Argentine vineyard country clubs

The race is on in Mendoza.

Bonnie Tucker / FST
Wine is in vogue and a weekend or retirement lifestyle themed to wine making is what several new vineyard country clubs are offering in the Argentine province of Mendoza, producer of most of the country’s fine wines.
The move toward owning a vineyard and living in it began here in 2005, when Viñas del Golf opened in San Rafael in the southern part of the province (see photo below), and two young nomadic US wine lovers opened a tasting room in the provincial capital that ended up becoming the small The Vines of Mendoza wine country club near Tunuyán in the Uco Valley.

A vineyard of less than 25 hectares is not economically feasible. And the costs of installing and running a winery make bottling wine with one’s own label impossible for most people, even those with a good income. Vineyard country clubs sell lots that occupy 2.5 hectares on average, but the economies of scale they offer in centrally organized vineyard maintenance for all club members and vinification of their produce in the club’s winery can make individual winemaking dreams come true.
At present, four developers are racing to finish installing vineyard country clubs in Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, and Viñas del Golf (which now goes by the name of Algodón Wine Estates) is expanding existing facilities and developing new activities in San Rafael. All sell lots with small private vineyards, and most offer purely residential lots as well. Upscale boutique hotels and restaurants are considered musts. All but one of the developers offer activities in addition to wine making, and the priorities they assign to each activity make it possible to divide them into the categories of Golf and Wine; Wine and Polo; Wine, Golf and Polo; and Wine Only.

Wine, golf and polo
Of these, Tupungato Winelands, the latest venture of Burco América, is the most matter-of-fact of the four in the northern part of the province: it began planting vines in 2008 in the private vineyard lots (called “fincas”), and they are already in production; the buyer selects the lot with the grape variety that most takes his or her fancy. The others allow buyers to decide what variety they want planted on their plot of land.
This development is a Mendoza re-edition of the successful formula used by Burco in its famous Arelauquen Golf & Country Club in Bariloche, which offers members facilities for said sport and for polo, and has a five-star boutique hotel in which to coddle tourists who could become buyers. The Belgian developer’s new property 8 km from Tupungato in the Uco Valley is for clients who like golf or polo and are also wine fanciers. The property covers 800 hectares, of which 400 are arable. There will be 140 private vineyard lots of 2.5 to 4.5 hectares, on which 3.000 m2 are reserved for a house and yard; 150 residential lots that occupy 5,000 m2 each, and a public vineyard. Thus far, the company has planted nine grape varieties. Wine maker Michel Rolland will advise private vineyard owners who want to join forces and make blends. The owners can bottle wine with their own label in the club’s winery or sell their produce elsewhere, but it is the club that does the maintenance of all the vineyards.

The first nine holes of an 18-hole golf course by Adam Golf Design and the first of two polo fields are expected to be ready by March 2010. The first houses and the hotel have yet to be built, but several private vineyards and residential building lots have already been sold to people who see presence in this club as a good investment.

Burco also creates a clubby feeling of belonging with the promise that people who buy a finca or lot in the Mendoza property will get discounts on Burco lodges and activities (including heliskiing) elsewhere in the southern part of the country and Chile.

Other proposals
Golf and Wine. As its original name suggests, Viñas del Golf in San Rafael is for fanatical golfers who like the idea of dabbling in wine making. Most of the vines and fruit orchards of the property were planted long ago; the 9-hole golf course was installed amid them by Ricardo Jurado, grandson of Argentine golf luminary José Jurado. Nowadays it goes by the name of Algodón Wine Estates because the original Argentine company sold 75 percent of its share packet to a big US developer. Purchase of additional land has taken the property’s total area to 830 hectares, and another nine holes will be added to the golf course. The club already has a small lodge, but a new lodge, a luxury hotel and a new boutique winery are planned, and 300 homesites of 0.4 to 6 hectares will be available in six “villages” in different environments. The club is diversifying into polo and tennis, and wants to become a venue for important sporting events.

More Golf and Wine. South African golfer and golf course designer Gary Player is a co-developer of Amuray Winemakers and Golfers Valley, which he simplifies to Amuray Wine & Golf Club on his Website. Local partners are urban designer Santiago Obarrio and winemaker Eduardo Lávaque. Located in Luján de Cuyo, the property covers 4,000 hectares, of which more than 1,000 are for vineyards and olive and fruit groves. The area with irrigation dam lakes will be part of a 1,300-hectare nature reserve. The project includes an 18-hole golf course, a six-star boutique hotel with 60 rooms, 5,000-square meter residential lots, and 2.5-hectare vineyard estates.
Wine and Polo. Luján de Cuyo will also be home to Santa María de los Andes, Pueblo de Vinos, an 820-hectare development of the Fiducia Capital Group, which is also marketing Villa María and other former ranches around Buenos Aires. There are 191 vineyard lots and 97 residential lots. Lot size starts at one hectare. It is billed as a place for “serious wine fanciers and high-handicap polo fans” who want a weekend or vacation house. It is rumored that Sarah Ferguson has bought a lot here.
Wine only. At The Vines of Mendoza in the Uco Valley, there is room for winemaking only. The property covers more than 200 hectares and lots range from 1.2 to 6.1 hectares. Members are expected to choose the grape variety they want to surround their homestead, and transform their produce into wine in the club’s boutique winery for customized small-lot production, which should be finished by March 2010. So far, owners have planted 13 varietals. They will define the personality of their wine with the help of oenologist Santiago Achával. A wine resort with a spa and a 15-room boutique hotel for tourists will come later.

PHOTO CREDITS: A golfer putting at Viñas del Golf en 2006, Bonnie Tucker. Vineyards, and work on the 5th tee of the future golf course of Tupungato Winelands in November 2009, courtesy of Burco América. Polo at Algodón Wine Estates, courtesy of Algodón Wine Estates.
TAGS: Argentina, Wines