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Source: Travel 411
By: Stephanie Abrams

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travel With Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show sample the wines of South America with Scott Mathis, CEO and Founder of Algodon Wine Estates in San Rafael, Argentina. Algodon was founded about 5 years ago when Scott bought the vineyard and estate in Argentina's Mendoza region, at the base of the Andes. Scott originally intended to buy a small vineyard, around 40 acres, but ended up with Algodon, which has 2,050 acres of estate land and 325 acres of vines.

'Algodon' means 'cotton' in Spanish. Scott explains that the estate's name was inspired by New York's Cotton Club of the 1920s and 1930s. "We're trying to create an atmosphere around wine and luxury that recalls the Cotton Club," he says. The vineyard itself nearly dates from the Cotton Club era; Scot says the original vineyards on his estate were planted in the 1940s. "It was a tremendous opportunity to create great wines with vines over 65 years old," he says. In his opinion, the Malbecs produced in Mendoza are some of the finest in the world today.

Stephanie and Scott agree that Argentina offers a great value for American travelers. "It's like the old Portugal or Spain in terms of how far your money goes," Stephanie says. She compares Buenos Aires to Madrid, with its fountain-filled roundabouts and European architecture. Scott concurs, adding that Buenos Aires used to be known as the Paris of South America. Today, he says, it's very affordable, at 4 Argentinean pesos to the U. S. dollar.

He suggests that visitors fly into Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile. From Buenos Aires, travelers can take an hour-long flight to San Rafael, a city of about 200,000 people that's just 15 minutes away from Algodon Wine Estates. Once at the vineyard, guests can stay in one of 9 suites on the property or enjoy Algodon's award-winning restaurant. "The lodge and restaurant were rated number one in Argentina this year and the number one accommodation associated with a winery in the world," Scott says.

Guests at the lodge enjoy a "beautiful landscape with the Andes and Sierra Pintada mountain range in the distance," he continues. "It's a wonderful growing region with spectacular views." Algodon Wine Estates offers a winemaking experience, cooking classes, an 18-hole golf course, and a tennis facility with 9 clay courts and 2 grass courts. The estate is a day trip away from the Las Lenas ski resort. Visitors who want to extend their stay can even purchase one of 300 home sites on the estate, which range from 1-acre lots on the golf course to larger farms of 15-16 acres.

Visitors can take home a smaller piece of Algodon Wine Estates: a privately labeled bottle, keg, or barrel of wine. "You can buy your own barrel, pick the type of grapes, and work with the winemaker, or just let him do the work," Scott explains. "You can create a family label for your home, estate, children, or whatever you choose. Lots of wineries will do private labeling, but not with their best wine. Here, visitors can choose from the best grapes, the same ones that we use for our award-winning wines." Algodon's wines include Bernardas, Malbecs, Chardonnays, and Chenins.

"The best way to do it would be to visit the estate, luxuriate, do your own tasting, and then make your wine selections," Stephanie says. Since Argentina's winter begins in late June, the harvest starts in February and ends in April. Scott welcomes visitors any time, but suggests that guests more interested in wine than skiing come in October through May.

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