157 km from Cachi, nestled in an impeccable and hidden nook of the Calchaquíes valleys, Colomé jealously grows the most ancient vines in the country.
Cafayate introduced itself with its usual appearance: the bright sun over the vineyards and the quiet streets.
We left at about 9 in the morning. We have been warned that the road to Colomé will not be easy and we should be there by lunch.
20 km from the district of Molinos, Colomé was created as an encomienda in the year 1831 by the last Spanish governor of Salta, Nicolás Isasmendi de Echalar. Twenty-three years later, his daughter Ascensión, married to José Benjamín Dávalos, planted malbec and cabernet sauvignon vines brought from France.
Tacuil and Colomé, which until 3 years ago were still in the hands of the original heirs, are fruit of such vines. In the year 2001, Raúl Dávalos sold Colomé, the most ancient working winery in the country to the Swiss group Hess.
Nestled in an impeccable and hidden nook
Under the Shade of the Molles
A relaxed atmosphere is breathed
A warm place
A place to stay
Welcome to Colome
Under the Shade of the Molles
The sun and the height subjugate both the landscape and life in the Calchaquíes Valleys. We leave the small 400-inhabitant settlement and continue our way towards the estancia. We are welcomed by Joshua, a friendly German that has been in the estate for a few weeks.
Colomé comprises thirty-nine thousand hectares located 2,300 meters over sea level; the impassive snow-capped mountains of Cachi can be watched from its terraces.
By the year 2006, an art museum of the prestigious Hess collection will be opened to display four decades of James Turrell’s artistic creation by exhibiting his work with light in 1,500m2. Colomé is always surprising us.
We strolled about the north wing, which dates back from the original building, and which opens into a terrace protected by two ancient molles. According to the story, in the days of the “loco” Dávalos, his strong branches would help the people from the house see who was approaching the facilities and, if it was not a friend, they would be welcomed by the dogs. Today, under their refreshing shade, only a relaxed atmosphere is breathed, which I continued to enjoy from the open gallery, where the table was already laid for lunch.
We shared the table with Úrsula, Donald’s wife, her mother and Alexandra Hess, who is following her father’s steps as far as wines are concerned. The chef Gonzálo Doxandabarat escapes regional cuisine and excells with the natural products from the organic kitchen garden. As a starter, an arrugula salad with roquefort and nuts, accompanied by Amalaya, Colomé’s daily red wine, a combination of malbec and creole grapes. The main course: chicken steak stuffed with spinach and quinoa cous cous, escorted by a 100% malbec: the Colomé Estate, intense and elegant fruit of the youngest vines.
As we were pleasantly having lunch, we started to understand the affair between the Hesses and Colomé. "Here everything had to be done, everything was untouched. This is a special place where we made a bet to incorporate nature, society and a successful business”, Úrsula confesses. And some of these elements are already perceived in the air.
At the siesta hour, I walked along the vineyards to get to the winery. In the past, the vines would be mixed up and it was a true challenge for the enologist Randle Johnson to put them in order, as he was used to the Napa Valley estate.
Twenty hectares of new vines are added to four unique hectares of 150-year-old malbec and cabernet sauvignon and 6 more hectares of grapes that grew on their own rhizome over 60 years ago.
Undoubtedly, the red wine is the star of Colomé, but the torrontés has deserved a sterling position. Its vines were about to be removed, but they happened to be the most ancient and, though its taste does not get even close to the contemporaneous torrontés, the effort was well worth making.
Amid the labor, I was welcomed by Ralph, one of the enologists of the Johnson group. The recent harvest has surpassed the expectations for this year. The museum projects and the enlargement of the winery have been planned for the year 2005. But at this stage, the production has required the use of the facilities of the old winery. At present, they are performing a first fermentation process in the open air, before putting the wine into the tanks to continue with this process and its maturation afterwards.
Finally, Colomé wines will make their triumphant entry late in 2004, so that Argentinians, Americans and Europeans may enjoy them.
To have the privilege of tasting it before that date, you just have to visit Colomé, stay at the estancia-hotel with a previous reservation, and spend a few days breathing the spirit of a prodigal land, which prints its stamp on a wine born in the Calchaquíes heights.
Karina Jozami Eduardo Epifanio
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