Uco Valley, Argentina: Will this sunny expanse outside Mendoza City become Napa South? New hotels are making it easier to sample the region’s Malbecs and Semillons: Francis Mallman—the Argentine Thomas Keller—runs the kitchen at Vines Resort & Spa ($$$$), while Casa de Uco, Wine Hotel & Spa ($$$$) has freestanding tubs and outdoor fire pits.
"Big open spaces,” he (Brochu) said. “It’s like Napa 30 - 40 years ago."
Start your tour of the city with a wine sampling at Vines of Mendoza ... The tasting room is owned by Michael Evans and Pablo Gimenez Riili, whose 1,000-acre cooperative vineyard in the Uco Valley gives those who dream of making their own wine the possibility of owning as little as three acres of vines, with access to a state-of-the-art facility and an excellent in-house oenologist.
Two years ago, a colleague bragged that he and two friends had bought three acres of vineyards in Argentina's Uco Valley for $210,000, including the first two years of farming fees. Each harvest season since, he and his partner-pals have gone down to the fast-growing wine region to pick and crush their grapes, then blend them into premium wines under the guidance of Santiago Achával, one of Argentina's most revered winemakers (his Malbecs can sell for more than $100 a bottle—several times the typical price)... Starting this year, they'll have some 12,000 bottles of wine annually to label and drink as they choose, at a cost of $3,000 per acre in farming fees.
For his 50th birthday two years ago, Phil Asmundson, vice chairman of technology at Deloitte LLP, flew to Argentina for a vacation and ended up buying a vineyard. As a long-time wine collector, making his own was a secret dream. During harvest in March or April, he’ll fly down from New York to pick malbec grapes and play cellar rat.
“At The Vines Resort & Spa, guests can watch the sunset from a lakeside deck or dine at Siete Fuegos Restaurant, run by grill master Francis Mallmann. The Vines was the first Mendoza wine company to offer vineyard ownership opportunities, and now travelers-turned-vintners return regularly to tend their vines.
“Mendoza is Napa 30 or 40 years ago,” said Michael Evans, a former Democratic campaign strategist from Washington, D.C., who moved to Mendoza six years ago to go into the wine business. But while money is pouring in, charming hotels are popping up, and wineries are going all-out architecturally, Mendoza remains very much an old-world experience.
Step One: Contact The Vines of Mendoza, situated in Mendoza’s Uco Valley, in Argentina.
Brochu, a self-described “Texas boy” with about 700 bottles of wine in his Seattle home, eventually came around to the idea of being a part-time winery owner. Now the 56-year-old financier, who has sold three companies with a total value of about $1 billion, is waiting to taste the fruit of his latest investment. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about owning a vineyard,” he said.
Evans restored his juices in Mendoza, in the foothills of the Andes. He discovered a new career: vine renting. His five-year-old company, Vines of Mendoza, manages a 1,046-acre Argentinean vineyard on behalf of casual winemakers who would rather do the quaffing and let others handle the pruning.
One of The Vines' aims is to take the mystery out of winemaking, so estate owners can get involved with the nitty-gritty such as taking soil samples, fermenting and even designing labels at the on-site winery.
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