Julie Mautner - June 2014
Uco Valley, Argentina—Casa de Uco officially opened this month on a 790 acre estate in the foothills of the Andes. It’s nestled in the Uco Valley, known for the superb quality of its Malbec grapes. Casa de Uco bills itself as a wine hotel and spa, with seven guest rooms, nine suites, and 10 lavish bungalows. Guests enjoy a quincho (country home) for Argentine-style asados (barbecues), an organic orchard, stables, a heliport, and a lake.
Casa de Uco’s vineyard allows its partners access to large-scale wine production without having to take on a major investment or management duties. These “owners” (there will be no more than 50) can delve into winemaking on parcels averaging just one hectare (2.47 acres) and they get full access to hotel and spa perks, such as private wine storage and free room nights. The vines—Malbec, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio—were planted in 2009, and the 2014 harvest will be Casa de Uco’s third. The wines will be released commercially in 2014, although the first wines made from Casa de Uco grapes were unveiled in October.
Parcels are priced according to location and vines, but the average cost is $150,000 per hectare, with each hectare producing roughly 7,000 bottles per year. Owners may be as involved in the winemaking process as they wish; they can harvest their own grapes, work with the winemaker to create custom blends, create a private label…or choose to sell their grapes. To oversee the wine side of the business, Casa de Uco has put two heavy hitters in charge. The project director is Juan Tonconogy, founder/co-owner of Finca Los Maza; his company’s wines are found in major retail outlets in Argentina and are exported to several countries in Europe and North and South America.
Alberto Antonini, with 16 years’ winemaking experience in the Uco Valley, is head winemaker. Born in Tuscany, Antonini earned his doctorate in agricultural studies at the University of Florence, then went on to study enology at the University of Bordeaux and UC Davis. He was a senior winemaker at Antinori and Frescobaldi in Tuscany, and at Robert Mondavi, Au Bon Climat, and Qupé in California. Today, he consults in wine regions worldwide.
The restaurant at Casa de Uco is led by Pablo del Rio, the well-known Argentine chef who owns restaurant Siete Cocinas in Mendoza.
The hotel gm is Patricia Della Gaspera, who came from the Hyatt Mendoza. The f&b director is Gonzalo Robredo, who was last at Estancia Dos Lunas, the luxury hotel in Cordoba, Argentina. Casa de Uco is striving to be as eco-conscious as possible, with a firm commitment to organic farming and environmental conservation. Initiatives include low-power equipment, solar panels for hot water and electricity, and the recycling of organic farm materials. The hotel’s green rooftop, covered with natural species, is an open veranda where guests can enjoy moonlit valley views and star gazing.