Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Patagonia - El Chalten Wine Bar

Patagonia – El Chalten, 
a village at the foot of the FitzRoy Mountains 

A visit to La Vineria, an unexpected, amazingly well-stocked and sophisticated Wine Bar. 

[Part 3 of my Patagonia Journey]

When I checked Wikipedia, here is what is said about the small community:

"El Chaltén is a small mountain village in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. It is located in the riverside of Río de las Vueltas, within the Los Glaciares National Park (section Reserva Nacional Zona Viedma) at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains, both popular for climbing. For this reason this village is well-visited by trekkers and climbers.

The village was built in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile. Today the sole reason for its existence is tourism. It is 220 km north of El Calafate.

"Chaltén" is a tehuelche word meaning smoking mountain, as they believe it was a volcano for its peak is most of the time covered by clouds. Other visited tracks and sights are Torre Glacier, Laguna Capri, Piedras Blancas Glacier, Chorrillo del Salto and Laguna de los Tres.

The village provides national park information for visitors, as well as commercial camping (with showers) and a very limited number of beds, catering mostly for backpackers. On the treks outside of the village free campsites are provided. There are two automated teller machines and relatively no cell phone service. The tourist trade has spawned a few restaurants and shops in town, with a large variety of outdoor equipment for sale, while some of the accommodations provide internet and phone access and show regular movies. Other than that, the town is fairly far removed from the normal flow of news and communication, even during high season (November–February). The town is nearly deserted during off-season (the southern hemisphere winter).

Climate:  El Chaltén has a dry -yet unpredictable- climate, with light precipitation distributed on a large number of days: despite the semi-arid setting, bad weather is exceedingly common. Summers experience long daylight hours, very windy weather, and cool temperatures, mostly below 18ºC (65F) during the day and below 5ºC (41F) during the night. Frost can and does occur in the summer too. Winters bring snow in moderate quantities, and average temperatures around 3ºC (37F) during the day and -4ºC (25F) during the night; however, the coldest nights are much colder than this. Spring and fall are variable, but generally cold as well."

Well, the village of El Chalten is still far away from any other towns.  During our 220 km drive north from El Calafate we only saw signs for the occasional ranch (Estancias) along the way.  But much has changed in the village over the last decade since tourism has increased and with it the number of guesthouses and hotels.  Now, modern accommodations for the non-trekking traveler are sprouting up all over the village, and we stayed in a very nice western standard hotel.  Small restaurants offered excellent food and the local Pizzeria tells of the northern influence.  But what was really surprising is that El Chalten has a wine bar stocked with a wide variety of Argentinian and Chilean wines.  One afternoon, our group was invited to sample a large number of different wines each accompanied by recommended food matching in character and complimenting the bouquet of the wine.  To find such a sophisticated place here in a place that one could classify as ‘at the end of the world’ is amazing.

The Wine bar sported an amazing number of different wines.

Elegant decorum

Are those the tastes that go with wine?

Ready for more tasting

Tish is admiring the wall of wine bottles from Argentina and Chile

Ready for the next round

Our Group of 15 sure filled the small wine bar.

Tasty morsels before the next wine.

Even as far south as El Calafate, where the climate is cold most of the time, wine is grown and prepared.

Cheese to clear the palette between the different flavors.

Ed and Pat waiting for the next sample.

Some of us walked back to the hotel under a beautiful sky with the FitzRoy Mountains slowly sinking into the night.  Another successful day on my journey in Patagonia.

Til next time,

Torre Ceres and FitzRoy Mountains in last light

Part 1:  Patagonia - Overview of my Journey is linked here.
Part 2:  Patagonia - Glaciers and Rugged Mountains is linked here.

Comments?  I love to hear from you.  Please use my email mraeder33@gmail.com to reach me.