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Vintage Argentina

Nestled on thirty-five acres of vineyards and framed by the majestic Andes, an upscale lodge debuts in Argentina's wine country.

The villas of the Cavas Wine Lodge have a startlingly modern sensibility.
PHOTO: Cap Sparling
By M.A. Clinton

Argentina has countless marvels, from the sophisticated capital of Buenos Aires and the estancias of Patagonia to the spectacular scenery around San Carlos de Bariloche, in the lake district. These are musts on a trip to this exciting South American country, which is finally beginning to rebound from economic woes caused by the devaluation of the peso a few years ago. But on my third visit, a group of friends and I discovered the charming city of Mendoza and its environs, in the wine region of Cuyo. Imagine Napa Valley two decades ago.

Encompassing three provinces in the central Andes, Cuyo is popular for such activities as climbing Mount Aconcagua, South America's highest mountain. Another huge draw is wine. Thanks to its varied topography and arid climate, Cuyo is the heart of the fast-growing Argentine wine country (local production represents almost 80 percent of the national output). A trip there is as enticing as one to Sonoma or Tuscany; the difference is that Cuyo is not as commercially developed.

About thirty minutes from Mendoza is the newest destination of choice in the area, the unique Cavas Wine Lodge, which opened last September. Arriving at Cavas is magical. A long winding driveway takes you through a series of wine and olive vineyards, with the majestic Andes looming in the distance. As you approach, seven "vignettes" (villas) rise above the horizon--displays of modern architecture jutting above nature. Cavas is owned by Cecilia Díaz Chuit and her husband, Martín Rigal, stylish Argentineans who bought the thirty-five-acre property in 2003 and hired the architecture firm Gon-zález Pondal-Malenchini, of Buenos Aires, to design the lodge.

The main house is a Spanish-style structure, and its foyer is filled with modern and traditional art and objects gathered from across Argentina. There is a large seating area that makes check-in relaxing, especially as it features a glass wall with views of the snowcapped Andes.

Published on 9/1/2006
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