Enchanted by Estancia El Colibri

by Liz Caskey on December 8, 2011

Over Thanksgiving, we said adiós to turkey, cranberries, and Chile, and jetted over the Andes to the city of Córdoba in Argentina. Never heard of it? It’s the second largest city in Argentina with nearly two million inhabitants. Our destination wasn’t really Córdoba city, rather a charming Relais & Chateaux estancia called El Colibri, an hour north of the city, deep in the rolling hills called “Sierra Cordobese”. Paradise? You decide (we thought so!).

They call Estancia El Colibri an “estancia de charme”, enchanting estancia. It most certainly is. It left us smitten with the countryside, the people, the food, and the hospitality. This hotel, along with sister House of Jasmines in Northwestern Salta, is the dream, materialized, of a French couple, Raoul & Stefanie Fenestraz, who fell madly in love with Argentina. As they quote in various spots of their hotel, “The best thing one man can do for another is to share his dream.” It’s so true.

Besides being a luxury hotel, El Colibri is a working farm. Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables we savored, such as the tender lettuce and arugula, came from their organic farm. In fact, in our closet, I discovered a wicker basket and clippers with a note encouraging us to go harvest our own treats from the garden, such as fresh raspberries, artichokes, and the sweetest plums. The milk from their cow, Margarita, showed up in frothy lattes at breakfast, and was cooked down into the best dulce de leche on earth. The noisy chickens blessed us with free range eggs in our omelette every morning. The menu is truly farm-to-table with simply fresh ingredients. Although the lamb was from the property, the grass fed beef, pork, and wild rabbit were locally sourced. The succulent artisan salames, prosciutto, and cheeses hailed from the neighboring towns of Jesús María and Colonia Caroya, the latter being known for its Italian cured meats, which arrived with the immigrants int he early 20th century.

El Colibri is also a horse paradise. We adored horseback riding on the criolla horses with the gauchos and wandered off a couple afternoons with Juan, toward Jesuit missions and into the dried river bed where thousands of birds seemed to live. My spunky pony was called Pupi (pronounced Poopy), and made me chuckle every time I said his name, even though Juan swore it was of indigenous origin. El Colibri is ground zero for polo, a passion of the owners; two full-sized polo fields, several dozen trained polo horses along with all the necessary gear (and instruction from expert polo player Mauro). I decided to take my first polo class…fun but hard. More on that later…It was, however, breeding season and we witnessed several new, adorable foals.

The four days at El Colibri were absolutely relaxingly delicious. No work, no e-mails for the first time in nearly 14 months (yes, workaholics can be reformed). I read an entire book, The Help, in 2 sittings. I had a massage. We drank great wine. We savored two delicious asados, courtesy of grill master Pelado. We walked, we biked, we rode horses, we talked, we chilled out. And I even got my wish–two thunder storms. We never have summer t-storms in Chile with its dry Mediterranean climate. What excitement! I loved the drama of the clouds and lightening building in the distance as captured below behind the estancia.

A get-away so close, yet so far away (only 1.5 hours from Santiago and an hour from Buenos Aires by plane). The sensation that stuck the most, however, was that it was a home away from home. We left feeling like we’d been visiting friends and sharing their beautiful world for a spell. Inspiring.


Emily in Chile December 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Gorgeous photos, Liz! I especially love the foals. The idea of farm-to-table cooking in that kind of environment sounds incredibly relaxing and luxurious in a low-key way.

Liz Caskey December 12, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Totally low key. Really recommended for a long weekend…world away.

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