Cavas Wine Lodge: A Vignette in Mendoza

by Liz Caskey on November 17, 2009

Life looks pretty damn good right now, at least from this chaise lounge where my feet dangle lazily in the private splash pool. It is hot, very hot. The ice cold Torrontes and 50-plus sunblock are my saviors for slumbering on this lazy late March afternoon in Mendoza. Even though it is early fall, the desert takes another month to completely cool down. No worries though, real life is SO far away. Where is this Shangri-La? Why, Cavas Wine Lodge, the monumental Relais & Chateaux property strategically positioned in the heart of Argentina’s famed wine lands of Mendoza.

If you asked me pointe blanche where I would escape for any of the following: a romantic weekend with my husband, wine escape, mountain adventure, refuge from life, or complete don’t want-to-leave-the-property pampering, I will give you the same answer. Cavas. More than a hotel, it transcends being a mere place to sleep to become a total experience. I, for one, don’t want to leave.

Cavas is the passion project, or “baby”, of Cecilia Diaz and Martin Rigal opened in 2006 with 14 intimate luxury cabañas, fittingly called vignettes. The attention to detail, superlative service, and warm, homey vibes are infused by this hip couple in every aspect of the operation: from the staff to the wine served upon arrival to the exquisitely decorated lodge. Cavas is physically secluded down a long, dusty country road so its eco-sleek cabañas are tastefully hidden amid a private vineyard. And for you wine lovers (um, everyone?), they make their own Bonarda wine in the 35-acre vineyard which they generously share with guests.

Here, the only sounds likely to be heard are birds chirping, a soft wind rattling the grape vines, and perhaps the occasional splash of a neighbor into the pool on a hot afternoon. Inside the cabaña it is always blissfully cool for a cozy nap. The vignettes cover 1,000-odd square feet of “hotel room” with sky blue alpaca throws, natural stone, Lion’s-claw tubs, and beautiful natural light flooding the room(s). It feels so perfect and quickly takes on the sensation of being at home.

Every night at Cavas, nature puts on a great show called “Sunset”–and you have front row seats from the top of your private 360-degree view roof complete with a chill out mattress (the delicious staff will gladly light up a roaring fire with some bubbly if you like). The snowcapped Andes in the distance turn pink, then maroon, and violet before the deep azure of the night emerges and stars burst into naked view. During harvest, at dusk, garner an apron and scissors (and a glass of wine) to help cut off the vines laden with Bonarda; or settle in for a concert in their outdoor ampi theater with a classic guitarist; or let the nimble fingers of the resident massage therapist relax you and then take a soak in the wine tub (err, vinotherapy) before dinner.

In my humble opinion, Cavas is the perfect base for jumping off into the region because of its location, location, location. Wineries like Catena Zapata, Ruca Malen, my beloved sparkling producer Cruzat, Paul Hobb’s Cobos, and the now not-so-unknown Achaval Ferrer are a stone’s throw away. The emerging Uco valley and its high altitude wines are an hour south. Mendoza city is 30 minutes north for some urban action and tasty bites at La Bourgogne, Azafrán, or celebrity chef Francis Mallman’s 1884. Cavas can also coordinate biking to the wineries (skipped this one, biking buzzed struck me as a bad idea); hiking or rafting in the Mountains; and up most foodies’ alley for 2009-2010 season, regional cooking classes where you can learn how to make Mendocino classics like empanadas, a perfect bife, and leche planchada (the local take on creme brulee). Cavas will also set up private wine tastings in their well-stocked cellar with the resident sommelier. A full service restaurant (key to not leaving the establishment for meals) churns out exceptionally fresh cuisine with a rotating menu, all heightened by locally produced olive oils, herbs and spices. Could you ever possibly be bored here? Doubtful.

But my personal recommendation…don’t jam your itinerary too full. It is tempting to do since there’s so much in Mendoza, just like Napa. Leave a couple days just to sleep in late (addictive dulce de leche and medialunas, Argentine “croissants”, await you at breakfast), hang out, read, walk, sip, and simply recover from modern life’s responsibilities. It is another dimension and you may not remember what email is or the last time you saw your crackberry (although there’s wifi for the junkies). Remember, life in Argentina, Mendoza, and particularly this hotel are all about slowing down and taking some blessed time to truly savor life–Cavas style. And yes, hedonism is absolutely encouraged.

For more information on Cavas Wine Lodge, or to book a wine inspired trip to Mendoza, Argentina, contact us via email at info@lizcaskey.com or call us on our US line, 904-687-0340.

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