Picture this: It’s 11 a.m. and the sun is already high in the cloudless sky, but you’re nice and cool, sitting in the shade of a mature Acacia tree, and there’s a hint of a breeze gently ruffling your hair. It’s quiet; just the sound of running water from the Californian poppy-fringed fountain and some birds singing nearby. You are surrounded by cottage gardens with roses interspersed by marigolds, just going-over irises and drifts of purple and pink statice. This could almost be England on a warm day in late May. However, the line of young olive trees, the huge centennial cactus and the Chilean native trees give it away: this peaceful oasis is, in fact, in Chile, a mere hour and a half away from Santiago.
This is the setting of Casona, the 10-room boutique hotel belonging to biodynamic wine producer Viña Matetic. When I visited, I found everything just so: from the deliciously soft superking bed with its smooth cotton sheets to the ultra-clean swimming pool and, of course, those lovely gardens.
Breakfast and dinner is served in a hotel guests-only dining area with attentive waiters. The menu was interesting and varied, including vegetarian and healthy options. We were entertained by a handsome bird called a rufous-tailed plantcutter (known locally as “rara”), which kept head-butting the windows, seemingly without coming to any harm.
All in all, we found it really quite hard to tear ourselves away for the winery tour, but it was well worth the effort. When you visit the winery, situated at the top of a hill a full nine kilometres away from the hotel, you truly appreciate the scale of this operation, which spreads out as far as the eye can see. Viña Matetic is, in fact, part of a very large, family-owned estate which has herds of cattle and blueberry and eucalyptus plantations as well as its 160 hectares of biodynamically-farmed vineyards.
In fact, the vineyards are sufficiently spread out to fall into two appellations: San Antonio and Casablanca. Here they grow Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and a little Gewürztraminer and Riesling. They also bring Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère grapes from a warmer region to round out their range.
The winery building design is very interesting, using gravitational design to reduce the need for electric pumps and local stone and maximum airflows to keep the barrel room cool and humid. As in the hotel, everything is well thought-through and very orderly.
Of course no winery visit is complete without a tasting. The winery lived up to its reputation for well-made, clean, fresh, mostly single variety wines and we enjoyed a crisp and aromatic Sauvignon Blanc, a well-balanced and seductive Chardonnay, a red fruit and herbal Pinot Noir and a rich and complex cool-climate Syrah, all from their EQ range.
I also checked out Matetic’s Coastal Brut, a traditional-method sparkling wine made with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which has almost two years of lees-ageing prior to disgorgement (rather longer than many sparkling wines). Deliciously complex and refreshing, this sparkler was definitely my favourite from their range.
So, imagine this: you’ve swum a couple of laps in the swimming pool, done the winery tour and tasting. You’ve enjoyed dinner with a glass or two of wine and feel pleasantly tired and replete. You stroll by the light of the moon through the quiet gardens back to your room, close the door and the shutters on the windows. All is peaceful; there’s not a sound to disturb your sleep in that big, soft bed. What a pleasant way to round off your stay in this oasis of calm.
This article was first published by The Best of Santiago.