Ruta Provincial 94, Km 11, Tunuyan, Uco Valley, Mendoza
It is difficult to dispute that the people who run the Vines know wine. Between the Vines tasting room in Mendoza which offers over 100 Argentine wines by the glass, their close partnership with legendary winemaker Santiago Achaval, and their 1500 acres of private vineyard estates that they manage for some of the world's most serious wine folk, it's safe to say that they have the oenophile angle down pat. What is clear upon the 2014 opening of their new hotel and spa is that they take tourism and accommodations just as seriously. Mediocrity simply does not exist here.
Located about an hour south of downtown Mendoza, in quaint Valle de Uco, the location may make some feel that it is too far out to merit a stay when there are so many other accommodations closer to town. Those who make the trip will be quick to tell you though that an hour's drive is nothing for the complete experience that you will have available. There's memorable food, world–renowned wine, and some of Mendoza's most gorgeous views to keep you entertained and engaged. For less sedentary pleasures, a lengthy list of activity options range from intensely relaxing to highly adventurous.
The Vines will arrange for a driver to transport you, or you can rent a car from downtown Mendoza with GPS. Once you pass through the small town of Tunuyan, you still have about 15 miles of rural terrain before you find the hotel — and the trickiest part has yet to come. Once on the property, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the vast hectares of vineyards that they maintain. There are grape trellises as far as you can see, with only the majestic Andes and a few signs to help orient you.
After a relaxed check–in you will be ushered to your villa. Much more a house than a room, the smallest one bedroom unit is more than 1,000 square feet. The One Bedroom Deluxe is almost 2,000 square feet and the Two Bedroom is an expansive 2,700 square feet.
Designed by Argentine architects Bormida & Yanzon, the villas effortlessly blend the indoors with the stunning natural outdoor environment, offering guests a very strong sense of place. Each villa features floor–to–ceiling windows and cozy outdoor patio areas. Wood, stone, and other textures from the region provide the basis for all of the construction and decor. Some villas feature large fireplaces and private outdoor stone bathtubs (the perfect place for stargazing at night with a glass of Malbec while listening to the sound of the frogs from the nearby lagoon).
One more example of how the Vines does not go halfway on anything is with their signature on–site restaurant. When they decided to offer local cuisine which reflected the gaucho culture in the region, they paired up with none other than the acclaimed Francis Mallmann to create Siete Fuegos. Everything here is cooked by one of seven open flame cooking techniques which have been refined throughout 12,000 years of history. It is a place to gather for an idyllic meal of famous Argentine beef grilled to perfection, accompanied by inspired, colorful salads almost too pretty to want to eat, homemade bread still warm from the clay oven, and, of course, wine from the absurdly long wine list. A relaxed lunch or dinner at Siete Fuegos itself is worth the trip to the Vines — some say that this is Argentine asado at its finest.
Those who want to immerse themselves more in the local atmosphere should chat with their concierge, an onsite "Gaucho" whose job it is to craft an unforgettable, personalized stay for every guest. One memorable option is a trip on horseback to the top of a nearby mountain, where you will take in the sunrise while enjoying breakfast watching the sun light up the Andes Mountains. Return to take a cooking class at Siete Fuegos, where you can learn how to grill from the best of the best. No stay at the Vines would be complete without wine–related activities, so blend your own wine at the hotel's own state–of–the–art winery, commit to a full–on wine camp where you can learn winemaking from Santiago Achaval himself, get your hands dirty in the fall harvest, or experience vinotherapy treatments at the hotel's subterranean spa. (A whirlpool, sauna, and steam room are also always available to guests even without booking a treatment.)
Bike to nearby vineyards (Clos de los Siete is right down the road and definitely merits a visit), or the more adventurous can arrange a day of rafting. If you still have energy, work out in the fully–equipped gym which is elevated over the vineyards to give you what could be the best view you have ever enjoyed while exercising. Unwind after a long day in its private spaces for yoga and meditation, and finish off with a refreshing dip in the massive infinity pool built alongside the vineyards — complete with private, curtained cabanas.
When it underwent its rigorous inspection to become a Leading Hotel of the World, The Vines wowed with its 90+ percent rating, despite some details of the hotel such as landscaping still having the finishing touches done. Even more impressive is how the Vines has nailed knowing how to come off as prestigious, but never pretentious. For a laid–back, yet completely upscale stay in the wine country, the Vines is sure to leave you with lasting impressions of Mendoza gastronomy, wine, and the surrounding gaucho culture, while indulging you with some of the finest hospitality in Argentina.
Review and photos by Cathy Brown
Web Site: www.vinesresortandspa.com
Total Number of Rooms: 22 private villas
Published rates: $850 — $1600 including breakfast but not 21% tax