Given that 16th-century Jesuit missionaries cultivated the first grapevines of Chile’s Colchagua Valley, it seems right to bunk up at one of their former haciendas when visiting the region. Such is the allure of Residencia Histórica de Marchihue (from $200/night), an 18th-century estate transformed by its new owners into a 22-room hotel.
Set in the small town of Marchihue, a 40-minute drive from the region’s hub of Santa Cruz, the Residencia feels utterly remote (especially when trying to find it after dark). Once there, guests will discover a serene little sanctum, guarded by towering eucalyptus, rose bushes, and fruit trees. From a large garden, the amiable, talented young chef Pablo Galvez culls many of his ingredients (the hotel raises hens, ducks, and chickens as well).
Colchagua, one of a dozen wine regions in Chile’s interior, leapt onto the world stage in 2005 when Wine Enthusiast declared it Wine Valley of the Year. A balmy climate and abundant sunshine render the valley warm enough to produce big, juicy reds—most notably carménère. Colchagua has been nicknamed the Napa of Chile, with a nod to its climate and top-drawer restaurants and hotels, not to mention scenery and sophisticated wineries. The similarities thankfully stop there: Even during peak season, the valley retains the air of a pleasant farm town, where horses clip-clop along the road in lieu of limos.
Every corner of the hotel marries old and new and reflects the tastes of its Italian-Chilean owners, Vivien Jones and Silvio Castelli. Some rooms house 400-year-old pieces of furniture from the estate of Vivien’s grandmother outside Venice, while the gardens and dining room harbor sleek furniture designed by Philippe Starck and produced by Kartell, which Silvio’s cousin founded. Walls inlaid with original moldings bear striking paintings by Cy Twombly and Jim Dine. The couple, however, keeps Andy Warhol’s portrait of Silvio at home.
From the Fall 2009 issue of Sherman's Travel magazine