25 de Mayo Cafayate, Salta Province, Argentina
While many think only of Mendoza when it comes to important Argentine wine production, Cafayate is home to many serious vineyards and a well–established wine route. Just a two–hour plane from Buenos Aires, or a three hour drive from either Salta or Tucuman, the small town holds much charm for those who love wine tasting in an inspired, still–rugged setting. This is also the main production center for Torrontes, the white wine variety growing rapidly in popularity.
A relaxed home base while touring the area is the Viñas de Cafayate, a 22–room boutique hotel located within relatively easy walking or biking distance (just over a mile and a half) from the main town square. To be clear, the hotel is not at an actual winery, it just happens to be located with vineyards all around.
Upon check in, all guests receive a welcome drink. Pass through the interior courtyard and take it out poolside, surrounded by lavender on all sides, and any lingering travel weariness will soon subside. On a cooler day, unwind in the lounge with fireplace and a library before heading to the room. Guests with impaired walking ability should definitely request a room close to the lobby, as to get to certain rooms requires walking over gravel, grass, and climbing some stairs.
Room choices are either Standard or Superior, and all rooms in the hotel are flooded with light and have fantastic views of either the vineyards or San Isidro Hill. Room décor is kept to a minimum, and while the bathrooms are ample in size, they are basic. Wi–Fi, heating, air conditioning, and an in–room safe deposit box are found in all rooms, and the Superior rooms have LCD television sets. Rooms with a balcony are highly recommended, as lounging with a glass of wine and taking in a spectacular sunset or a clear sky full of stars is part of what can make the Cafayate experience so memorable.
Where Viñas outshines the competition is in its easy access to the outdoor activities that Cafayate has to offer. Mountain bikes are left outside on the patio for guests to use, perfect for cruising around town for wine tastings ranging from the traditional and prestigious Etchart, Lavaque, and Domingo Hermanos to small luxury wineries such as Finca Las Nubes, Josť Luis Mounier, and El Porvenir. Easy day hikes are available at nearby Cafayate Canyon, the Cafayate Dunes, and the Colorado River waterfalls. Golf lovers should not miss the opportunity to play 18 holes at the fabled Estancia of Cafayate course, where Viñas guests receive a special greens fee. Depending on the time of year, polo can also be watched or played at the Estancia. This area is a horse–lover's paradise, and guided rides in the area can be arranged by the hotel staff.
After a long day playing outside, recharge at the hotel restaurant. The hotel maintains an organic garden to supply the kitchen with fresh vegetables. The cuisine served is regional, ranging from the famous Salta empanadas for appetizers to Argentine meat grilled to perfection. The wine cellar is prepared to hold custom tastings, and the local Torrontes varietal should not be missed. When morning rolls around, a buffet breakfast is included in the rate. Make sure to arrive with plenty of time to spare, as it seems that the staff likes to close the buffet promptly — and you may feel rushed to finish up.
While Cafayate is a popular tourist destination, it is still refining how to cater to the luxury market. Viñas de Cafayate, although it lacks opulent amenities or a fabulous spa, does a good job in providing very comfortable accommodations in a tranquil setting right on the wine route. With Patios de Cafayate in decline and the town still waiting for a true luxury hotels, this is the best option for a pleasant hotel in the northern wine country.
Web Address: www.cafayatewineresort.com
Total Number of Rooms: 22
Published rates: $189 - $229 BB
Review and photos by Cathy Brown