A combination of antiquarian ambience, impressive gastronomy and unexpected special touches makes this our favourite choice for visitors to Chile's scenic wine lands. Casa Silva is a delightful small-scale winery and historic home turned boutique hotel, located at the gateway to the Colchagua Valley. While the décor recalls past eras, amenities and service standards are as modern as you would expect from any upmarket country retreat, yet with the warmth and personality befitting of a family-run guesthouse. The restaurant, which is in one of the old barrel rooms beside the polo field, is frequently cited as one of the highlights: the creative cuisine and evocative location make for a highly memorable and quintessentially Chilean dining experience.
Clos Apalta is above all a state-of-the-art winery, and the modernist feeling bestowed by the abstract curves of the architecture is more than apt given the viticultural wizardry going on within. The winery is powered entirely by the forces of gravity, with six vertical levels burrowing deep into the Colchagua hillside to create something reminiscent of a Bond villain's lair. The wine flows downwards throughout production before being barrelled off at the bottom level, avoiding the need for any pumps or other interruptions to the subtle magic that produces the magnificent end product. Guest rooms are perched overlooking the vineyards and are highly regarded, but it would also be well worth visiting for the day as part of a self-drive holiday in Chile.
Lying well within an hour's drive of Santiago, Santa Rita offers perfect rural serenity within remarkably easy reach of the capital. Although the sophisticated on-site hotel will be unavailable from January 2012 due to renovation, this elegant vineyard still makes our list for the sheer refinement of its surroundings: the winery and restaurant occupy wonderful historic buildings amidst flower-filled gardens and beautiful rolling hills, which can be explored by horse and cart or just enjoyed from the terrace as you take an aperitif. If you have only a day to spare, this is easily our favourite day trip from Santiago.
Midway between tumbledown, bohemian Valparaiso and Santiago, the Matetic vineyard and its accompanying wine hotel, La Casona, is a rural idyll that seems much further removed from the hustle and bustle of the city than its position on a map might suggest. In fact it is just an hour's drive from the capital, making it a great countryside alternative to a city hotel when flying into or out of Chile. The biodynamic winery produces excellent wines (still largely under the radar in the UK), and wine tasting is of course included as part of a stay in one of just seven top-notch rooms at the converted estancia. This is a relaxing way to end your holiday in Chile, but if you are feeling more active you can explore the vineyard on horseback or by bicycle.
Unlike the other wineries in this list Viu Manent does not offer guest accommodation, but it is nevertheless an essential stop on a self-drive tour of the Colchagua valley. Still owned and run by the Vius, this vineyard extends a warm welcome both to confirmed oenophiles and to less experienced wine enthusiasts, who can enjoy the fruits of the family's labour through guided tours and tastings or in the sophisticated comfort of their restaurant. Visit as part of a tailor-made holiday in Chile.