Ica - Touring Wineries

Ica Travel Blog

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Vista Allegre - View of Vineyard (notice the sand dune in the background!)
Peru is not known for its wine industry…and rightly so.  Having tried several of the different selections, white and red, dry and sweet, from this small wine-producing area I’ve come to the conclusion that with few exceptions, Peru should stick to making and promoting their grappa-like Pisco.  The Pisco was very good in each of the wine bodegas that I visited today.  One was a commercial enterprise and the other two touristy places with mediocre products all around.  The Malbec/Cabernet I tasted at Vista Allegre was surprisingly good, and at $6 a bottle, quite a good bargain.  I’d easily place it against the same blend from Mendoza in  that price range.  The white however was best forgotten.  In fact it was so bad that I immediately wanted to wash the taste out from my mouth.
Clay containers for storing wine and pisco
  It was a Chenin Blanc and I attributed the poor quality to the lack of a hospitable climate for this delicate grape that fares much better in cool climes.  The weather here is simply too hot for any decent whites and for cool-weather reds either.  Cabernet does well, and is about the only grape that can be made into a decent dry wine.  However one winery, Tacama, which was closed today and also doing some repairs still from the effects of the earthquake last August, makes an excellent white that is a blend of three grapes, including chardonnay, viognier and sauvignon blanc I believe.  I’ve had this wine on several occasions and it’s very good.  The only problem is that it’s a bit pricey to be able to compete on an international level.
View of the bodega
  Tacama’s gran tinto red is also excellent, but with the same problem of pricing.  This tasting was hardly what you’d experience in the U.S., or in other countries either for that matter.  The old woman manning the tasting area acted completely indifferent to me, and even served my first wine in a filthy glass, one that had obviously been used and not cleaned.  I asked her for a clean glass and she seemed a bit miffed at me.  Also, I tasted from outside a barred window through which she handed the products.  I had to solicit everything from her, and she acted as if she were doing me a favor to answer my questions or explain anything to me.  The property though was very pretty.  Never have I seen vines planted in sight of a massive sand dune, and with palm trees growing hardily in the middle!  There were ancient ficus trees towering over the driveway, and my driver said they were close to two hundred years old.
Ancient wine press

The second winery, Il Catador, which means “sommelier” in Spanish, is clearly a tourist destination.  They offered tours and tastings and a very mediocre food menu which I didn’t try.  Our guide was a nice young guy but his English was very difficult to understand.  I accompanied another English-speaking group around the grounds and then we tasted some of the products.  No dry wines are produced here, just sweet wines and pisco products.  The pisco was decent, especially the pure pisco made from the aromatic Torrontel grape.  This was also my favorite pisco at the last winery we went to, Lazo.  My driver told me that the owner is the great great great grandson of the liberator Simon Bolivar!  They have a collection of various artifacts from the ancient civilizations that lived around the area, and of other paintings and sculptures and detritus all haphazardly occupying the walls and corners of the inside area where the wine is stored in the clay amphorae-like containers that the Incas used for their chicha, the homemade corn beer or liquor (depending on when they stop the fermentation).  These primitive jars probably aren’t the best for maintaining quality, nor the stomping of the grapes by foot that they do at Il Catador.  I suspect that they only do that for the harvest festival, where they elect a queen and get the girls to stomp around in the vat all the while drinking a mixture of pisco and sweet white that they call “Amor Perfetto,” Perfect Love.  One can only imagine that scene at the end of the night.  All in all, I enjoyed the experience.  The day was hot, but not unbearable and I can think of worse ways to while away a few hours.  

The rest of my afternoon was spent enjoying the boisterous scene around the little lagoon oasis.  I watched lots of kids splashing around, taking boards down the dunes, enjoying picnics and ice creams.  A typical Sunday sunny afternoon.  As the sun started to go down, Darcie and Kim, the Canadians I had met the night before, invited me to hike up to the top of the closest dune to watch the sunset over Huacachina and from that vantage point, over Ica as well.  As the sun dipped lower, it threw its last rays out and struck the flanks of the foothills of the Andes on the other side of Ica.  The shimmering pinks and roses slowly turned to reds and violets and finally dark purples as the sun finally sank below the high dune.  Up there, facing away from the oasis and the town, I felt like I could have been in the middle of the Sahara.  The sand, blown into so many evocative shapes and curves, molded, ever-changeable, seemed to have no end.  Just the sight of the perfect blue sky alone, cast into stark relief by the sharp, geometric edges of a dune, was enough to hold my gaze for a long time, as I marveled at the astounding variety of nature’s manifestations.  Our footsteps up the crest of the dune were slowly filling up with sand and I wondered how long it would be before the wind-blown sand erased any trace of our presence.  In silence, we headed back down towards the hostel, filled with similar thoughts and deep contentment.

Tonight, on to Arequipa via night bus!

Belluomo says:
Thanks! I have to get up the courage to submit my stuff and find out where might be a good place for it. I'm thinking the Cleve Plain Dealer would be a good start. My sister Theresa has a contact. I could maybe get into the travel section and that would be a good start and give me confidence. Jen, you write well too!
Posted on: Feb 21, 2008
jeneliz says:
I agree, you look great in your pics and this could be published in Wine Spectator!
Posted on: Feb 20, 2008
Marconasmoonchild says:
It's hard to read this on a nine degree snowy day in Cleveland . . .
Sounds so lovely and interesting there.
Posted on: Feb 20, 2008
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Vista Allegre - View of Vineyard (…
Vista Allegre - View of Vineyard …
Clay containers for storing wine a…
Clay containers for storing wine …
View of the bodega
View of the bodega
Ancient wine press
Ancient wine press
photo by: Vlindeke