Toward the central-west of Chile, set just about halfway between coastal Valparaíso and landlocked Santiago, the emerging San Antonio Valley makes a relaxing, delicious wine tasting side trip from either city.
You could certainly take yourselves around this well-marked wine area, but I’d recommend leaving the driving, the tasting appointments, behind-the-scenes winery tours, and food arrangements to Chilean tour company Santiago Adventures.
They’re extremely knowledgeable, friendly, and perhaps most importantly, will enable you to drink as much hard-to-find-anywhere-else wine as you’d like…without having to simultaneously navigate the Southern Hemisphere.
The San Antonio is one of fourteen wine valleys in Chile, and especially prized for its bright, biodynamic Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings, using grapes grown in fossil-rich clay soils and a cool, breezy climate. Set just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, this area used to be the Pacific Ocean.
To get here, I flew into Chile’s international Santiago Airport (SCL), where Santiago Adventures was waiting with a clean, comfy van to take me the 90-minute journey to my home base, the modern/historic Palacio Astoreca Hotel in Valparaíso. My 40-something Chilean guide (who spoke English with a British accent, thanks to his UK-born father), instantly put me at ease with the warm banter of a smiling older brother who knows way more about Chile than anyone else in the family.
Wine tasting officially started the next day, with a 25-minute drive from Valparaíso to the San Antonio. It was mid-May in Chile, which is Fall in the Southern Hemisphere; I loved the crisp, cool air, the morning fog, the afternoon sun — and the thrill of experiencing autumn twice in one year.
The first stop on my San Antonio day tour with Santiago Adventures was Matetic Vineyards, an enormously successful family-run operation that’s been producing wines since the early 1990s. At one end of the 24,000-acre sprawl of a former cattle ranch, the Matetics have built their own tourist destination.
Their rustic-chic wine shop and tasting room, El Emporio, offers everything from cold-pressed olive oil to locally-made goat cheese to slouchy sweaters and hand creams, as well as wine.
Matetic offers some high-end vintages that often rank highly in Wine Spectator, but its mid-range line, Corralillo (Spanish for “little fence for animals”) runs about $25 US a bottle. The 2012 Coralillo Sauvignon Blanc, my favorite of the bunch, had a sweet, floral perfume and a bright mineral finish, and paired especially well with strawberries, of all things.
The hearty sandwiches here are delicious (hello, Chilean avocado) and the cheese and charcuterie plate here is gorgeous, with everything you’d might possibly want to nibble on while you gaze out upon palm trees and a rolling lawn.
If you want to transition from tipsy snacking to a full meal, you can stroll across the lawn to Equilibrio, the winery’s restaurant. A romantic pavilion that seems to float in a tree-rimmed pond, this is my idea of a fun, sexy place to have dinner. During the day you can visit with a few well-fed and chatty geese, and at night peer up at the stars through the windows in the round roof.
Also? They stock enough Matetic wine to make your head spin.
Like a gentle vortex, the farther you head back on the Matetic property, the more you’re likely to get swept up by the peace and quiet here — and end up staying. It’s almost like they planned it that way.
The winery’s seven-room boutique hotel, La Casona, is set in a 100+ year-old ranch house that’s been brilliantly re-done. Amidst the original wood doors and floors, every new swath of fabric, piece of furniture and bit of hardware manages to look perfectly at home in a 100+ year-old ranch house.
An ideal base camp for either a pair of friends or a couple, the guest rooms have either two twin beds or one double; all the rooms, set around a garden courtyard with a maze of hedges, lavender and roses, are named after a different wine varietal grown at Matetic.
Here you can hang out with a glass of wine by a the lobby fireplace, linger at a bistro table behind your room, or lounge out by the streamlined pool, which looks not unlike a Palm Springs photo shoot come to life.
The Matetic tour continued about two miles away, at the winery’s stunning production facilities, housed in a oval-roofed museum of a building set high atop a hill. Though it felt fancy to get a formal tasting of Matetic’s more expensive EQ wines in a private room looking over the French oak barrels, I found this more corporate side of the winery far less charming than the wine shop, the gardens or the geese.
Happily, though, the views of the San Antonio Valley from said oval-roofed museum of a building are pretty darn dreamy…and go nicely with a glass of wine.
Wine Tasting in Chile: San Antonio Valley – Part Two
My tour of the San Antonio Valley was provided courtesy of Santiago Adventures,
and wine tastings and lunch were provided by Matetic Vineyards.
However, all opinions and observations shared here are my own.