Wine-fueled luxury in Argentina
The Vines of Mendoza (home of The Vines Resort & Spa) was born as a place where would-be winemakers could indulge oenological fantasies on a scale as small or large as they want. Owners bought plots of grape-growing land to create their own private vineyards overseen by a skilled agronomist and nurtured by a state-of-the-art irrigation system. The community has grown to some 130 winemakers, who have long had access to the land and local knowledge, plus the stunning scenery of the Andes in the near distance.
Until recently, those pleasures were unknown by those outside the club, but now thanks to the fall 2014 opening of The Vines Resort & Spa, more casual wine enthusiasts can sip Malbecs from the Uco Valley — a prime growing region within Mendoza — enjoy tastings and blending classes in the winery, soak up the grapevines-and-mountain scenery, dine at a restaurant overseen by one of South America’s best chefs and stay among the vineyards.
The 22 one- and two-bedroom villas are massive in scale and residential in feel. (They start at 1,000 square feet and top out at 2,700.) They have full kitchens, wood-burning fireplaces, spa-inspired bathrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, rooftop sundecks, private patios with fire pits, and outdoor showers and soaking tubs on private terraces overlooking ponds, vineyards and snow-capped Andean peaks. Some have hot tubs and private plunge pools, although the Mendoza hotel’s central pool is an equally inviting, more sociable place to relax. The aesthetic here is pure rustic elegance; the rooms’ sleek lines, wood-and-stone design details and earthy color palettes are complemented by local flourishes, such as cow-hide rugs that sit at the foot of the beds.
Rock star Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, a master of all things grilled, conceived of the Vines’ restaurant and sent his head chef at his flagship 1884 in the city of Mendoza, Diego Irrera, to manage the fires. Fires is meant literally here: The restaurant’s name is Siete Fuegos, because virtually everything (sans pasta and omelets) is prepared over the open flames of one of the outdoor kitchen’s seven fires that burn throughout the day.
Grass-fed Argentine beef is obviously a focus, in dishes such as a nine-hour slow-grilled rib eye, but less omnivorous guests can take pleasure in lighter fare like cast-iron baked salt-encrusted salmon and plenty of grilled vegetables and fruits. As befits a wine resort, the list is long and eclectic, with bottles produced by Vines owners and hundreds of others from throughout Argentina. The whip-smart sommelier stands at the ready to suggest pairings. The indoor dining room is sophisticated and the terrace is peaceful. Couples or groups can arrange private dinners under the stars or a thatched-roof ramada in the vineyards.
The Wine Experience
While admittedly a bit of a sales pitch for short-term visitors to become long-term owners, it’s a whisper-soft one. You get the feeling that the project’s owners really just want to share their passion for wine. Resort guests are invited on tours of the winery, tastings of some of the 230 wines produced on site with the 28 kinds of grapes that are grown here, and blending classes that are as fun as they are educational.
The Vines Resort & Spa has one of the most striking gyms anywhere, set in a glass cube above the vineyards with spectacular views in all directions. There’s also a climbing wall, running trails, hiking and mountain biking to partake in before indulging in some vino. Horseback riding up to a nearby mountain peak with a local gaucho (the real deal) is a must-do. Saddle up at sunrise or sunset, when the staff will send an indulgent picnic and, depending on the hour, a bottle of locally made bubbles.