Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Tree House in the Cloud Forest

Having taken that seemingly neverending collection of hairpin turns that they call a road down from Machu Picchu - for likely the last time in my life - there was still a last night to spend in the village that has erupted to service the tourist trade at the bottom of the hill.

Let's be honest here, there's not exactly a lot to do. Aguas Calientes is an endless series of hostels, restaurants and souvenir stands - albeit with a larger assortment of pizza parlours than you'd find in an Italian town of equal size.

That's not to say that there's nothing to see however. I'm a sucker for local markets and this one was pretty much unlike any I'd seen before. Remember, however, that - despite the huge assortment of potatoes and corn - this is the spot where I originally thought I needed to buy our wine for our stay. Accordingly, it's not so surprising that, once we hit the street again, I panicked and bought the first two bottles that seemed remotely promising.

Planting yourself down with a cerveza or two presents a lot of people watching though. And I have to marvel at the fact that I met two groups of other tourists from Vancouver in the space of an hour.

Following a lead on TripAdvisor, Boo and I decided to see what "high end" cuisine the town had to offer. After a bit of hunting, I found the Tree House restaurant, hiding up a side alleyway of stairs. Boo was still suffering from his bout of Incan Revenge and was hardly in the mood for a big night on the village, but he sucked it up long enough to accompany me to dinner. The list of available bottles was rather limited - particularly since we'd decided to forego any more Peruvian wines - but our server highly recommended an Argentine wine and we took her at her word.

613. 2008 Navarro Correas - Coleccion Privada Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

I'd never heard of Navarro Correas before - and I still don't know a whole lot about it - but it seems to be part of the huge British conglomerate, Diageo. A small fortune has apparently been invested in the winery - which is located in the Uco Valley, outside of Mendoza city - to the extent that it now has the capability of producing around seven million bottles a year.

The wine was good enough that - under the weather or not - Boo had no problem requesting a refill or two of his glass. That, in itself, was a good sign considering how he'd poured out his last two Peruvian wines. There was also no issue in matching it with my Alpaca tournedos. It might have been a Bordeaux blend, but it was definitely New World in its heft and fullness.

The winery is wholly based on a negociant model - whereby the winery buys all of its grapes from growers rather than grow them in their own vineyards. I can only imagine how many grapes need to be purchased to produce seven million bottles of wine.

However, if this bottle was an indication of the wines we were going to run into in Argentina, we were going to be well served.

On the whole, the Tree House was a great find in a town that must be hard-pressed to sustain fine dining options. Great ambiance. Great service. Great wine. It was an excellent way of celebrating a banner day on Machu Picchu and a final night in Aguas Calientes (even if Boo wasn't celebrating quite as much as I was).

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