Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Patagonian Pinot Noir.. and Other Oddities

In mid-summer, the vines are lush at Nant-y-Fall
Last year, I wrote about what was then (and still is, for the time being), the world’s southernmost winery. In Argentina’s Chubut province, Viña Nant y Fall lies just across the border from Chile’s whitewater Mecca of Futaleufú but, at that time, its owner/founder Sergio Rodríguez could not yet offer any wines from the young Pinot Noir vines. Everything was in place, but the first harvest was still aging in the tanks.
A roadside sign points the way to Nant-y-Fall
While driving from Argentina into Chile, I first saw Nant y Fall in 2014, when its roadside sign drew my attention. It was, it turned out, was more than just a winery—it was also an offbeat hybrid of motorhome park, campground and farm that stocked and sold products from throughout the area. While its owner/founder Sergio Rodríguez could not yet provide wine on my previous visits, this time I anticipated tasting the product, though there was one glitch—actually getting there from Futaleufú, as I had driven north along Chile’s Carretera Austral.
In early 2014, the vines at Nant-y-Fall were sparse.
A couple weeks earlier, I had walked from Chile Chico to Los Antiguos, Argentina, because a bureaucratic glitch would not allow me to take my car across the border, and the same was true for this visit to the Argentine side of the border. In this case, though Nant y Fall, unlike Los Antiguos, was some 30 kilometers from the border post—not a distance I could walk in an hour or so. I can cycle that distance on pavement but, on an undulating gravel road, it would have taken me several hours.
The Argentine border post at Futaleufú is barely 100 meters from the Chilean side.
Fortunately, after I spoke with Sergio, he recruited his father to pick me up at the border. After leaving my car on the Chilean side and passing through Chilean and Argentine immigration, it was only a few minutes before he appeared. Within half an hour, we arrived at Nant y Fall, where the vines now covered four hectares of low rounded hills and a narrow road led to its namesake arroyo.
Creekside campsite at Nant-y-Fall
Here there are several parking sites for RVs, with picnic tables and grills, and grassy sites for tents that would make it an ideal stopover for cyclists bound to or from Futaleufú (Nant y Fall is only half a kilometer north of the international highway between the Argentine town of Trevelin and the Chilean side), especially if the border’s closed (hours are 8am-9pm in summer, to 8pm the rest of the year). There’s a freestanding building with showers and toilets for campers and RVers, and also a couple rooms—one double with a private bath and a four-bed dorm with shared bath—in the nearby showroom/workshop/garage.
Family suite at Nant-y-Fall
Before returning to Futaleufú, I had a look at other regional products that the winery sells and here, and lunch with a taste of the 2016 Pinot Noir—and then bought a bottle to take back across the border and home to California. It was so recently commercialized that no labels were yet available, so I’ve had to improvise one.
This pioneer Patagonian Pinot awaits the proper occasion.

In March, the winery hosted its initial Fiesta de la Vendimia en Chubut, the showcase for the province’s small but growing wine industry. It’s worth adding that, although Nant y Fall is presently the world’s southernmost winery that may change—on the south side of the international highway there are newly planted vines, though no new winery is yet under construction.
Sergio Rodríguez with visitors at Nant-y-Fall

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Use (and Abuse?) of English in Argentina

The London City cafe is a landmark of Buenos Aires's downtown financial district.
According to a recent survey, Argentines are the most proficient English speakers in Latin America. That said, Argentines have an ambivalent attitude toward the English and their language that started, probably, with the British invasions of Buenos Aires in the early 19th century. After independence, the commercial influence of the British became pronounced—the Argentine capital’s financial district is called “La City”—recalling the City of London—and major infrastructure still bears a British stamp. Trains, such as the Subte (Underground) move on the left, and signs remind passengers to keep left (in Spanish, however).
Signs on the Buenos Aires subway remind passengers to keep left.
There are many landmarks associated with the British, most notably the Anglo-Argentine community’s Torre Monumental (renamed from the Torre de los Ingleses after the Falklands War of 1982). There are lesser commercial locales, such as San Telmo’s Gibraltar Pub and Retiro’s Tabaquería Inglesa, but today I’d like to focus on something different—the sometimes quirky English of Buenos Aires (and elsewhere in Argentina).
San Telmo's Gibraltar pub is bilingually Anglophile.
In California, where I live permanently (though I also own an apartment in Buenos Aires), we often see what I like to call “real estate Spanish,” residential complexes with Spanish names of dubious authenticity—despite the state’s Hispanic tradition. One of my favorites is the Berkeley Hills street name “Lomas Cantadas,” which I can only presume is a mutilated translation of lomas encantadas, which would mean “enchanted hills” (as written, the actual name would mean "sung hills," which obviously makes no sense).
The name of this Recoleta clothing store suggests the British origins on Argentine English.
In that context, I’d like to offer, anecdotally, some of the most amusing Anglicisms I’ve found in Buenos Aires. It’s worth adding that, though British English is the default option for students in Argentina, some of the more commercial phrases may correspond more closely to US English—perhaps acquired from Miami, where many prosperous Argentines take shopping trips.

Summer Sale!
In trendy Buenos Aires boroughs such as Palermo (where our apartment is), English apparently lends your business a certain cachet. At least the operators of this lingerie shop appear to think it’s better than ofertas de verano.
This Palermo lingerie outlet lets you know their wares are suitable for the season.
20% Off!
A hybrid sale sign in our Palermo neighborhood
In our own Palermo neighborhood, this household goods retailer forgoes descuento del 20 por ciento in favor of its English equivalent—a phrase that’s a common sight around town. Unusually, this particular shop provides discounts for credit card purchases, even though Argentina remains a cash economy, but apparently does not feel confident enough in its customers to provide that information in English.
Though no longer in Buenos Aires, Citibank was a US company.
If you prefer to pay in cash, though, you can still take advantage of 24-hour banking.

This Palermo grill will bring the barbecue to your house or hotel.
Many Buenos Aires restaurants, even some high-end places, will prepare your dinner and bring it to your home or hotel. There’s a perfectly good Spanish-language phrase for this, reparto a domicilio, but “delivery” is now almost universaleven in the provinces. Whether they’ll provide a cooler bag, though, is questionable.

Our Specials
This Palermo restaurant serves a diversity of lunchtime dishes.
Platos del día would be the Spanish equivalent but, considering that all the dishes here are in Spanish, the English phrase appears to be an affectation.

Purchase your parking permission at this streetside vending machine.

Spanglish seems less frequent in Argentina than in the US or Mexico, but this parking dispenser is an exception (a parking ticket, by the way, would be a multa).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chile Declares New Patagonian Parks Route

Long segments of the Carretera Austral still pass through wild areas with few or no services.
Imagine a highway through the wildest parts of Alaska’s Panhandle—where the terrain allows no continuous roads—and, if you look south, you’ll find the rough equivalent in Chile’s Carretera Austral. It passes through a thinly peopled region of sprawling steppes and craggy volcanic uplands, dense rainforests surrounding soaring summits, powerful whitewater rivers, and deep fjords and navigable channels with countless islands, marine mammals, and even glaciers that reach the sea. It makes a matchless road trip, with world-class adventure options for cycling, trekking, climbing, rafting, and kayaking, along a track that, relatively speaking, is still barely marked—much less beaten.
The Piedra del Gato viaduct bridges a section of the narrow Río Cisnes canyon.

In the early 1990s, the late environmental philanthropist Douglas Tompkins and his widow Kristine McDivitt envisioned a project to preserve Patagonia’s thinly populated Aisén region in an interconnected system of national parks. On a continent where skeptics have traditionally viewed large landholdings, especially those controlled by foreigners, with suspicion, they created the 1,117-square mile Parque Pumalín and the 1,015 square-mile Parque Patagonia—formerly a sheep ranch—with the intention of donating them to the Chilean state.
Kristine McDivitt (center) speaks to a group of potential donors at Parque Patagonia.
In some parts of the region, wire fences still keep sheep from becoming roadkill but, in others, the removal of sheep and fences has allowed native wildlife like guanacos to thrive, restoring a wildness that ranching had diminished but could not destroy. Now, after adding stylish infrastructure to mimic parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, the Tompkins vision has finally gained approval from the Chilean government, which just announced creation of a Ruta de los Parques—“Route of the Parks”—that will promote a string of wildlands in the country’s southernmost region. Several existing reserves will be upgraded to national park status.
In the new Ruta del los Parques, access should improve to little-visited units like Parque Nacional  Corcovado.
Chile’s national parks will soon occupy a percentage of its territory comparable to that of Costa Rica, a much smaller country. In a Santiago memorial service, Socialist President Michelle Bachelet described Tompkins as a “world-class philanthropist.”
Highway improvements should reduce incidents like my encounter with a bus on a blind curve.
As pavement and other improvements proceed on a highway that’s still mainly gravel (and where I myself have wrecked two 4WD vehicles, with extenuating circumstances), 2018 will be a key year—the coming austral summer will be the first full season for the Ruta de los Parques. Even as the region’s appeal becomes better known and the infrastructure improves—long segments of the highway still have few or no services—the surrounding area should become an ever wilder attraction.
Parque Pumalín from the new trail to the crater of Volcán Chaitén

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