In the remote upper reaches of Argentina’s Uco Valley on the eastern slopes of the Andes, Bodegas Salentein produces a remarkable collection of wines from vineyards planted at some of the highest elevations on the planet. From this lofty outpost, 65 miles south of the bustling city of Mendoza, Argentina’s winemaking capital, Bodegas Salentein (Sah-len-tyne) has started to forge an international reputation for its fine wines. Each year, growing numbers of curious wine lovers are drawn to this spectacular location, intent on discovering and experiencing the beauty and ethos of Bodegas Salentein for themselves.
Bodegas Salentein is a wine destination like no other. Established in the late 1990s, Salentein is a privately-owned estate of almost 5,000 acres, of which 1,124 acres are planted to vine. The property includes a world-class winery and cellars, a 125-acre nature preserve, the showpiece Killka Center for Culture and the Arts, a nearby lodge (the Posada Salentein, offering an elegant and relaxed retreat into nature), and the landmark Chapel of Gratitude, built using ancient local stonework techniques.
All the Salentein facilities have been built using local materials and incorporating architectural and design features produced by skilled local craftsmen.
The goal of Salentein is to make high-quality Argentine wines, while respecting and supporting the people, nature and community from which the wines are created.
The Salentein Vineyards
Plantings are approximately 80% red (Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc) and 20% white (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). Vines range from two to 32 years in age. Vineyards are located between 1,050 and 1,700 meters (3,445-5,577 feet) a.s.l. At this altitude and in this desert environment, long hot days and much cooler nighttime temperatures lead to longer hang-time for grapes, enhancing the balance between sugars and acidity. This is an especially healthy environment in which to grow top quality fruit.
Drip irrigation using mountain water run-off from melting snowcaps is employed throughout the Salentein vineyards. (The same water is bottled by a local mineral water company.) The result is lower pH levels leading to higher acidity, deeper color and greater aging capacity in the wines
The Salentein Winery
Form and function combine at the Salentein winery, which was designed by the leading Mendoza architectural firm of Bormida &Yanzon. Built in the shape of a cruciform (cross) around a central chamber, each wing houses a single, self-contained bodega, on two levels. Stainless steel tanks and French wood vats for fermentation and storage are housed on the ground level. The floor below contains underground cellars for aging in oak casks. Wine flows from tank to barrel via a traditional gravity-transfer system.
A tasting room is also housed at the underground level, equipped with three large tables of travertine marble, each weighing over two tons, obtained from a local quarry.
In 2002 Bodegas Salentein won the prestigious Prism International Commercial Award of Merit. Presented annually to a single building by the international stone industry, the award celebrates the creative use of natural stone in the construction of modern commercial buildings.
The Killka Gallery
A showcase for the arts, culture and gastronomy, the Killka Gallery is a striking, one-story structure built around an open-air courtyard and pool. The permanent exhibition features artworks and sculpture by contemporary Argentinean artists, as well as works by 19th- and 20th-century Dutch painters. Temporary installations, highlighting the work of up-and-coming Argentinean artists and sculptors, are also featured throughout the year.
The Killka Gallery also includes an auditorium suitable for conference use, a restaurant seating up to 80 with menus inspired by the native cuisine of Argentina’s Cuyo and Patagonia regions, plus a wine bar and gift shop.
A short distance from the winery, the Posada Salentein offers the visitor a relaxed environment of refreshing simplicity and domestic comfort, homemade cooking, and breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards. The Posada comprises several charming ranch-style buildings, including a reception area and private meeting room, kitchen, dining area and guest accommodations. Activities include swimming, hiking, horseback riding, and white water rafting.
Salentein Nature Preserve
125 acres of land surrounding the winery are dedicated to a protected nature preserve. The reserve features plants, grasses and wildlife native to the high desert area of the Mendoza region.
The Chapel of Gratitude
At the entrance of the road leading to the Killka Gallery, the Chapel of Gratitude is a a tribute to the people of the region, representing thanks for the everyday things in life -- nature, vines and agricultural abundance.
The design of the building draws strongly on traditional Andean architecture for inspiration: thick, solid walls, built by local craftsmen using a singular pressed earth, adobe-style technique (called tapia); dark interiors, small windows. The façade features large, dramatic pressed tin murals, depicting the Wedding at Canaan and the first miracle worked by Jesus, in which water was transformed into wine.