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Cecile Adam is one of these people who switched from a successful career in teaching and HR in her native Switzerland and moved to Mendoza in 2009 to start a new life in wine. In 2011, she and her Swiss business partners opened a luxury wine lodge, hammam and vineyard: Entre Cielos. The 24-room lodge, spread over 20 acres (including 8 acres of Malbec vines), won the Great Wine Capitals Award for Best Innovative Experiences for their hammam spa in 2013 and Best Lodging in 2014. Amanda Barnes interviews Cecile on her experience in starting a new life in wine, and why Mendoza was the place to do it.
What drew you to Mendoza's wine country and made you interested in starting a business in wine and travel?
With my business partners, we dreamt ofdoing something that would give us a more meaningful life. And after we got bored of dreaming, we decided to move out of our comfortzone and start building something we didn't know about in a completely unknown culture and country!
It was always a dream to host guests and offer some memorable gastronomy experiences, so we thought that the hospitality business would be fun and planned to combine our passions for wine, food and outdoor pursuits. With our savings in our pocket,we set off in a minivan!
Somewhere along the process of redefining our lives, making wine came up. So we looked into Mendoza, drawn by the beautiful climate and the Andes mountains, and we analysed the potential of doing business there.
At first, we had hoped to find a property with a couple nice rooms and a restaurant, near enough to the city with good schools and medical facilities. But on our arrival, when the real estate was showing us around, we were disappointed with the existing properties on offer. We did, however, love the look and feel of Mendoza province and the welcoming people, and we instantly had this magnetic attraction to the mountains.
It was a bit of a happy accident, but we ended up visiting an unlisted vineyard on sale. We all went silent in awe: the views, the location, the neighbourhood and its proximity to the city seemed to be a perfect match. Long story made short, we bought the property — which was not at all part of Plan A — and after rethinking the numbers, we decided to build our dream from scratch, in Lujan de Cuyo.
So actually, it was during the property search that our business model evolved into a luxury boutique hotel with a unique spa experience, along with wine and gastronomy.
Over the last decade, what have you discovered that visitors are most looking for while visiting the wine region?
In the luxury segment, guests visiting wine regions are usually food and wine lovers. People want to feel the vineyard around them, and they like to get to know the producers, the workers — the terroir. They like to discover wines that are unknown, and they love to connect with the producers that explain their wines to them.
But we have also found that, although there are many interesting small wine producers that don’t export, our guests like to get to know wines which are available where they live, so they can share them with their friends at home — being able to tell them everything they learned about this wine. Unfortunately, thisis still very challenging for small producers in Mendoza.
You are also a wine producer, with your own vineyards and production of Entre Cielos wines. What has been the greatest lesson you've learnt in becoming a vigneron?
The biggest lesson is that it is an enormous effort to maintain a small vineyard, and aneven bigger challenge to make a small production wine!With small quantities, your wine production costs are relatively very expensive (compared to bigger wineries who have the potential to reduce costs by buying in quantity).
The amount of attention and energy we had to put into wine production, which was only a small side business,didn’t balance with the pleasure and outcome. Sowe made the hard decision to stop making our own wineand instead only produce grapes today. Selling the grapes, and getting in exchange an excellent wine from the winery who make high quality Malbec wine with our grapes,gives us a similar pleasure and satisfaction — knowing that we can offer a great wine in the lodge with the grapes from our own vineyard.
What do you love most about being involved in the wine industry?
I have noticed that in wine regions people always enjoy sharing time together with plenty of food and wine on the table! And you will always have one person (or sometimes several people!) at the table who know the winemaker or the producer and who can tell you something about the wine.
I think those social connections are unique, and this is what I enjoy most about it. It is also a very rewarding and proud moment to be able to share a wine that you have made.
What’s your ideal evening in Mendoza?
Being a friend’s house, or inviting friends to my home, and helping to cook while tasting and discovering the wines that everyone has brought!
Entre Cielos luxury wine hotel, spa and restaurant is located in Mendoza’s Vistalba wine region on Guardia Vieja 1998, Lujan de Cuyo https://www.entrecielos.com/
By Amanda Barnes