Welcome to our “Be Here Now” series, where we’ll be shining a new spotlight every month on a destination that we think deserves a place on your travel wish list. For the first installment, we’re going to Argentina’s wine-producing province of Mendoza, a place where the incredible scenery, the extraordinary quality of life, and the perfect climate for growing grapes — not to mention some truly extraordinary hotels — combine to offer travelers an experience to remember.
Mendoza owes its skyrocket success in the winemaking world to a confluence of favorable conditions. Meltwater from the mountains hydrates the rocky, semi-arid soil in these eastern foothills of the Andes. Altitudes exceed 3,000 feet, exposing the vines to both intense sunshine during the day and crisp night air after dark. This clockwork alternation generates the perfect grape: slowly ripened, concentrated in flavor, and remarkably consistent year over year at harvest time.
That enviable balance is particularly evident in Mendoza’s marquee varietal, Malbec, whose international appeal over the past few decades emerged from rigorous domestic production across the 19th and 20th centuries. Prior to that, Spanish colonists worked the land for centuries, cultivating a wide variety of fruits (including grapes) to trade for goods in larger metropolitan areas. The birth of the railroad, together with a healthy influx of European immigrants, supplied the nascent industry with the know-how and manpower to make its mark on the world stage.
These days, more than a thousand wineries ply their trade here. In recent history, the post-recession buyer’s market afforded opportunities for an astonishing range of producers; slick award-winners rub shoulders with scrappy eco-futurists and grizzled heritage operations. In turn, hospitality veterans took notice and set about establishing wine-friendly hotspots in and around the provincial capital, ushering greater Mendoza into bona fide phenomenon territory.
You’ll likely arrive via Francisco Gabrielli airport, just north of the city of Mendoza, via Santiago or Buenos Aires. All four seasons have their charms, but we recommend spring or fall to avoid climate extremes — and to witness wine production firsthand. Drivers are hereby warned to expect manual transmissions only and a distinct absence of street signs, though there’s plenty of potential for bikers and hikers to become more intimately acquainted with the landscape.
Would you be surprised if we told you that Mendoza just happens to be home to some extraordinary Tablet hotels?
True, the Vines is an hour and a half by car from the city, but it’s also a luxuriously self-contained retreat spanning a whopping 1,500 acres, much of which is given over to individually owned vineyard plots. The food — open-flame wizardry by Francis Mallmann — pairs miraculously with the region’s full-bodied pours, and that’s only the most obvious combination available. The on-site spa is a fine idea, pre- or post-Malbec, and a team of resident gauchos patiently guide you through proper horseback technique. But to our point: yes, there are hands-on winemaking workshops addressing just about every step in the process, and yes, you can sign right up.
The active drinker will appreciate Algodon’s even split between golfing and vintnery, though now that we think of it, the two aren’t so different in that they both encourage a meditative appreciation of the landscape’s character. In any case, the great thing about a villa like this is the relaxed pace; nothing’s obligatory, everything’s up for consideration. Goes well with a bottle, naturally, not to mention witty conversation and a pair of stone fireplaces. Tours, tastings, and seminars are uniformly above par (sorry), with particular emphasis on organic and eco-conscious standards. Even the bath products involve “wine therapy” — though, to be fair, a glass of wine with a bubble bath has always felt like therapy to us.
On the other hand, newcomers are very much welcome in Mendoza; Casa de Uco’s sleek, here-and-now profile reflects a unified vision of crisp design, state-of-the-art tech, and boutique winemaking chops. The latter comes in part by way of specialist consultation, but also by a well-conceived and sophisticated approach to the trade. The contemporary aesthetic works especially well in contrast to its neighbors’ legacy methods, complementing Mendoza’s time-tested wineries with a palpable, thrilling freshness. The proof is in the bottle, no doubt, but with Casa de Uco it’s also in the geometry, the glass, the concrete, and the unmatched views.
In addition to its own 55-acre vineyard, this boutique concern operates as a headquarters of sorts for a series of intensive vineyard tours, showcasing an encyclopedic collection of its fellows with obvious pride. An outstanding seasonal restaurant anchors the enterprise, though we admit it can be hard to tear yourself away from the freestanding Spanish Colonial villas, what with the private terrace, wood-burning fireplace, and plunge pool that come with each. Think of this as the ideal recuperative sabbatical for the incurable wanderer.
Widespread acclaim being the norm around here, we’re extra-enthused whenever a hotel’s adventurous visual identity sets it apart from the flock. Such is the case with Entre Cielos, whose hyper-modern concrete construction should be good for at least a couple quality gasps. Their spa should calm you down sufficiently to take in the textbook Andean panoramas, and it won’t be long before you’re clinking glasses over Asian-Mediterranean fare at the fine-dining restaurant. A trio of house Malbecs sounds should keep things interesting; for extra points, book a same-day vinotherapy session.
And lest we be accused of overly starry eyes, we’d never betray the deep satisfaction of cozy, traditional homesteading, the wellspring of all true hospitality. Finca Adalgisa’s century-old vines bespeak vast, generational wisdom, a self-actualized worldview with quiet pride in its wine and olive oil alike. Strike up a conversation with the vine-tenders — salt of the earth, meet fruit of the vine. And the rooms’ rustic, homespun interiors are no less sturdy nor satisfying, well suited to an earned rest after a long, full day.