Ruta Nacional 40, KM 4340, Cafayate, Salta Province, Argentina
Grace's main building pops up out of the Estancia Cafayate's vineyards like an ochre–colored island in a sea of green. The hotel is the newest addition to the Grace Hotels family — a collection of luxury boutique hotels that form a part of the Libra international business group. The first Grace hotel was built in the Greek Islands — in Santorini — and this one in northern Argentina wine country is the 12th Grace hotel worldwide.
The hotel is situated within a unique real estate project with a working vineyard that produces wine exclusively for the estancia's residents and their guests. It also has an 18–hole golf course designed by Bob Cup, plots available for private owners to build their own homes, and a selection of pre–designed villas whose owners occupy them for six months a year (or less). They enter into a rental agreement with Grace that gives the hotel rights to rent them when they are empty. The hotel takes care of the villas' upkeep and maintenance and gains access to a variety of housing options for long–term guests. The 20 villas go for $600,000US each, but anyone who hasn't already bought missed their chance: both the first and second stage of construction were completely sold out when we visited at the end of 2013. The hotel itself had been open a month and in addition to the continued construction of its residential villas — which makes the grounds surrounding the hotel feel a little messy — was awaiting completion of its spa, expected by mid–2014.
With a glass of Torrontes white wine in hand (a varietal particular to the area) we took a tour of the hotel with general manager Tomas Laura. Each Grace hotel is individual, he explained, "The Vanderbilt Grace is completely different from the Grace in Mykonos and the Grace in Sydney. Each hotel is designed to match the personality of the place where it's located and blend into its surroundings." This explains Grace Cafayate's neutral tones, high ceilngs, use of stone and mellow, natural decorations, all set against a mountainous backdrop and surrounded by the vineyards' still, natural ambiance.
All rooms have luxurious king-size beds, larger–than–life bathrooms, and all the amenities you would expect to find in a hotel of its caliber — espresso machine, high–quality linens, flat–screen televisions, his and hers robes and slippers, and high–end bath products. The building's structure, from certain vantage points, feels sharp and awkward, but the room interiors, restaurant and lounge areas are a different story. They were designed by the Ceparr–Entelman firm (designers of the Buenos Aires Park Hyatt, the Palacio Duhau) and each space is imbued with their characteristic relaxed elegance.
The hotel's restaurant, Muse, was conceptualized by Jonathan Wainwright and is led by the hotel's Córdoban chef. The food is a five-star experience, with watermelon salad with arugula, red onion and lime as a palate opener; llama carpaccio and steak tartar as appetizers; and incredible stuffed suckling pig with green–apple mash and sweet potato and bacon gratin as a main course. Everything is accompanied by the Estancia's exclusive wines that include a mind-blowing Tannat.
The staff are well trained on etiquette and style but even more importantly, are profusely friendly and attentive, including the hotel's young general manager Tomas, whose perfect English comes from five years in Wyoming as a fly–fishing guide.
Some of Grace's fun features are its cigar lounge with ventilation system, open–pit barbeque, poolside bar, and the geometrical swimming pool with ample space for swimming laps under the piercing valley sun. Grace's rooms can be basically categorized by their views, with a vista of the vineyard costing you an extra 30 dollars a night. There are also two Grace Suites which provide guests with a small office area, a sitting room with leather couches, a private terrace and a Jacuzzi bathtub with a view of the grapevines.
The Grace Luxury group loves Argentina right now. An upcoming addition to the family will be built just outside of Buenos Aires on the grounds of the Dolfina golf and polo complex. The Dolfina polo team is a six–time champion of the famous Argentina Open and the estate is the brainchild of the Argentine polo star, Adolfo Cambiasso.
Grace Cafayate is clearly the area's most pampering option for staying overnight and the cost of your room includes discounted rates for all of the Estancia's activities (like a 50–peso golf greens fee — about 9 dollars at the official exchange rate) and a great a la carte breakfast complemented by a glass of morning champagne. The name behind the hotel will draw luxury travelers who previously avoided Argentina's northwestern wine country due to a lack of good high–end lodging options. The experience at the hotel itself will ensure that they come back.Review and photos by Lydia Carey
Web Site: www.gracehotels.com/cafayate
Total Number of Rooms: 12 in main building, 40 in villas
Published rates: $330 — $1360 BB