Different than Napa Valley in the U.S., Mendoza spans a much larger area. Wineries are more spread out, and you won’t be able to hop around to five or six vineyards in a day, unless you have the drinking tolerance of a Catholic priest and a designated driver who knows where he’s going. The Greater Mendoza region is the largest wine producing area in Latin America. As such, Mendoza is one of nine cities worldwide in the network of Great Capitals of Wine, coming in with over 1,000 wineries. Talk about some grapes. Thank goodness it’s socially acceptable to drink wine here before 10am, one of the many reasons the city near and dear to my heart. After being a frequent visitor of the area (as Mendoza is a short hour and a half flight from Buenos Aires), I decided to do something a little different this time around.
My favorite region is an hour and a half drive south from the Mendoza airport known as Uco Valley. Typically I break up the drive by visiting wineries along the way in Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu before hitting my final destination. (Don’t worry – a DD is always arranged!) There would be none of that this time around. I was heading straight south for four glorious days at Casa de Uco.
Even though I was just stepping foot inside this “house” for the first time, the hotel has a way of making guests feel immediately at home. As we drove up the circle drive, Florencia came to greet me with a freshly squeezed peach welcome drink. I was glad for that, as a plethora of wine would come later. Casa de Uco’s hotel division is in its fourth month of operations, but unlike its fine wine, the hotel doesn’t need age to improve a thing. We were given a short tour before settling in our suite for the next four days. Scenes of giant open livings rooms, oversized chairs looking out to the vineyards and a pristine swimming pool + jacuzzi had me itching to step outside room no. 7, but I’d be back for the bathtub, obviously.
The 16 rooms at Casa de Uco have a dreamy view of the Andes Mountains, perfect for a Valentine’s getaway. Amiright? I take my mountains snow-capped, but this was the only drawback that I could find while visiting during the summer month of February. All the snow from the peaks had melted, creating massive, refreshing streams nearby. All was not lost. If you follow my Instagram account, you already know I indulged in the tub, per usual. People have their hobbies. Some like cars. Some go for bird watching. Me, I take baths.
Coming equipped with chocolatey treats such as alfajores, Toblerones, and a Nespresso machine, the room doubled as the perfect office during the day. I had caffeine to consume before conference calls, sugar to keep me company during email reads, and all before hitting the fine wine once happy hour was upon us. What can I say, it was a healthy four days in Mendoza! Haven’t you heard of resveratrol? Very healthy, indeed.
I have a bone to pick with the cuisine in Argentina. Yes, red quality meat is nothing short of everywhere, but quality salads are hard to find. There’s only so much beef I can eat before craving some crunchy greenery in my life. That mentality seems to slip away, never to be seen again, when I arrive in Mendoza. My carnivorous habits can’t escape wine country.
Casa de Uco puts an emphasis on their gastronomical experiences and wine pairings, which inevitably put an emphasis on my body weight. I’d like to thank Sommelier Juan Pablo Nieva for that as he did a phenomenal job curating the wine list. Oh well, when in Mendoza…
With local products and home-grown vegetables, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see Chef Pablo Torres and Sous Chef Carlos running out to the garden every time I ordered a watermelon salad, but it was just so exciting each and every meal! The thought that zero preservatives would accompany my healthy salad made up for the fact that I still had another three courses coming afterwards, probably some with freshly cut herbs, probably some without (I’m talking to you, chocolate mousse).
Over the course of four days, there were three mind-blowing experiences that would’ve put a foodie in gastronomical heaven. There was a secluded picnic overlooking the vineyards. There was a Valentine’s lunch complete with seven courses. Then came the grand finale of a traveling dinner on horseback where we rode to four different stations throughout the vineyard to eat four different courses. You basically haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a traveling-horseback-dinner. Seriously.
Plenty of activities are on offer at Casa de Uco besides wine tasting and stuffing your face, although feel free to spend most of your time in the wine cellar as you’ll be around great company including Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet. If you have some pep in your step, try your hand on the tennis courts, bike the 790 acres of vineyards, hang out in the spa or gym, challenge your equestrian skills on horseback or partake in sunrise yoga on the roof. For the sun gods and goddesses, you can chill out, max and relax all cool by the infinity pool.
As I mentioned previously, Casa de Uco tends to transport guests to their perfect home-away-from-home, which doesn’t come from just a few smiles and a home garden. The friendly staff at Casa de Uco makes it their mission to awaken the unexplored senses of their guests. The smell of the rich wine hits your nose, staying with you even after you leave. The scent of the Fuegia products filling each guest room create a pleasant and sophisticated atmosphere. The exact taste of the cuisine is hard to replicate, living on only in a memory. The sounds of hoofs beating the dirt path below is overwhelmingly freeing, a sense one doesn’t often receive in a big city. The sprawling estate is bordered by the majestic Andes Mountains, extensive vineyards and a lake, completing the incomparable scenery of Casa de Uco.
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See more from my time at Casa de Uco below!