All Images Credit Salentein Wines

Finding Pleasure in a Glass In Argentina: Mendoza’s Salentein Wine Experience

May. 9th, 2023

Argentina is an incredible country with so much to see. It has a rich diversity of nature from its arid landscapes of salt flats and deserts in Salta to its stunning Alp-like mountain ranges in the Andes, and of course the gorgeous scenery and wildlife of Patagonia. And one must mention their capital city Buenos Aires which has been called Paris of the South, filled with outdoor cafes, steak asado, and the tango. Argentina is also known as one of the top producers of New World Wines with one particular wine leading the way that Argentina produces better than anyone else in the world, Malbec. The holy grail of Argentina’s wine region is Mendoza.  There you’ll find one of the top wine experiences in the world at the winery, cellar door, and vineyard lodge of the Bodegas Salentein.

A place to celebrate the wine culture of Argentina

Salentein is one of the top producers of premium wines in Argentina. The estate’s vineyards spread as far as the eyes can see on a plot of land larger than the Ponderosa.  The estate lies in the Uco Valley of Mendoza in a scenic swath of land at the foot of the Andres mountains.  Bodegas Salentein is a gathering place that includes a winery experience and cellar door like none in the world along with epicurean dining, and one of the top art galleries in Argentina. To fully experience all that the requires more than just one day so guests can also stay on the property in their luxurious ranch-style lodge.

Salentein is the Pioneer of Premium Wines from the Uco Valley

The wine industry in Argentina began on an industrial level over 100 years ago but arguably only rose to worldwide acclaim within the last 30 years. Many of the winemakers are from families who have been in the wine industry for generations and whose families arrived as immigrants mainly from Italy and Spain in late 1800s and beginning of 1900s.

The story of Bodegas Salentein is a story of a different type of immigrant.  Mijndert Pon was a visionary from Holland who elevated the status of Uco Valley wines to rival the best wines in the world.   Pon was from a successful Dutch family and came to Argentina on holiday and visited the Valley of Uco. While looking at the land, and soil, and noting the glacial runoff water as a source for irrigation, he decided to create a farm there. He produced apples, pears, and cherries with a smaller section dedicated to grapes which he produced for other wineries. At the advice of a friend, he began bottling his own wines under the Salentein name which quickly grew in popularity.  

Fredericke and Ben Pon

When Pon came to the Uco Valley, there was essentially nothing. Poor roads and little infrastructure, and virtually miles and miles of barren land with cactus and scrub brush. However, he saw the potential and is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the Uco Valley. Today the Salentein is run by his daughter, Fredericke Pon and his son Ben Pon, who together build on their father’s legacy and has grown the company to be respected as one of the premier wine labels in the world. 

Winemaking Royalty 

Jose “Pepe” Galante

As shared, Argentinian wines only began to become renowned on the world stage less than thirty years ago. One of the winemakers at the forefront of creating top-quality wines from Mendoza is Jose “Pepe” Galante. Years ago, Argentina wines were mainly for domestic wine consumption. In fact, today, Buenos Aires consumes the most wine per capita for cities, second only to Paris. But as the economy suffered during the 1980s, Argentina began to seriously look outside its shores for new markets. They also understood the quality of the wines needed to be elevated to a much higher level to be consumed internationally.

That was when Jose Galante came to prominence. Today he is an icon of the wine industry, one of the most influential winemakers in Argentina, and known as the father of premium Argentinian Malbec. His philosophy is to create wines that embrace the terroir of the Uco Valley with a focus on creating terroir driven wines of great aromatic expression, elegance, freshness, lovely texture, silky tannis, and long duration on the palate.

Galante is the son and grandson of winemakers from Mendoza and recently celebrated his 47th harvest.  He joined Salentein in 2010 as chief winemaker and continues to elevate the brand to the highest level of award-winning wines. It would not be a far stretch to refer to Galante as the Lionel Messi of the Argentinian wine industry.

Wine in Mendoza

Salentein produces a wide selection of wines from their exceptional reds and flagship Malbecs as well as whites, sparkling, and rose’.  Their roster of varietals includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot.   

Their labels range from their Gran VU “Valle de Uco” Blend which is a blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon made from fruit hand-picked from select plots and then aged for 24 months in French oak barrels. Primus is their super-premium line and one of the first high-end wines exported internationally from the Uco Valley and includes their Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. These ultra-premium wines are made for cellaring with the reds recommended for 10 years to reach their full potential. 

A Gathering Place to Celebrate Argentina’s Wine Culture

Salentein is more than a winery, it is an architectural marvel where wine is celebrated along with the arts, lifestyle, and epicurean pleasures. In short, is Disney Land for the wine lover rightfully recognized as the 25th best winery in the world.

Killka is the first building of the complex that houses the cellar door, wine-tasting rooms, and fine dining restaurant. One of Killka’s most intriguing areas is its art gallery which celebrates the masters of Argentina and the works of Dutch artists as well as homage to the homeland of the owners. It is a wonderful place to spend a few hours in between appreciating the artistry of the winemaking of the Salentein label.

As stunning as the Espacio Salentein and cellar door facility may be, what will truly amaze is their winery. Located down a path amongst the vineyards sits this cathedral to wine with the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes mountains. The facility is a combination of state-of-the-art functionality, design, and one of the finest winery tour experiences in South America. 

Most of what there is to see is below ground. Guests take the elevator 30 feet down to the cavernous subterranean space below. There the stainless-steel tanks, 2000-gallon French wood fermentation casks, concrete eggs, processing facilities, bottling machines, and 5000 oak barrels are a buzz with activity. Elsewhere in the center, there are private tasting rooms for their range of wines. Experiencing Salentein’s premium wines where they are made and led by their extremely passionate tasting guides is nirvana for the wine lover.

The facility’s most impressive space is the atrium, surrounded by stacks of barrels, that rises four stories above. At its center lies an amphitheater-style chamber with sitting areas, a huge stone mural of a compass rose at the center, and a grand piano. Yes, that’s right, a grand piano. The acoustics are incredible and the ideal venue for performances from operas, recitals, concertos, and of course, tango.

Argentinian Style Fine Dining  

After a day of wine exploration, you’ll definitely want to experience their wines as intended; paired with fine dining. The Salentein restaurant is exquisite, set in a contemporary space with a wall of two-story windows letting in natural light and views of the surrounding vineyards. Guests dine on a four-course degustation of authentic Argentine fare reimagined with a contemporary twist and European preparation techniques. Each dish is conceived to be in harmony with and to be flawlessly paired with the premium wines from their luxury range. 

Vineyard Retreat and Lodge

The Bodegas Salentein offers a lodge amidst old wood trees and manicured lawns surrounded by vineyards. The ranch-like accommodations are ideal to stay for a few days to fully immerse oneself in the Salentein wine culture. The accommodations are fresh and modern with a contemporary design, natural wood finishes, spacious interiors, and top-notch amenities.14 accommodations include spacious suites and homes for families or groups of friends traveling together. Nearby guests will enjoy the swimming pool fronting the vineyards.

The culinary experience at the posada features Argentina’s Cuyo region cuisine with meats roasted asado on the Argentine grill. Guests can dine indoors or al fresco on the terrace overlooking the estate’s vineyards as fire in the pits crackle while the sun slowly sets on the horizon.    

Doing Good for the Industry and Community  

As eco-responsible stewards of the land, the Pon family is committed to conservation and is far along in the process of converting its vineyards for organic certification. Salentein has sought out new ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the wine-making process and implements sustainable viticulture techniques including using cover crops to reduce water consumption.  

Beyond that, Salentein is focused on taking care of the next generation in the Uco Valley and supports two schools that educate students from the nearby area and provides the highest level of education and instruction. The vision of Salentein articulations its purpose. 'The goal of Bodegas Salentein is clear: to produce first-rate wines, committed to the earth where they come from. During its preparation, Salentein respects nature and, at the same time, takes part in the life of the area’s community, because the people become an essential component that reflects in the wine expression.'

The story of Salentein wines is a fascinating one. An unlikely entrepreneur lands at the base of the Andes mountains and almost through accident, creates wines that will soon be revered around the world. For the wine lover, the chance to touch the soil, walk amongst the vines, and breathe the air where these wines are produced is a treasure. Beyond that, to experience the wine culture of the Uco Valley as expressed through wine tastings, the cuisine, and yes the art in South America's most stunning winery is an experience to be cherished for a lifetime.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 105 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)