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At the foot of the Andes, 1309 metres above sea level in Finca La Pampa, Mendoza, Argentina, Bodega Salentein winery.  Bodegas Salentein provides the most complete wine tourism experience that we found in the Mendoza region.  With thousands of visitors flocking to visit each year, the winery’s direct to customer experience strategy is changing the face of the Argentinian wine. The Dutch winery’s goal is to make high quality Argentinian wines with plantings of classical varietals, an application of European artistry, advance technology and create a phenomenal direct to consumer experience.  Salentein is a destination winery that is high on the hit list for every Valle de Uco wine tourist.  The winery’s owner is Dutch- Salentein is the name of a Dutch estate.

Salentein winery has enjoyed ascension into the international winemaking stage.  The typical day trip experience involves a tour, tasting of three wines and lunch at the restaurant — an appealing combination.  However, the basic package is just a start and can be customized in many ways depending upon the particular interests of visitors.

Salentein’s impressive cross-shaped structure was built by regional craftsman using local materials and incorporating beautiful indigenous designs.  The magnificent bodega was designed for both form and function in the shape of a Jesuit cross, as the original grapes in the were planted by Jesuit priests to make wine for their mass.  The cross is laid out around a beautiful mosaic compass rose.  This remarkable design allows for customizes handling of the grapes and reduces the distance that the wine needs to be moved between winemaking steps.

As you tour through the huge winery, each wing has two levels- the ground level houses large stainless steel tanks and French wood vats for fermentation and storage.  The underground level is used to age wine in hundreds of wooden casks.  The four wings of the winery converge into a circular central chamber, which resembles an amphitheater and was inspired by ancient classical temples.  The chamber doubles as a gallery for piano recitals.  When I stood in the centre of the cross and shouted, there was the most incredible sound of my voice bouncing off every wall in the bodega.  I could hear the clicks of the guests’ cameras as they tried to capture every line and curve of the stunning building’s architecture.

The gorgeous Killka restaurant, with breathtaking views of the Andes and the winery’s Merlot and Pinot Noir vineyards, offers an ambience of rest and relaxation and an exclusive way for guests to enjoy first rate regional cuisine paired with Salentein’s wines.  The cozy restaurant with a wood-burning fireplace, vertical spits and terracotta ovens were used to prepare a variety of first-rate regional cuisines.

The wine tastings, like everything at Salentein, are very dramatic. You wouldn’t be the only person who though of The Da Vinci Code, while tasting the wines in the underground wings.  Salentein’s Reserve tasting included a 2010 Chardonnay which was fruity and very buttery, a 2009 Pinot Noir with notes of strawberry and raspberry and a beautiful rich color, unusual to pinots and a not to be missed Malbec.  Our friendly, knowledgeable and attentive server provided very large pours, essentially a glass of wine!  They also provided complimentary parings including their 2005 Primus Malbec served with a basket of bread and a roasted tomato spread, and their Primus Pinot Noir, paired with a delicious chicken salad.  Magically, we arrived on a day that Salentein was launching their Killka range and a new exhibit in their incredible Killka modern art gallery built to display part of the owner’s collection.  Another beautiful building, the  “Chapel of Gratitude,” is just down the road.

Bodegas Salentein has sets the high standard for wine tourism here in Mendoza and, as the first destination winery built in the Uco Valley, it has inspired other wineries to try to match or exceed their facilities and customer experience.

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