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The Grand Tour
Because we figured we'd be drinking all day, breakfast at La Fonda was the order of the day! And we shared it with the chickens! Well, not exactly! They were on the outside patio, while we sat inside where it was a bit warmer.
By 10, we were fed and ready and were pleasantly surprised to find our tour guide, Ava Nirvana Caro Perez waiting for us with a comfortable van and driver from Trans-turismo Ruta del Vino Valle de Guadalupe! Ava is a master sommelier and we had her to ourselves for the whole day.
Our driver took the old road that winds through the valleys and Ava, such a wealth of knowledge, regaled us with stories of the history, the local people...and of course the wine and the literally hundreds of wineries that have blossomed in the past decades. It seemed like every little side road in the valley had the Ruta del Vino emblem, indicating another winery.
Because Ava has personal relationships with the majority of the vineyard owners, we were, I feel, given special treatment at the three we visited. They were all so different, producing completely different styles of wine. I love wine, and way back in my youth, even took quite an extensive wine class in South Africa (personally, still my favorite wines) but I haven't retained enough of that information to be anything of an expert. So it was wonderful to have Ava telling us about the grapes and the complete wine-making process, from planting to drinking!
Our first stop was Sol y Barro. The property is amazing, all the buildings and art work created by hand by Aime Desponds who has an intriguing history. Coming from Switzerland by way of Orange County, California, he has almost singlehandedly developed the winery buildings from the soil on his land, using the COB method of building. The walls are thick, keeping the interiors cool during the long hot summers. The raw walls of the windows show the layers of building material that are used, one on top of the other, drying in between each layer. His artwork is everywhere! Masks on the walls, glazed tiles around the doors.
And his greatest achievement is the wine! We tasted three, all of which were wonderful, one being the latest vintage that wasn't even labeled yet! When Ryan decided to buy a couple of bottles, the name and year were written on the bottle in gold marker! Talk about personal attention!
Out next stop was a more corporate winery called Alximia. Driving up to it, in the distance it looked like a space ship resting on the hilltop. Once we arrived, we saw the eco-friendly construction - filled sandbags laid like bricks and then adobe spread over them. The interior is concrete with enormous spanned arches reaching skyward. Again, the wines were wonderful, we tasted three and Ryan bought one we love called Gaia, described as "The Goddess Earth: Regeneration of forgotten aromas, with a strong fruit balance." It's a lovely blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah.
Next stop, Viña De Frannes. The history behind this vineyard is long and complicated, with land sales and family events that link Chateau Camou and Viña de Frannes. This is a spectacular 1,000 acres spread, with the tasting rooms in a classic mid-century building that somehow lends itself to the terrain.
A fabulous Argentinian lady named Sylvia poured and regaled us with wonderful stories of the area and families. And she told us of a tradition that I swear has changed my life - for the better!
The winery building are surrounded by gardens and in the gardens are red pepper trees. Sylvia told us that if you hug a pepper tree, you will release all the negativity and good things will happen! I leaped (well, not quite leaped but hurried) to the tree and hugged it mightily!
And since then, things and circumstances have changed dramatically!
Back to the wine tasting, Ryan once again bought a couple of bottles, we bid Sylvia adios and headed back to Alximia for a light supper before the drive back to La Mision and our Airbnb.
This is one day that will always be marked as Excellent and bring fond memories when I look at all the images stored on my new iPad Pro.
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