Smart visitors to Chile leave time for at least one or two days away from Santiago, following the wine roads that link the vast vineyards just beyond the capital. While grapes have been cultivated in Chile since the 16th century, presently some 200 vineyards flourish, producing fine wines that more than hold their own at international competitions. And nowadays, the wine experience at many vineyards is paired with outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and horseback riding, as well as taking the thermal waters or basking in spa stays.
Among many wine regions that fan out from the capital, Maipu, which wraps around the southern edge of Santiago, is renowned as the cradle of Chilean winemaking and the location of most of the larger wineries. One of those, Santa Rita, founded in 1880, is not only the producer of award-winning, big red wines (its 2012 Medalla Real Grand Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon took a Grand Gold prize at the 2016 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles), but an estate that takes wine tourism beyond mere tasting.
In addition to the large wine shop and tasting cellars, Santa Rita features a restaurant decorated with Spanish colonial art and antiques, a 98-acre garden that boasts replica Roman baths and lush bougainvillea, a beautifully preserved chapel and the Museo Andino with a splendid collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. Also on offer are tours and tastings, as well as a guided 3-hour bicycle and wine tour around the estate and Maipu Valley. Visitors can also dine elegantly in the Doña Paula Restaurant and spend the night at the vineyard’s Pompeian-style, 16-room and -suite Casa Real Hotel, the estate’s former 19th century manor home.
And most important to lovers of Carmenere wine, a special tour by horse and carriage takes guests to the exact place where the grape variety—which disappeared during a vine plague in Europe—was rediscovered in Chile; happily, the tour includes a tasting of three Premium Carmenere wines.
Rates at Casa Real start at $371 dbl, including breakfast, a welcome bottle of wine, a heritage tour of the estate, bike rides and walks through the vineyards, plus use of the facilities including the pool and sauna. A full-board stay is priced at $371 pp, and includes breakfast, lunch in the hotel or picnic in the park, dinner with drinks, sparkling and premium wines. In addition, full-board guests receive a bottle of wine, a premium guided vineyard tour with tastings, cheese and fruits plus additional wine tasting at sunset, a museum tour and mountain biking or hiking. For more information, visit santarita.com/international/casa-real-hotel.