Q&A: Entre Cielos Wine Hotel + Spa
Written for Travel + Leisure on January 2, 2014
Entre Cielos, which translates to “between heavens” and “between skies,” is a holistic hospitality concept nurtured to life by three Swiss friends in the foothills of Mendoza, Argentina.
Daniela Wäger-Spreafico, David Wäger, and Cécile Adam dreamed of a wine hotel and spa where guests could reconnect with themselves, commune with nature, sip wine, and delight in impeccable gastronomic experiences. A worldwide pursuit for the perfect location led the group of three to Vistalba, Mendoza, where they invested their savings to purchase a 20-acre plot of land with sweeping views of the Andes mountains.
In 2009, they built a modern boutique hotel featuring 16 individually-designed luxury rooms and suites overlooking the mountainous landscape, including a floating wine loft in the vineyard. Entre Cielos also features Latin America’s first authentic six-stage circuit hamam spa, a lush eight-acre vineyard producing a crop of delicious Malbec wines, and a host of traditionally-inspired dining experiences.
I caught up with Entre Cielos Vice President and Founder Cécile Adam, who spends her time on-property greeting guests and fulfilling the hotel’s promise of quality and personalized service.
Q: Why did you choose Mendoza, Argentina as the location for Entre Cielos?
A: We started with a handful of destinations on the list, but narrowed down the options to France and Argentina. Argentina won because it was very welcoming to outside investment and has a strong European influence. Mendoza beat out Buenos Aires and Cordoba because of its burgeoning wine scene, growing tourism industry, sunny climate, and impressive view of the Andes. It’s also close to Chile’s Santiago Airport, making it easily accessible for international travelers. Additionally, Mendoza scored high on the criteria we used to evaluate potential destinations including quality of life, education, business opportunities, health programs, security, environment, outdoor activities, and approachable culture. Meeting these conditions was crucial to inspiring friends and family to join us on this journey.
Q: How did you get into winemaking?
A: The three of us are big wine aficionados and part of our dream was to learn how to make wine. The land we purchased for Entre Cielos had a large vineyard with unsalvageable 80-year old Malbec grape plants. The first thing we did was to soil, plough, and plant new grapes. Later, we got connected with a Swiss enologist living in Argentina named Hubert Weber who took on the project of helping us make wine.
Today, we have our own wine label, Marantal, named after a bright star in the Orion constellation that can be seen from the hotel. We offer several wine categories that feature a rose Malbec, a classic Malbec and a Gran Reserva Malbec and Pinot Noir. We make wine that can age for a long time, and we also use larger barrels, which minimizes the young oaky aroma. Marantal tends to have a less fruity flavor than most Argentine wines, but far more than European wines. At the moment, we sell Marantal at the hotel and in Switzerland, but soon we will be exporting our wines to Brazil and the United States.
Q: What made you decide to build a hamam and spa?
A: In recent years, the Swiss have been reinventing the hamam experience, which is a thousand-year-old bathing custom and consists of a six-stage treatment circuit that uses heat and water to rid the body of accumulated toxins. We all frequented hamams in Switzerland and love that it is an experience you can share with friends or significant others. Most importantly, the hamam practice is in line with Entre Cielos’ holistic lifestyle approach by nurturing the mind, body, and soul through rituals like herbal steam baths, relaxation pools, and nourishing body treatments.
Also, there are no other traditional six-stage circuit hamams existing in Latin America, so we knew it would be a differentiator for the hotel. We flew in experts to create a truly authentic hamam experience at Entre Cielos. A stand-alone spa structure was built because we wanted it to be a sanctuary enjoyed not only by our guests, but by all travelers visiting Mendoza and the local community as well. We weren’t sure how Argentines would react to a communal spa experience. There was some hesitancy at first, but eventually they really embraced the hamam culture and now Mendoza residents make up half of our spa business.
Q: What is the culinary scene like at Entre Cielos?
A: Of the three of us, Daniela is the one with a culinary background. Our main restaurant, Katharina, is named after her grandmother and offers an elaborate selection of à-la-carte plates from talented Mendocenean chefs who use local produce and meats to create a fresh brand of regional haute cuisine. The seasonal Beef Club & Wine House is a casual setting where guests can mingle with locals over an authentic outdoor Argentine asado, or barbecue, of juicy meats and vegetables. The wine list features over 100 labels and is curated by our in-house sommelier who also leads exciting wine tastings for guests. This year, we are opening a high-quality fast food gastro-market in the garden, which will offer simple but delicious food, specialty fish, a cooking school, and a new bar.
Q: Entre Cielos has won numerous design awards. What makes it distinctive?
A: Our original vision was to refurbish an existing estancia, but when we bought the land we had to construct Entre Cielos from scratch. We wanted the design for our luxury retreat to encourage guests to relax, renew and reflect. A4 Estudio, our principal architects, accomplished this goal. They also did an excellent job of translating international influences into the design. Inspired by prominent architects Le Corbusier and Oscar Neimeyer, A4 Estudio created contemporary spaces using exposed concrete forms and textures. Each structure was designed to integrate with the existing landscape, so guests could always feel the freedom of open space and enjoy the soaring mountain view. At the moment, we are toying with the idea of adding a sixth room category in the vineyard. Nothing is finalized, but we are excited about the possibility. It is impossible for us to stand still.