The Greek luxury hotel group Grace Hotels is expanding into new territories. The brand will make its Central America debut with Grace Panama, a chic destination that’s due to start taking reservations this July in Panama City’s iconic Twist Tower. Meanwhile, in South America, Grace Cafayate will welcome guests to northern Argentina’s wine region starting this September. Here are five things you should know about the exciting new addition to Argentina’s upscale hotel scene:
1. The hotel is located on a wine estancia (or estate). Nestled in the Calchaquí Valley and reached via a driveway lined with lavender and olive trees, Grace Cafayate is surrounded by a sea of vineyards and flanked by rugged mountains. La Estancia is the wine label produced from the 178 acres of high-altitude vines (situated 5,250 feet above sea level) that surround the hotel and villas. Each year, more than 132,000 gallons of wine come from the estate, mainly the region’s famous malbec and torrontés varieties.
2. You’ll have the choice of staying in the hotel or a private villa. There are 12 rooms in the main hotel and 20 stand-alone, two-bedroom villas (numbered 1 through 21 to avoid unlucky 13). Book one of two Grace Suites and you will be given the keys to a golf cart to explore the estate at your own pace. Guest rooms are decorated with black-and-white photos of agricultural scenes, vividly captured by Buenos Aires-based photographer Eliseo Miciu. Open fires in the living rooms and huge bathrooms with large windows that showcase the surrounding vines and mountains add additional rustic ambiance to the space. Suites also have outdoor patios and private Jacuzzis. Communal areas in the hotel include a wood-lined library lounge where afternoon tea and scones are served by the open fire; a wine bar with an outdoor terrace for smokers; and a deck area with a shallow pool for children, a 46-foot pool for lap-loving adults and an enormous bubbling Jacuzzi.
3. You’ll have access to two spas. The new onsite Grace Spa has an indoor pool, small gym, a sauna with glass walls overlooking the vines and four treatment rooms (including a VIP spa suite for couples treatments with a private terrace, hammam and outdoor Jacuzzi — you may have noticed there’s no shortage of Jacuzzis at Grace). Guests also have access to La Estancia Spa & Athletic Club, which houses a vast 3,300-square-foot weight training area, not to mention studios, every exercise machine you can think of and an indoor pool with resistance wave machines. At this spa, get an Andean exfoliation using quinoa or the Divine Cafayate treatment that involves a body polish and massage using malbec grape seeds and grape oil. If that’s not enough to help you relax, the estancia also has an 18-hole championship golf course, polo ponies and Peruvian Pasos (horses with an extra stride, like a super smooth trot) so you can ride between the vines.
4. The food will be incredible. Argentine chef Javier Robles will barbecue at the poolside grill during the day and work his magic in the open kitchen at Muse (a sister restaurant to Four-Star Muse by Jonathan Cartwright) in the evenings. A fine-dining restaurant with intimate seating, Muse offers an innovative menu with unique offerings such as chicken rolled in sesame seeds served on chicken bone skewers with guacamole; a main course of lamb cooked two different ways; and a chocoholic’s dream dessert of rich ganache with citrus sorbet. For those in the mood for romance, special moonlight dinners can be arranged up at the hotel’s roof terrace observatory. And, if you’re in a villa, Robles (or one of his sous chefs) can come and rustle up a meal in your private kitchen or on the outside barbecue. The Grace special barbecue tasting menu is especially good, consisting of plate after plate of different cuts for you to sample.
5. Don’t miss exploring Cafayate. Grace Cafayate is just outside of Cafayate, a lovely colonial town with artisan markets, restaurants and a large plaza crowned by an ornate church. The town has multiple wineries waiting to be toured; among the best are the historic Porvenir (owned by the same family as La Estancia) and Piattelli, a large American-owned winery that opened in March of this year. As for eating out, there’s the parrilla-style Restaurant Terruno on the plaza, and the more unusual Bodega Nanni tucked on a back street, where you’ll find rustic outdoor seating surrounded by old wine barrels. The menu at Nanni is varied, if small, and includes goat, pork and veal options, plus a couple of chicken and pasta dishes. The salads are especially good, as is the cheese and honey dessert.
Photos courtesy of Grace Cafayate and Gabriel O’Rorke