Saddle up, gourmets and wannabe gauchos, Casa de Uco resort is the satisfying digestif at the tail end of Mendoza’s wine route. It sits atop a vast estate where you’re guaranteed unfettered views of vines and snowy Andean peaks – and superb Malbec, of course. The eco-friendly, modern hotel – designed in cool concrete and steel – cuts a striking figure against the rural backdrop. Besides the resort’s liquid assets, fresh-off-the-asado beef and estate-harvested delicacies earn a foodie following. We’ll say a hearty ‘Salud!’ to that.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability (charged at 50 per cent of the room rate). Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from $369.00.
Rates usually include à la carte breakfast and some non-alcoholic drinks.
In the games room guests can play pool and computer games, and flip through the large coffee-table book collection.
At the hotel
Spa, sauna, steam room, gym, tennis courts, vineyards, stables, tennis courts, asado (barbecue), living room, games room and free WiFi throughout. Bikes and helmets, a computer, laptop or iPad can be borrowed for free, on request. In rooms: a 42” flatscreen TV; a free bottle of Malbec and a seasonal platter of chocolate, nuts and alfajores (spiced honey and almond biscuits), Nespresso coffee machine; a minibar; an Egyptian cotton bathrobe and slippers; and Fuegia bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The lagoon-facing rooms on the top floor have a glass frontage for full-on scenery. There’s a private balcony too, and the sleek modern bath tubs (they’ll fit two if you don’t mind a close encounter) are right by the floor-to-ceiling windowpane. There’s a curtain if you’re feeling shy. When built, the concrete-and-steel Bungalows will look like villas from the future, with Corbusier-esque clean-cut modernism and rooftop Jacuzzis.
The unheated outdoor pool looms over the lagoon on a concrete platform. The hotel sits along one side and sunloungers are scattered about, but swim to the infinity edge and you’re immersed in timeless Mendocenean terroir. It’s large enough for lazy laps, and a Jacuzzi bubbles away to one side.
The minimalist mod spa offers vinotherapy and hydrotherapy treatments. There's an aromatic cedar sauna and wet sauna, steam room and relaxation area. There's a fitness centre too and an open-air Jacuzzi and solarium.
A star chart so you can impress your partner when peeking through the top-floor telescope.
The hotel’s common areas are wheelchair friendly, and the ground-floor Cordón del Plata room has been adapted for mobility-impaired guests.
Over-16s can stay, but most activities require ID, so it’s best to leave the kids at home.
Low-energy equipment and solar panels are used throughout, and grass and wildflowers poke through the hotel’s ‘green roof’. The herbicide- and pesticide-free estate grows everything from Swiss chard to fava beans in the kitchen garden, and the central man-made lagoon (filled with run-off water from the Andes) is used for low-impact irrigation.
Sit by any window and marvel at nature’s handiwork. For a quiet drink together, the upstairs lounge has fragrant candles, cosy throws and a telescope for stargazing.
There’s nothing but vines for miles around, so no one will bat an eyelid if you dine in that day’s riding gear (although try not to clash with the staff’s smart uniform of blue shirts and white jodhpurs).
Produce is grown on the sizeable estate or neighbouring farms. Mod-Argentinean dishes by chef Pablo Torres are designed around hauls from the hotel’s garden, artfully finished with home-grown herbs, seeds and flowers. Contemporary with soft leather sofas and all tables set close to the huge windows, the restaurant’s outdoorsy hues, warm woods and pretty plants invite nature in.
Sommelier Juan Pablo Nieva has sipped his way through many a Malbec (among other wines) and his recommendations are duly reliable. Swap tasting notes with other guests in the sociable wine lounge. Alternatively, imagine you’re a nostalgic wine baron and wander through the hotel with your glass, stopping to gaze wistfully over your crop; summon a waiting staff member if you need a top up. A wide wine spectrum is celebrated here, from chartreuse sauvignon to carmine pinot noir.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 11am. Lunch is served from noon to 3pm and dinner from 7pm to 11pm.
The full menu is available during restaurant hours. If you need a late-night pick-me-up, a bartender will shake up a cocktail of your choosing and bring it straight to your door.
Route 94, kilometer 14.5, Road to Manzano Histórico
The hotel is on a lush green (auburn-hued come fall) vineyard estate in the desert of Uco Valley, just under two hours’ drive south of Mendoza. There’s a smattering of wineries close by and Andean foothills to climb.
The closest international hub is Governor Francisco Gabrielli Airport, a two-hour drive from the hotel. Aerolineas Argentinas (www.aerolineas.com.ar) runs frequent two-hour flights there from Buenos Aires and 45-minute flights from Santiago in Chile.
The hotel’s remote setting makes driving necessary, but you’ll be rewarded with emerald- or ochre-tinged views, depending on the time of year, and mighty mountain-topped vistas. From the airport, reach the hotel via National Route 40, Route 92 then Route 94. There’s an Avis booth at the airport, and free parking at the hotel.
Make quite the entrance by sweeping in on a chopper – Casa de Uco has its own heliport. Contact the hotel team to make arrangements.
Worth getting out of bed for
Casa de Uco’s estate lends itself to simple pleasures: soaking in the pool, sipping a glass of wine or strolling through the vines. There are bikes to borrow for bombing through the vines, or you can hop on horseback – accompanied by a well-trained member of staff – for a peaceful trot through the surrounding wide-open spaces. A surfeit of wineries ensures that the Uco Valley’s cup runs over. Malbec and sémillon are the big names here, but diverse terroir yields some excellent Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir too. The Vines of Mendoza’s Uco Valley outpost (+54 261 632 1768), a 20-minute drive from the hotel, is said to be one of the best; here you can learn about the fermentation process, taste from the barrels, and blend your own wines, all with awe-inspiring Andean views. Bodegas Salentein (+54 262 242 9500), a 40-minute drive away, rivals the hotel for eye-catching modernist architecture, and its oak-barrel-aged wines aren’t half bad either. Guests whose sense of adventure stretches beyond their palate can hike the Andean foothills.
Knowing that there was to be a full supermoon, an excess of wine and sophisticated spa-and-bar opportunities, I’ll admit I was a little sceptical about writing this review. I worried it would read like one long minibreak cliché, and this was before I tumbled out of a magnificently-proportioned bed to pad around on a private balcony, which offered beautiful vineyard views on which the Andes loftily gazed (prompting wine-fuddled heads to remember that they were in South America, not the South of France). In essence, it was quite the perfect spot to don bathrobes and frolic in sozzled amor with Señor Smith – and a place to revel in clichés and much more…
Mendoza airport was shut until December, so the sole option for our first Argentine minibreak was the overnight bus – but in truth, I would have risked it anyway. It’s a snoozy direct route from Buenos Aires, and I was subconsciously testing Mr Smith’s hardcore-travelling-companion credentials. The reality is that Mendoza is not exactly hardcore; it is to Porteños what the Cotswolds are to Londoners for minibreaks – just 10 hours further away, with much better weather and wine. It was still quite testing; we survived – just – and if the wine-soaked embrace of Casa de Uco had not been waiting at the end, it might have been the end of us. So, one gold star to Casa de Uco.
While depleting my oversize glass of welcome wine, I relaxed into a languid lethargy and thought about taking a bottle (and, as an afterthought, Mr Smith) to the outdoor, Andes-ogling Jacuzzi – for why was the romantic minibreak invented, if not to revel in every amorous cliché under the sun? Thrillingly for us, at Casa de Uco, a great deal more… Opportunities for adventure abounded: archery and furious downhill mountain biking (at a finger-numbing three degrees) were on the agenda, as was our first bit of superbly organised fun: galloping through vineyards to a private asado (an Argentine barbecue). This was big-kid heaven, and Mr Smith and I were as much romanced by the surrounding nature as we were by each other.
As we drove down roads lined with fuzzy peach blossom and slender poplars, enchantingly far from the airport and the province’s capital, the grandeur of the snow-tipped Andes became our breathtaking backdrop. The resort itself stands cool in the centre of a 320-hectare, vineyard-lined estate, a dream for wine enthusiasts and an eco-ode to the land it inhabits.
This is definitely a lair for professional wine-lovers; I love wine, but I know nip-squeak about it. However, I heard on the grapevine that Uco has been tipped as the next Napa. I bandied this phrase around zealously for the duration of my stay, much to the embarrassment of Mr Smith, who is more informed – even more so since we downloaded a wine app that instantly made us obsess over labels, and irk every sommelier within a 10-mile radius. My novice quaffing skills were charmingly embraced, as was Mr Smith’s frantic snapping, and we were made to feel very much part of the pro-slurping set – because that’s exactly what Casa de Uco does: make you feel right at home.
Time seems to stretch in this house – I stayed still in a sauna for more than 10 minutes, a skill I’d never quite mastered before, and the ability to do so is one of my markers for maturity. So, Casa de Uco gets its second gold star for almost making me feel like an adult – emphasis on ‘almost’. The place does encourage one to behave badly, while playing at being grown-up. Stay in bathrobes all day while lazing in the inside-outside glory of your giant room, gazing at the vines or the supermoon; then rock up late for breakfast – we adored the relaxed mealtimes so in sync with our part Argy, part British, very neurotic timekeeping. You can have breakfast at 1pm and lunch at 4pm if you so wish, and we happily put this attractive marketing carrot to the test. Here is a place to get tipsy over cocktail-fuelled, very serious pool contests and then head down to the fire pit to smoke forbidden cigarettes and have staring contests with baby foxes; a place to wander through the vines at sunset; watch electric storms rage in Uco Valley’s mighty skies; and pontificate on the irrigation system which feeds such vast vineyards in such dry desert (Mr Smith) and if we could get a double spa treatment tomorrow (me). The answer to the latter, by the way, was yes.
Mr Smith fell in love with the snow-capped vistas, startlingly blue skies and adventure opportunities of the Uco Valley, and has suggested we come back with a car and a tent. I can foresee so many problems, but we’ve struck a deal, whereby we come back here for a post-camping holiday and I promise to sit still in a sauna and let him win at pool. Oh, and move in with him. So, thanks Casa de Uco for that too – you really did turn me into a grown-up.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Casa de Uco’s Guestbook below.
The view. Diamandes Vineyard's lunch with wine paring. (Close and with excellent service, food and wine.)
Many staff to speak English or for any hotel arranged activities to be clearly organized for you.