Our January wellness weeks started with a trip to the Ranch at Live Oak five years ago. And while that boot camp experience was a truly transformative one—among other things, I gave up caffeine and took up yoga and have stuck with both habits—we decided that in addition to incorporating health benefits, we wanted the trips to be opportunities to discover new places. Since then we have traveled to Hacienda San Antonio in Mexico; Mii amo in Arizona; Mukul in Nicaragua and Estancia Vik in Uruguay. This year, we explored the wine country around Mendoza in Argentina, specifically the Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley.
I have been lucky to have visited wine regions in many countries—France, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, California and most recently Argentina. All are blessed with rich soils and perfect climates, and they tend to boast interesting histories and dramatic landscapes. In Argentina, the first vines were planted in the mid 1500s. Later, European refugees fleeing Italy and Spain during the First World War developed hundreds of small wineries near Mendoza in the Lujan de Cuyo and Uco valleys. They focused on quantity not quality, and their wines were bought by locals and little known until the 1990s, when winemakers from France and California discovered cheaper land and microclimates that are particularly well suited to growing Malbec grapes.
In the past two decades, the top winemakers from Bordeaux and Napa have established operations in Argentina. Today, the region has more than a 1,000 vineyards. Chic boutique hotels have opened and state-of-the-art wineries are blending wines that are receiving top ratings from oenophiles around the world. On our recent trip we stayed at two fabulous vineyard retreats, Entre Cielos and The Vines, where the vines and olive trees are centuries old but the rooms and facilities are sleek and modern. One included a suite suspended over the vines with a Baccarat black chandelier and outdoor hot tub, and the other featured a glass box gym over the vines, so you could run on a treadmill with views of grapes and the Andes. We spent our days mixing outdoor activities like hiking, yoga and mountain biking with wine tastings and incredible meals. Among the locals that we met were passionate sommeliers and winemakers and a chef who pairs the food with the wine instead of the reverse. At the end of the week, we were able to blend our own wines—mixing Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon and what we had learned to create our own bottles.
Often I felt overwhelmed with our good fortune. We had escaped the frigid winter of New York (a massive snowstorm, in fact), and woke up after the overnight flight in a land with 300 days of sunshine, where gentle vineyard hillsides are sheltered by the drama of the Andes. “Don’t you feel lucky to be here?” I said to our lovely biking guide one morning. “I do.” He shared a local expression, “Luis cuando te permites Lo que mereces, obtienes lo que necesitas. La primera persona con la que debemos ser generoso Es Tu!” “When you allow yourself what you deserve, you get what you need. The first person you should be generous to is yourself.” Later, winemaker Pablo Gimenez Rilli offered his key to happiness. “I don’t have everything I love, but I do love everything I have.”
In my experience, all wine countries that I have visited share not just their beauty and history, but an infectious appreciation for enjoying what great wine celebrates, which is a love for celebration, artistry and bonding over food and drink. As Robert Mondavi said, “Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living.” We certainly found that in Argentina.
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