DESTINATION Aconcagua, San Antonio, and Colchagua valleys, Chile TRAVEL TIME Four days START/END Santiago/Apalta TOTAL DISTANCE 360 miles RESOURCES Buy a detailed map of Chile's central region ($8) at www.turistel.cl. For additional information, including current Chilean wine news and links to specific wineries, see www.winesofchile.cl, www.chile.com, or www.planetavino.com
Day 1: Santiago to Aconcagua Valley
DISTANCE 58 miles
Schedule about 11/2 hours' travel time from the snarl of downtown Santiago to the blessedly sleepy Aconcagua Valley. The ride there traces the rolling Andean foothills, then passes a velvety patchwork of apple, avocado, fig, and peach plantations to arrive at one of the country's largest and most traditional wineries. The two-hour tour of the 136-year-old, 345-acre Viña Errázuriz (Calle Antofagasta, Panquehue; 56-34/ 591-087; www.errazuriz.com; tours from $24) begins among the garden's fountains and fragrant sweet peas, and climbs through the vineyards for an expansive view of the property. The finale: a wine tasting of Errázuriz's selection of Sangioveses, Pinots, and Shirazes, complemented by locally made bread and cheese. Afterward, linger on the patio over a lunch of empanaditas and lemon chiffon pie.
There's no fancy visitors' center or souvenir shop at Viña von Siebenthal (Calle O'Higgins, Panquehue; 56-34/591-827; www.vinavonsiebenthal.com; tours from $10) down the road from Viña Errázuriz, just a couple of quince trees and 62 acres of grapes. Built to resemble a typical Chilean country house, this oak-and-stone winery is already turning out award-winning wines—after only four vintages. Ireneo Nicora, an artist from Italy who moonlights as manager and host, pours standout Carabantes (an intensely violet blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot) and, thanks to a cool mid-May harvest, a surprisingly fruity Carmenère, a Chilean varietal that's gaining global popularity.
Follow the impossible-to-miss signs that lead you through the tiny colonial towns of San Felipe and Santa María and check in at the landmark Termas Jahuel Hotel & Spa (San Felipe; 56-2/206-3423; www.jahuel.cl; doubles from $334). Last December, this mountain-clinging resort, originally built in 1912 on a site celebrated by Charles Darwin for its thermal waters and pure air, reopened after a three-year overhaul; a trio of new buildings, including the stunning five-suite Casona Patronal, blend seamlessly with the original wooden lodge. On-site trails weave through the surrounding pines and eucalyptus; the indoor and outdoor thermal pools and spa give you a few more excuses to unwind here.
Day 2: Aconcagua Valley to Casablanca to San Antonio Valley
DISTANCE 101 miles
It may be quicker to go back to Santiago than due east, but Route 60, which winds down the valley along the Aconcagua River, is much more scenic, weaving through peach orchards, corn and tobacco fields, and rustic pueblitos. At Quillota, head south to San Francisco de Limache and Villa Alemana, then into Casablanca in time for lunch among the vines at Casas del Bosque (2 Hijuelas, Casablanca; 56-2/377-9431; www.casasdel bosque.cl; lunch for two $65). Take a table on the terrace at the winery's sleek six-month-old Tanino Wine Bar & Lunch, with its sophisticated spin on Chilean standards: fried congrio, a local fish, comes with a frothy Chardonnay sauce; lamb chops are seasoned with rosemary, mint, and (rather unexpectedly) kumquat. Combine it all with the citrusy and crisp 2005 Casa Viva Sauvignon Blanc.
Plan on spending the afternoon at nearby Viña Matetic (Fundo El Rosario, Lagunillas; www.matetic.cl; 56-2/232-3134; doubles from $300, all inclusive; tours from $15), a small winery making big waves in organic winemaking and 21st-century enotourism. Drop your bags at the three-room guesthouse, a century-old estancia set among wild gardens and furnished with regal four-poster beds and wingback chairs, thick damask curtains, and lots of florals and stripes. Explore the valley on foot, horseback, or bicycle, or visit the family cheese operation (the Matetics make a killer sheep's-milk cheese), and cap the afternoon off with a tour of the winery, a stunning hillside facility with a theatrical oval barrel cellar and a pair of grand tasting rooms with a waterfall. The almost black EQ Syrah—big, round, and spicy—is the star here, but be sure to try the pleasingly aromatic New World Pinot Noir, with its bright ruby hue.
Days 3 and 4: San Antonio to Colchagua Valley
DISTANCE 105 miles
Start just minutes from Matetic at Puro Caballo (Fundo La Vega Lagunillas, Casablanca; 56-9/359-0485; www.purocaballo.cl; dinner for two $40), the Moya family's ranch, where real huasos, or Chilean cowboys, give rodeo demonstrations and lead horseback rides through the coastal mountains. The humble restaurant with a dirt floor and horseshoe hat-hooks sources everything locally—the rabbit is trapped nearby and the lamb is raised at a farm about 50 miles away, near Pichilemu. Take Route 66, go through the Rapel wine region to Marchihue, then on to Apalta (the enophile's ultimate nook in Colchagua Valley) and the new Clos Apalta Winery (Higuella Villa Eloísa; 56-72/321-803; www.casalapostolle.com; two-night stay for two $1,500, all inclusive). Here, French owner Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle (heiress to the Grand Marnier fortune) produces Clos Apalta, the premium line of Casa Lapostolle, in a spectacular state- of-the-art winery, carved six stories deep into solid granite. Marnier Lapostolle just put the finishing touches on four luxurious bungalows—rustic French and Spanish furniture; decadent Cambodian silks; window-rich, almost alfresco bathrooms—high in the hills. During the day, pop over to neighboring wineries: Viña Viu Manent (Carr. del Vino; 56-72/858-751; www.viumanent.cl; tours from $16) offers hot-air balloon rides and recently opened a chic Andean handicrafts boutique; Viñedos Orgánicos Emiliana (Bodega Los Robles, Camino Lo Moscoso, Colchagua; 56-72/859-222; www.voe.cl; tours from $15) gives lessons on biodynamic winemaking; Viña Montes's feng shuienhanced La Finca de Apalta Estate (Camino a Millahue de Apalta, Santa Cruz; 56-72/825-417; www.monteswines.com) is home to the voluptuous Montes Alpha M, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Or you can simply hide out here on your private deck—the views of the vine-ruffled hills in every direction are as satisfying as the wine.