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Decanter’s Dream Destination: Hotel Casa Real, Viña Santa Rita, Maipo Valley, Chile

Every month Decanter selects a must-visit destination for wine travellers. This month Georgie Hindle recommends taking a trip to Hotel Casa Real located just outside of Santiago in Chile.

An oasis of calm, charm and fine wine awaits at this historic property set on the world-renowned Santa Rita Wine Estate.

Situated at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Alto Jahuel in the Maipo Valley – an area known for producing some of Chile’s best Cabernet Sauvignons – Casa Real occupies a privileged position just 40 minutes southeast of the country’s capital Santiago.

Founded in 1880 by businessman Domingo Fernández Concha, Santa Rita is one of the oldest and longest-standing wineries in Chile.

The estate’s original hacienda, now a luxury boutique hotel, was Domingo’s summerhouse and came adorned with a Neo-Gothic chapel (both of which were designed by German architect Theodor Burchard) as well as 40 hectares of stunning park land (one of the largest and best preserved in central Chile) designed by leading French landscape gardener Guillaume Renner.

Santa Rita's Chapel

Santa Rita’s Chapel

Both the 19-century, Pompeian-style building and the sprawling, luscious green gardens filled with ancient sequoia and palm trees, flowers, herb gardens, boxwood labyrinths, a lagoon, a pair of black-necked swans, exquisite sculptures and Roman baths, were declared National Historic Monuments in 1972.

The estate was bought by Ricardo Claro in 1980 and the manor house 10 years later. The building was classically restored respecting its aristocratic history and keeping a romantic beauty, eventually opening as Hotel Casa Real in the mid 1990s.

Hotel Casa Real dining room

Hotel Casa Real dining room

Freshly updated in 2017, guests can choose from one of 16 beautiful and airy en-suite bedrooms, all featuring soaring ceilings, comfy beds and sumptuous furniture. Each offers a beautiful view of the park or inner courtyard. The hotel also offers an outdoor pool, sauna and gym.

Reminiscent of a bygone era, the hotel is adorned with original fittings, antique furniture, oil paintings and textiles filling the entry hall, salons, dining room, billiard room and the inner colonnade.

Peace and tranquility can be found on the terrace overlooking the gardens and also in the private chapel next door which features Norman arches and stained-glass windows as well as beautifully painted walls and vaulted ceiling. It plays host to picture-perfect weddings and concerts throughout the year.

Hotel Casa Real bedroom

Hotel Casa Real bedroom

The hotel’s restaurant offers both indoor and alfresco dining options using the finest seasonal ingredients, some of which are harvested from the estate itself. In addition, guests also have the option to eat in the renowned Doña Paula restaurant reached via a short walk through the gardens.

The restaurant is located inside the late 18th-century colonial home of Doña Paula Jaraquemada who gave shelter to 120 patriots fighting for the Independence of Chile more than 200 years ago – 120 being the name of the estate’s best-selling, entry-level wine and the bottle cellar.

Restaurant Doña Paula

Choose from gourmet Chilean dishes paired with Santa Rita wines or take high tea on the shaded veranda. Reservations are required: (+562 2 362 2590) or email: restaurant@santarita.cl

Of course the winery visit and tastings, with or without a sunset backdrop, are must-do activities. From classic to ultra-premium – and several in-between (including the option to take a horse drawn carriage around the gardens) – immerse yourself in the world of Santa Rita, learning about the estate’s grape varieties, winemaking and cellaring process as well as visiting the ‘Cellar of the 120 Patriots’. The wines available to taste range by tour from entry-level to the estate’s higher-end bottlings.

Super fans can also become a winemaker for the day with a ‘Winemaker Experience’ in which you’ll design your own signature wine blend, bottle and cork it, then label and varnish it ready to take home.

There is also an on-site shop brimming with local edible and viscous goodies including a wide range of top wines from both Chile and Argentina made by Santa Rita and sister wineries; Carmen, Sur Andino and Doña Paula as well as wine accessories and handmade crafts made by members of the Alto Jahuel community.

With over 130 years of wine production and experience, Santa Rita is one of the pioneers of progressive Chilean viticulture seeking out new and exciting regions from which to grow a variety of grapes while also focusing on single-vineyard plots and expressions of terroir. With vineyards in some of the country’s best wine growing regions, the range of wines continues to expand under the expert hand of top Chilean winemaker Sebastián Labbé and his team.

One of which is the new, innovative and impressive Floresta range comprising; Chardonnay, Field Blend Blanco, Carménère, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dedication also remains to the production of the estate’s icon wine Casa Real – a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made only in the best years and of which the 1989 vintage is a Decanter Wine Legend.

Casa Real

Casa Real icon bottling

Be sure to also save time to discover Chile’s fascinating pre-Colombian and post-conquest history in the Andean Museum, set on site and just a few minutes walk from the hotel. Inaugurated in 2006, the museum has an archaeological and ethnographic collection of more than 3,000 pieces from the different cultures that have inhabited the Andean zone, all curated and carefully displayed.

Combining flawless service, generous hospitality and an unrivalled charm and beauty, Hotel Casa Real provides an unforgettable stay.

For more information, visit: www.santarita.com/en/

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