Chile is nearly 3,000 miles long, but averages just 112 miles wide. As a result, it offers astonishing geographic and climatic diversity. Its economy grew at a robust 7 percent last year, enabling a speedy recovery from the severe earthquake of 2010. The country also boasts one of the best-developed infrastructures in South America. At the end of our recent trip, we were fully convinced that Chile has come of age for sophisticated travelers.
The northern third of the country is dominated by the Atacama Desert, a spectacular region of salt flats, geysers and volcanic peaks. The central section is blessed with a Mediterranean climate that nurtures a wide range of agricultural products, including wine grapes. To the south, Patagonia is a land of windswept steppes, vertiginous mountains and massive glaciers. The summer high season is from December 15 to late February. During spring and fall, temperature extremes in the Atacama are mitigated, and the weather in Patagonia is relatively predictable.
Chiles capital, Santiago, is home to almost 6 million people. We seldom felt ourselves to be in such a large city, however, perhaps because of the tree-lined boulevards and the low-rise buildings of the business and government districts. In fact, Santiago seems like a smaller Buenos Aires, with a European style embodied in structures such as the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), housed within an elegant neoclassical building, and the Mercado Central (Central Market), with its filigreed steel framework imported from Britain.
Just west of Santiago lies a rich agricultural region known as the Central Valley, a delightful area of fields, orchards and vineyards blessed by a benign climate. This is the heart of Chiles burgeoning wine industry. Among the names you will find on Chilean wine labels are the Aconcagua, Maipo, Cachapoal and Colchagua valleys. Lapostolle is set in the Colchagua Valley and is the realized dream of Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, a scion of the family that created the French liqueur Grand Marnier. Today, Lapostolle produces a range of wines, preeminent among which is Clos Apalta, a red blend of Carmenre (78 percent), Cabernet Sauvignon (19 percent) and Petit Verdot (3 percent). In 2008, Wine Spectator named the 2005 Clos Apalta its wine of the year.
The Lapostolle Residence is set above the winery and comprises a Main House, plus four sumptuous casitas. The latter have cream-colored walls, wood floors, accents of leather and colored silk, and woodburning fires. The baths are clad in stone tile and are equipped with soaking tubs and separate showers. The Main House is a study in contemporary elegance, with a spacious living room/library that leads out to a lovely terrace where meals are taken, weather permitting.
The food is superb, and we savored dishes such as grilled shrimp with barley risotto, and filet of beef in a red-wine reduction. Different Lapostolle wines are served with each course, and we especially admired the Casa Sauvignon Blanc and the Cuve Alexandre Pinot Noir. Activities include horseback riding and bicycling, plus tours of neighboring wineries such as Montes and Neyen.
The Lapostolle Residence is a place of genuine sophistication and gracious hospitality. It should feature on the itinerary of anyone with an interest in wine, and, given its relative proximity to Santiagos airport, it provides a perfect start or finish to a Chilean journey.
Lapostolle Residence Casita, $500 per person, per night; rates include all meals, a private tour and tasting at Clos Apalta winery, and visits to other wineries nearby. Km 4, Camino Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Santa Cruz. Tel. (56) 72-953-360.
Download a complimentary Hideaway Report, featuring the results of our much-anticipated 2012 Reader Survey.
- ^ Mercado Central (mercadocentral.cl)
- ^ wine industry (www.winesofchile.org)
- ^ Lapostolle (www.lapostolle.com)
- ^ The Lapostolle Residence (www.andrewharper.com)
- ^ Lapostolle Residence (www.andrewharper.com)
- ^ Download a complimentary Hideaway Report (info.andrewharper.com)
James: The California Series (Volume 2) (Paperback) tagged “wine country” 50 times
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