What do you get when you cross an inventor, an egyptologist, an engineer and a wine maker? Sounds like a great one-liner, I know-but it's actually the bodega (winery) Faraon, on the highway between Bowen and General Alvear.
Anselmo Cremaschi built the winery that became Faraon in 1905, but it was his son, Victor-an engineer by trade-who made the winery famous. In 1941, he built the giant holding tanks (no longer in use) for his experiments in wine making. That's a photo of the tanks below, with an employee in the bottom right for scale. Among Cremaschi's experiments: techniques to improve the general quality of wine by bettering the hygiene of the wine making process, particularly in handling of grape juice; and eliminating grape seeds and stems that add bitterness to the wine.
Eventually, he arrived at the process he patented in 1951-a process of continuous fermentation called the "Cremaschi Process". What that means is that he could put fresh grape juice in the top of the vat of juice and get wine instantly out of the bottom because the juice in the vat was fermenting non-stop. This process was sold around the world, though it is no longer used now. It produced a wine that wouldn't be drinkable by today's standards, but in years past was suitable everyday table wine.
Here's the fun part: Cremaschi was also a fan of Egyptian culture. He was an amateur Egyptologist, and felt that ancient Egypt was the cradle of civilization and the ancient origins of wine making. The whole bodega, from the wine cave to the office entry, has an ancient Egyptian theme. The name 'Faraon' means Pharaoh. There's a huge statue in the style of Ramses II, and at closer inspection...it's in the likeness of Cremaschi! Doors are covered in Egyptian pictographs of grapes and lotus blossoms, walls entering the wine cave are painted with hieroglyphs depicting wine making.
Faraon is still in operation, producing wines like Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. They also produce wines from importation to the US under a different private label.
This bodega is full of surprises-the bodega houses a collection of works by the famous Argentinean artist Carlos Alonso. One entire wall of the office is covered in this mural, painted when the artist was just 19 years old and undiscovered. They also have a collection of his later works, including his engravings from the stories of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and of Cervantes' Don Quixote. That combined with the wild Egyptian decor would certainly make the hours pass faster than your average gray cubicle...
Another undiscovered gem in Argentina. I love that this winery is so unconventional, and completely gives in to the eccentricities of its founders. Oh yeah, and the wine isn't bad either!