Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Day of Discovery and Wine in Patagonia

One of the great joys of traveling is that you never know what kind of experience you’re going to have: You get on a plane, fly through the night, and land somewhere far away from the life you call home. The key, then, is to stay open to the experiences that are thrown your way, and to enjoy them in a context of excitement and, above all, engagement.

Sunday morning, we flew from Buenos Aires to Neuquen, Patagonia, were driven to lunch in the quiet city center, and then proceeded to venture as far off the grid as I’ve ever been, over roads first dusty, then rough-hewn, then unpaved, all to eventually find ourselves at the utterly gorgeous wine resort of Valle Perdido, or Lost Valley--as true a name as any I’ve ever heard.

The browns and tans of the lobby blended perfectly into the surrounding landscape, as did the drapes in my room, their silken burlap textures echoing the just-growing vineyard-land off my patio. The air was scented with the perfume of rosemary bushes, and an otherworldly calm prevailed.

It’s a huge, sometimes overwhelmingly varied world we live in, and discovering it is one of the great inspirations and justifications for travel. In places like this, we find not only environments and lives we otherwise would have no idea about; we also find ourselves.

This is the joy of travel.
As far as the wines of Patagonia, we spent yesterday tasting somewhere around 45 wines at four different producers. After our first visit, at the wonderfully named Bodega del Fin del Mundo, we were convinced that Patagonia’s future lay in sparkling wine. Then, after tasting the concentrated, endlessly complex Malbecs at NQN, we thought that this most famous red grape variety of Argentina was most exciting here. Along the way, we also tasted standout wines as varied as a late-harvest Pinot Noir at Familia Schroeder and some seriously well-crafted Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc at Humberto Canale. (These are just a few highlights; I’ll post more extensive tasting notes and impressions here once I return.)

The moral is that Patagonian winemakers can essentially choose their destiny. It’s an exceptionally exciting place to be, both literally and figuratively.


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