Have you ever visited a goat farm in a winery?
We visited the region’s vineyards known to be the highest vineyards in the world. You can read more about our experience here.
On our quest to sample the best Torrontés, we found out about Cabras de Cafayate a goat farm producing goat cheese in the area. Goat cheese is one of the typical products from the Northwest part of Argentina. Until the Cabras de Cafayate farm was created, the artisanal goat cheese was produced marginally and without much sanitary control.
To our delight, Cabras de Cafayate proposes tours of their goat farm followed by a cheese tasting.
So let’s walk you through the goat farm and the goat cheese tasting experience!
A Unique Goat Farm
Cabras de Cafayate is located about 1.5 miles from the center of Cafayate. This unique farm is part of Domingo Hermanos winery, one of the most renowned wineries of Cafayate.
In the 1990s, the winery originally acquired goats with the intention of using goat excrement as a fertilizer for the vineyards. Later on, as goat meat became popular on the menus of the local restaurants, they started selling the meat to the local restaurants. That’s when Palo Domingo the owner of Domingo Hermanos had a vision. He put his son to the task of an ambitious project: create an artisanal fabrication of goat cheese.
There are a total of 500 goats on the farm and 350 of them are producing milk everyday. The farmers carefully study the breeding of the goats to ensure they will be best to produce milk.
Right away, you will notice as you walk through the farm the lack of the peculiar odor that goats usually have. This is one of the very unique aspects of this farm. We learned that the females do not return to the dairy farm immediately after the milking service. This is to avoid contact with the urine from the males, which is the cause for the bad odor.
Goats Fed with Grapes and Milked to Music
To manage the feeding and diet of the the goals, they are all separated by age. The baby goats of one year old which are not producing milk, stay in one barn. Milk producing goats between 2-8 years of age stay in a separate barn. These goat produce milk for about 5-6 years. The lifespan for the goats is about 13 to 14 years old after which they are slaughtered for their meat.
At the farm, the diet of the goats is very important and very specific. It is one of the particularities that makes this goat farm so special. The diet is studied to optimize the quality and quantity of the goat milk. The goat eat the residue from the grapes pressed at the winery and other natural product from the field. This makes their diet rich in flavonoids, tannins and antioxidants.
Touring the Goat Farm
The tour of the goat cheese farm starts with a walk through the barns where the goats are kept and move freely. There, you will see the baby goats that are fed differently from the goats for milk in the next corral. You will have the chance to see the newborns which are kept with their mothers.
Then you enter in the dairy building where they milk the goats everyday. The dairy building is where the goats are milked. Only 24 goats can be milked at a time. The building is designed not to disturb the goats. They even play music to relax the goats during the milking process. What a nice treatment!
The milking process is done once a day and each goat produces an average of 2 liters of goat milk. We were very much impressed with the cleanliness and the space available for the goats.
Goat Cheese Made On Site
Outside of the dairy, you will see the goats being fed close to the barn. Next, you enter the building where the cheese is made. Everything is behind glass and you won’t be able to see much of it. However, you will notice the cleanliness of the fabrication area.
The farm started selling their cheese products in 2006. About 700 liters of goat milk are produced each day from a total of 350 milk producing goats. All cheese is produced on-site with 100% goat milk.
The goat cheese farm produce four types of cheese. Natural which is made without any adds-on. Ahumado or Smoked cheeses. Pategras de Cabras which is a type of gouda, very popular in Argentina. And cheese with spices added: Aji (chile pepper), Albahaca (Basil), Provenzal (Provencal Herbs) and Oregano (oregano).
The cheese are mainly sold by 200g either semi-firm or hard. They also sell queso fresco or soft cheese as well as cheese by 800g, 1.5kg and 8kg. To make the cheese semi-firm, it is stored for 3 to 4 months while the hard cheeses are stored up to 8 months. They are planning on producing two new types of cheese: a fat-free cheese and a blue cheese/Roquefort type (can’t wait!)
The products are packaged fresh on site without the use of preservatives. That means you have up to 5 months to consume them. The farm is now accredited to export their cheese overseas. The farm also has a full lab that does all the testing on site. It provides traceability from the cheese back to the animals.
The prices for the cheese start at 25 ARS pesos (about $1.75USD). For that quality, it is really a bargain!
Cheese Tasting and Learnings
The tasting is part of the tour and it is offered at the end. They propose 4 types of cheese all semi-firm: Natural, Aji, Provenzal, and Pategras de Cabra. Overall the cheese is mild, earthy and grassy tasting.The Pategras is the mildest of the all the cheese. It is quite a contrast with the usual tangy taste of the goat cheese. The natural cheese was my favorite because you can taste the cheese product without the spices to mask the taste.
The overall tour and cheese tasting took about one hour and cost 10ARS pesos (about $.70 USD equivalent at the time of visit).
Be prepared to brush up on your Spanish. Our guide spoke only Spanish and delivered her presentation quite fast. With little attention paid to English speakers, it made it difficult to follow with our limited Spanish.
Nonetheless, we learned that the only fresh white cheese comes from goats milk. And when cheese is yellow in color it comes from cows milk. Goat cheese is alkaline, making it easy to digest and rarely causing heartburn. Finally, goat cheese reduces cholesterol and has a much higher Vitamin A content than cheese from cows. This made us feel really good about eating more goat cheese!
Visiting the goat farm Cabras de Cafayate in Argentina is a unique experience. Seeing the goats upfront and learning how the product is made gives you a deeper appreciation for the local speciality. Understanding one of Argentina’s favorite cheeses and taking a break from wine tastings makes it a great experience. With the goat farm located in a beautiful setting, it is absolutely worth a visit.
If you find yourself in Calafate, you cannot miss going to Cabras de Cafayate!
In the comments below, share with us a surprising local food tour you experienced on your travels.
Cabras de Cafayate, Cafayate, Salta, Argentina.
Note: Check ahead for their hours as they vary on weekdays and weekends. They are closed at lunch time.
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Claire is a culinary explorer and the engineer brain behind Authentic Food Quest. Together with her partner, Rosemary, they created Authentic Food Quest to inspire people to travel deeper through authentic food. Through food, they believe, people can have more meaningful connections on their travels. Take the quiz and find out your Food Traveler Profile.