Beyond traditional guided tastings and a new breed of chefs transforming local dishes into refined wine-friendly cuisine, vineyards in Chile’s Central Valley between the snowy Andes and the rugged Coastal Range are offering unusual enticements. Personal rodeo demonstrations, high power telescopes trained on the moon and a lab where visitors can blend their own bottles are just a few of the many attractions raising the bar on wine tourism.
In Colchagua Valley, Casa Silva offers an up-close view of their gauchos’ rodeo skills: From the front row of a small grandstand, guests can watch horses execute a dance-like sidestep and practice nosing the bull into a corner. After a ride along scenic trails through the vineyards, or hurdle jumping for more accomplished equestrians, visitors can lunch at the glass walled restaurant where chefs grill local beef and smoke salmon in wine barrels. Personal rodeo demonstration are $40 per person (minimum of four people) and the seven-room guesthouse converted from an old family homestead is $180 per night.
Bisquertt winery workers spend their off-hours perfecting Chile’s enigmatic national dance, the Cueca. At sunset near the winery’s inn, a folk group, Trilahue, made up of member of all ages from a 3-year-old guitarist to 60-something grandparents, arrive with white handkerchiefs on to sing and dance until after sunset. Las Majadas de Colchagua—the 20-room inn built around a 19th-century hacienda—offers breakfast in the mansion’s dining room with a stay ($240 per night).
In the nearby Maule region, Gillmore Estate has established an animal reserve. In a compound between vineyards and the guest house, visitors can spend quality time with emu, wild geese and even a pair of puma. Gillmore Guest House, is a 15-room inn built on a pond surrounding a central hearth. A stay here includes a breakfast and vineyard tour ($200 per night).
The region’s most extravagant accommodations may be the four hilltop casitas at Lapostolle with fireplaces, decks and expansive views from the Apalta vineyards to the Andes. Overnight visitors can indulge in massage, horseback rides and mountain biking, as well as lavish wine dinners and tastings in the futuristic bowed cellar. Each cottage is named for a variety used to blend Clos Apalta: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Carmenère. All-inclusive price for two: First night $900, additional nights $800. Open January 1–July 15th and September–December 31.