A few raindrops and I am already pining for a warm escape – Vitamin D therapy and Sunshine Deficiency Disease! Despite the calendar date, clients packed rain gear for the French coast, happily, they are reporting record high temperatures in San Sebastian. The immediate dreariness leads me to investigate warmer climates…Argentina is especially inviting.
COLOME – Getting here can be a challenge, as Colome Estancia and Bodega is perched at 7500 feet in the Andes. A five hour car journey on a mostly one lane winding dirt road is spectacular and rewarding, cresting at 12,000 feet, the vistas are unlike no other. There are two routes from Salta, each about the same drive time, although the scenery could not be more different. Soaring peaks, wide valleys, or enormous windswept volcanic rocks, which make the Grand Canyon, seem ordinary! If you have the time and enjoy driving, I would recommend renting a 4-wheel drive or have one of my drivers deliver you and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Helicopter & small plane into the valley is also easily organized.The native population who were excellent stewards of the land farmed Colome for thousand of years. The original Indio language in the Calchaqui Valley was “Kakan”; but at the end of the 15th century the Incas entered the valley. In the late 1500’s the Spanish conquistadors gifted the Incas with vines, the old Colome winery was founded in 1831, most likely by the Spanish governor of Salta. Three vineyards dating from this time still produce grapes, Colome is considered the oldest existing winery in Argentina, and some areas of the vineyards are the highest in the world.
Situated within the majestic backdrop of the valley and foothills of the Saltena Andes, Colome Estancia is an oasis of luxurious green, fields of lavender, native cactus, vineyards and forest. The setting could not be more impressive, the nine beautiful appointed rooms are accessed from a central courtyard and each room has an outward facing balcony overlooking stunning vistas. The organic food is served in the peaceful dining room dotted with marvelous art; sommelier Pedro Aquino is eager to share his knowledge of wine. Colome Malbec has become one of my favorite wines. There are numerous opportunities for hiking or exploring the mountains and valleys around with regular guided tours and a well signposted set of routes for those wanting to go on their own. Other facilities include a tennis court, putting green and bocce court. Mountain bikes, horses and shuttle transfer to local sites are always available and the scenic pool affords uninterrupted views of both valley and mountains.
Bodega Colome has it’s own horse whisperer, Ernesto Gonzalez. I rode with my Gaucho, Ruben Belazquez, an afternoon ride and an early sunrise trek up and down very steep foothills, through the pampas, traversing streams and up a huge boulder on Peruvian Paso ponies- Ruben who doesn’t speak much English, watched carefully to ascertain my proficiency on these gentle horses- and pronounced me to be: es muy bueno! after I confidently made it up and down a few challenging cliffs- then I galloped past him upstream, magnificent morning! Even if you have never ridden a horse, this naturally gaited breed inspires confidence and makes riding marvelous fun!
The first museum entirely dedicated to James Turrell resides at Bodega Colome- a sunrise or sunset visit is an absolute essential experience. Lying on the floor for 45 minutes viewing the sunset in this extraordinary museum is worth the drive on the winding long road leading to paradise! Turrell manipulates light in many of his installations, challenging the viewer’s perception through light and space, creating illusions of shapes and objects. His Skyspace piece, Unseen Blue, an enclosed room with an aperture in the roof through which one can observe the sky above is thought provoking and if one is of a certain generation, produces memories of 60’s light shows, which were of course not created by a sunset- an amazing experience.
Colome Estancia is paradise- recharge, exercise, read, ride the ponies, be warm!