Sunday, August 18, 2013

La Ruta del Vino



hosteria valle de concepcion


"El que vino a Tarija y no tomó vino, a que vino?"  

A common saying in Tarija; roughly translated:  If one comes to Tarija and doesn't drink wine, why did he come?

Tarijenos need not worry about us; we came for the wine.  At 6,000 feet, Tarija's grapes are grown at the highest altitudes in the world.  Generally we found the wines to be a little sweeter and lighter than neighboring Argentina's bolder varieties, but after much tasting we found a few that we loved.

The owner of our hotel, Martin of Residencial Altiplano, arranged for a Carolina of Viva Tours to escort us to the vineyards of Tarija. We spent two afternoons with Carolina, who arrived to pick our Australian friends and ourselves up in hired taxis.


tarija wine tour

Altogether, we tasted vino at six wineries.  Our visits were pleasantly different than any other wine tour I've completed. There were no tourists, no snooty sniffers, no tasting fees.  Most often we would tour the facility, then Carolina would score us a bottle to try.


casa real wine


singani casa real


At Casa Real we toured the spotless, modern facility and then sampled a red wine and then singani, a brandy made from the muscat grape. We tried it straight (yuck) and then with ginger ale (better).

casa vieja bolivia


Casa Vieja, occupying a charming 400+ year old building, offers a unique wine tasting experience. The guests stand in a circle, one glass of wine is poured at a time, which is then passed from person to person. The last person in the circle has to finish it. (We were on our ninth glass when our friend asked, "Would now be a bad time to tell you about my cold sore?")


casa vieja tarija


casa vieja tarija


casa grande tarija

Although it is still in the construction phase, Casa Grande is well on its way to becoming a sophisticated winery/spa/restaurant.  We toured the production and bottling area, the gorgeous rock cellar, and then enjoyed a really nice sparkling Rose called Osadia.  It was one of my favorites.


Osadia Rose Casa Grande


La Concepcion, with vines over 200 years old, housed a low-key tasting table right on the production floor.  One of the workers handed over a cabernet to try when Carolina finished explaining the fermenting and bottling process.


la concepcion tarija


campos de solana

Campos de Solana actually had a tasting room with lovely stained glass windows. Again, the only patrons, we sat around a table and toasted each other with a wonderful, dark, inky tannat, which ended up being one of our favorite varietals.

campos de solana

The last place Carolina took us was Hosteria. We arrived in Valle Concepcion just before the magic hour; braided women in flouncy gingham skirts strolled the cobblestone streets bathed in the rosy tendrils of the sleepy sun, while caballeros leaned against crumbling stone buildings, watching appreciatively from beneath dusty cowboy hats. Don Jesus greeted us as we entered his vineyard's courtyard, and sent us on a tour of the property with a gaggle of curious girls.

hosteria bolivia


We explored a cobwebbed "museum" filled with the skulls, fur and bones of local animals. After braving the pitch black underground tunnel of love we joined Jesus for a complicated wine blessing ritual that involved making wishes and inhaling wine via a plastic tube. We didn't understand much of what was going on, but we played along and had a grand time- so grand that Tom and Marco bought bottles of the syrupy wine for later. (Uggh, my head still hurts.)


hosteria Jesus Bolivia

Question: Have you wine tasted in a beautiful or unique part of the world? 

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