Ica is a nice town near the coast of Peru, several hours south of Lima. The area around Ica is famous for having the finest wineries and Pisco-producing farms in the country. There is also the sand-dune resort oasis of Huacachina, just 5 minutes out of Ica. A very different place from the rest of southern Peru, which is mainly known for its mountain towns.
Went on a morning trip into town (i.e. into Ica) from Huacachina today, to check out the famous Museo Regional de Ica ("Ica Regional Museum"). Chris and I explored the museum's three sections: a history of the region's pre-colonial cultures, and their artefacts and politics; the colonial section; and the most famous section of all, the "anthropology section", which is filled with skulls and preserved mummies of the ancient peoples of the area. All was very interesting; although the third section was downright gross.
I tried some of these delicious gourmet Ica chocolates on this morning's wine and pisco tour. They were so good, I just had to buy some! Got a few gift packages, to send home — to whom, I'm not yet sure. But boy, do they melt in your mouth. Clearly, Ica is the place to go, if you want all things nice and tasty from Peru.
Went on a little morning tour today — briefly leaving our oasis paradise of Huacachina — to some of Ica's famous wineries and pisco-making places, as well as to the city's much-adored chocolate factory. Can't really say we left paradise, because it was a pretty daym pleasant tour we had: it's a hard life when you have to spend all morning sampling gourmet chocolates, rich red wines, and perfectly-distilled piscos.
Myself, Chris, and a Norweigian couple got driven off in a private car — with our own driver — from Casa de Arena to start the tour. First stop was the "Helena" chocolate factory, where we saw the delicious cacao delights being made in the factory window, and where we had a chance to go into the very quaint old shop at the front, and where I made a purchase or two. They have a cash register there that's over 100 years old!
Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh, soak it in the sun and make a strawberry lemon pie? The candy man... the candy man can!
That cash register must be worth more than the money inside it.
Then we went to two different places where they make wine and pisco: one place that makes more of the dark red wine and the mixed-grape pisco, which is less traditional, but which sells better on the export market; and another place that specialises in traditional Ica wine (not so dark, more sweet), and in pisco puro (pure distilled pisco — pretty similar to vodka or to tequila). We got taken around, and shown various aspects of the distillation process for these alcoholic beverages — it's all fairly advanced here, since Ica makes the best (and, as far as I know, the only decent) wine and pisco in Peru.
Big golden vats for processing the pisco.
Lots of storage barrels.
Chris and I prefer the big barrels.
Traditional storage containers for the pisco, used since Inca times.
This is where they press-a the grapes (takes 10 people over 12 hours to press them, constantly stamping all over this pit). Just don't you a-press on-a my wife!
Once we were done with all the obligatory tour-of-the-winery stuff, it was on to the real deal: wine and pisco tasting! Had some great samplings of fine dark red wines, sweet red wines, fruity white wines, lethal pisco puros, refreshing mixed-grape piscos, nice semi-prepared Pisco Sour mixes, and even a bit of creamy Bailey's-like pisco. Not bad, for one morning! As Chris said, at least it cured the hangover from the night before :P. I also decided to purchase one of the bottles of semi-prepared Pisco Sour — might send it back home as a souvenir.
Nice white wine of Ica.
Shot of creamy Pisco.
Bottles of Pisco.
There's me, being a knobhead with a bottle of Pisco.
Great tour, and very tasty beverages that we sampled. Also made our subsequent restaurant-quality hamburger lunch all the more palatable. Oh, what a hard day it's been!