveling at the sheer logistics of building a place like this so far from any significant population center and with the only access being a narrow dirt road!
We toured the winery (unfortunately just an indoor tour) and then had a delicious lunch outside on the terrace.
After that, I visited the James Turrell Museum, while Noah stayed with the girls. [Kids under 12 are not allowed inside. I was not familiar with James Turrell, so it was a steep learning curve. His art is entirely about light, and the different colors, shapes and – most importantly – illusions that light (or the absence of light) creates. It’s really quite an impressive set of installations – I can’t even fathom how much it must have cost to build a complex structure like this. This is apparently the only James Turrell museum in the world. Wow, this Hess guy must be LOADED…
On the way back to Molinos we stopped at a rather dusty and somewhat abandoned refugio de vicuñas. I’m still not sure exactly what that means, but in any case, we got to get a bit closer to some mangy vicuñas and attempt to feed them weeds that we picked from the yard. I’ll take a wine tour any day over vicunas, but alas: you win some, you lose some…
Back in Molinos we had to ask for directions but eventually found our lodging for the evening – the Hacienda los Molinos. I’m so glad we decided to stay here for a night – with its low door frames, 2-foot thick adobe walls, iron bars on the windows, huge old stone fireplaces, and cactus ceilings (looks like bamboo), the place just seeps history.
The original hacienda dates from the 1700s (it was owned by the last Spanish colonial governor of the province of Salta), and the huge old tree in the courtyard is amazing.
The small church just behind the Hacienda dates from the 1600s and is set on a cobblestone street lined with colonial buildings.
I think the little town of Molinos might be the most quaint town we’ve visited on this trip, and it seems much less touristy. Come to think of it, I don’t think I saw a single artesania store as we drove through town!
Something about the stately hacienda setting made Cassidy decide to get fancy for dinner – too bad her dad now only has athletic shorts left in his Argentina wardrobe…