Ruta Provincial 53 km 20, Molinos, Provincia de Salta, Argentina
Colomé is one of the most exclusive hotels in Argentina thanks to its dramatic and isolated location, stunning environment, and the care and attention to detail lavished on the place by owner and enthusiastic staff. Soon to be home to an unrivaled collection of James Turrell's art, it accrues yet more kudos as the oldest working winery in Argentina with the highest vineyard in the world.
The Colomé Estancia is in an oasis of luxurious green, comprised of vineyards, ranch and forest. Each of its 9 beautifully appointed rooms is accessed from a central courtyard and has outward facing balcony overlooking stunning vistas. The provision of high quality organic food in an ambience of serenity punctuated only by birdsong makes this hotel feel more like a stylish, low–key exclusive retreat than the hotel and working ranch that it is.
Situated on the high foothills of the Salteño Andes, in the far distance its lands turn to sweeping barebacked mountains brushed with forests, vineyards and scrub. Health benefits accorded by the ranch's altitude, quality of air, and carefully maintained tranquillity are increased because the entire estate, winery and restaurants are run along biodynamic principles. Far stricter than the Organic movement, practitioners combine good husbandry with conventional organic, environmentally friendly, and ecologically sound procedures with a belief that seasons and even phases of the moon are important to growth and harvest. This results in meat, poultry and vegetarian food of excellent quality and just–picked freshness.
Driving to Colomé takes about five hours from Salta City or slightly less from Cafayate. Although roads are quite rough in places they're also rewarding and lead through some of the most beautiful scenery Argentina has to offer. This includes an accessible canyon, shady amphitheater with excellent acoustics, a Cactus Park, frontier–type villages, a barren desert, and opulently fertile oases. If you are unwilling or unable to travel by car you can arrange direct transfer by private plane or helicopter. (If you drive yourself, make sure you have plenty of water, a spare tire, and the means to change a tire as the roads are punishing even for four–wheel drives.)
On approaching the Estancia hotel, you take the road to the right while day visitors go to the left. The James Bond architecture of winery, day visitor's center and Art Collection is cleverly hidden from hotel guests and contrasts with the hotel, which is a modern rebuild to the Estancia's original 19th century design.
You first enter an internal courtyard of sparkling fountains and scattered chairs and tables around which it's possible to walk or sit in shade. Adjoining rooms to the right include a bar and comfortable lounges where it's possible to linger for hours in a small library on comfortable sofas and chairs. It is here that Donald Hess, the Swiss wine impresario and renown art collector greets new guests over an evening's aperitif.
The Estancia restaurant is a tall–ceilinged statement of quiet style, with whitewashed walls, rich artesanal hangings, straight–backed chairs and good table wear. The menu, which changes daily, offers a good choice of traditional and local recipes and even a range of traditional local teas. Guests choose to eat inside or outside on the terrace which boasts a view of the huge, verdant viniculturalist's dream of the valley of "Nevado de Cachi" and historic vineyards that date back to 1854.
While the winery itself (the oldest working winery in Argentina) has been lovingly restored and is available for view, the more energetic can also take tours to the local heights. There are numerous opportunities for hiking or exploring the mountains and valleys around with regular guided tours and a well signposted set of routes for those wanting to go on their own. Other facilities include a tennis court, putting green and boccia court. Mountain bikes, horses and shuttle transfer to local sites are always available and the scenic pool affords uninterrupted views of both valley and mountains.
Guest rooms with bathroom and showers adjoining, all have scenic balconies with a work desk, four–poster beds, refined linens (all with the ubiquitous Colomé logo) and open fires with under–floor heating. While all en–suite balconies are the same size, the Master Suite with separate living room is 55 squared meters while the Junior Suite is an ample 42. Other amenities are in line with expectations for a luxury hotel and WiFi is available throughout.
Donald Hess's wife Ursula's precise, subtle influence is clear throughout the hotel. This place is not brash but has a quality of service, restrained elegance, and an attention to detail equivalent to the best European hotels. Despite its relative youth, even during low season Colomé often is full. Its high standards have already led to repeat business from a demanding clientele who, conscious of the need for quiet, privacy, and excellent food, keep coming back.
Review and photos by Carole Edrich.
Web Site: www.estanciacolome.com
Total Number of Rooms: 9
Published rates: $296 to $494 BB
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