Big Skies, Lofty Dreams
The Uco Valley, a dramatic landscape bordering the foothills of the Andes, is one of South America’s top winegrowing regions, what with its fortuitous combination of sunny days, cool nights, and gravelly soils intersected by a web of streams. Although it’s only 90 minutes away from the city of Mendoza, the area has a remote and rugged feel, making it a thoroughly alluring setting for wine aficionados in search of authenticity. Just ask Michael Evans, an American who traveled to Uco in the early aughts and never left. After joining forces with third-generation Argentine vintner Pablo Gimenez Riili, he bought a modestly sized plot of land that eventually grew into a 1,500-acre estate called The Vines of Mendoza, where individuals from around the world can own vineyards and make bespoke wines under the guidance of a local team of experts. The estate is also home to The Vines Resort & Spa, a ranch-style property with 22 luxurious villas, a stellar restaurant, and an intimate spa.
As owners Michael Evans and Pablo Gimenez Riili like to say, The Vines is hard to find, but its even harder to leave.
Designed by award-winning architects Bormida & Yanzon, the property strikes a balance between rusticity and sophistication, with stone, wood, and cement surfaces coupled with over-sized leather sofas, texturally rich neutral fabrics, and woven carpets. No space competes with the views, not even the grand main pool, whose minimalist lines only enhance the beauty of the lush surroundings. Along with creature comforts like private fireplaces and outdoor soaking tubs, what beckons guests into this mountainside hideaway is the opportunity to discover Argentina’s viticulture and gastronomy through thoughtfully curated experiences.
From picking grapes, to making traditional empanadas from scratch, The Vines offers a delightful array of hands-on adventures. During the harvest months of March and April, guests are invited to pick and sort berries alongside a team of pros, and to explore the vineyards with chief agronomist, Francisco Evangelista, as he shares his vast knowledge of the Uco Valley’s varied soils. Those who want to learn more about the profound influence oak has on aromas, flavors, and textures can take a crash course in fermenting and aging, followed by a tasting of straight-from-the-barrel samples. Aspiring winemakers can even take home a custom blend, made to their specifications after comparing some of the dozens of varietals grown on the estate. A glass of wine by itself is great, and it’s even better paired with locally sourced food cooked over a massive open fire. Dining at Siete Fuegos, the on-site restaurant conceived by superstar chef Francis Mallmann, is a real feast for the senses. Admire the fiery spectacle of seven types of wood-fired grills inspired by longstanding cooking techniques used by gauchos. Then savor the rustic flavors of specialties like slow-grilled rib eye, cast-iron baked salmon encrusted with salt, and grilled seasonal fruits as part of a multi-course meal paired with award-winning boutique bottles. As owners Michael Evans and Pablo Gimenez Riili like to say, The Vines is hard to find, but its even harder to leave.