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May 14, 2009

Santa Cruz: Clos Apalta

Filed under: Chile 2009, Travel — anotherheader @ 1:49 am

Iglesia Santa Rosa de Pelequen

Iglesia Santa Rosa de Pelequen

With the frequency of our visits, the airport in Santiago was starting to feel like home.  I’m not sure that was a good thing.  In the morning it was time to leave again.  I picked up the rental car from the Hertz counter staring at a sign advertising their “Everlost” GPS system which I had somehow not arranged to get.  Not to worry, I had the BeckBeck system.  After repeated, extensive, detailed map downloads from the Hertz agent at the counter and additional reprogramming, I was confident that the BeckBeck system would navigate well on this leg of the journey.

With a couple of wrong turns and a quick trip the wrong way on a one way street (hey, we were following another car!), we left the airport and were on the highway heading towards Santa Cruz, our days destination.  It was a shaky start for the BeckBeck system, but it seemed like the hard part was over.  The next thing we knew, we were lost.  After 15 km on a highway where the

 Santa Rosa de Pelequen

Santa Rosa de Pelequen

roadside shrine to real estate market was booming, we realized that we were heading to Valparaiso.  Hey, we liked Valpo.  We liked it a lot.  Unfortunately, it was not where were going today.  After turning around and paying the tolls a few more times, we eventually made it on the correct road.  The BeckBeck system, it turns out, had mistaken the generic name of the ring road we were looking for as the name of a town.  We didn’t want to go to that town, so we didn’t take the exit and headed to Valparaiso instead.

Wrap around deck at the casita

Wrap around deck at the casita

Once we were on Chile’s main north-south road, Highway 5 that is otherwise known as the Pan American Highway, things went easier.  The BeckBeck system insisted that she was functioning “perfectly.”

“Now it’s working,” I thought, “There are no turns for miles.”

Indeed, we made it down Chile’s central valley and connected through the Colchagua (pronounced Coal-CHAH-GWAH) Valley without further navigational issues.  Valle Colchagua is Chile’s equivalent to California’s Napa Valley.  On the outskirts of Santa Cruz, we took the back roads to Casa Lapostolle.  Our place to stay in the valley, Casa Lapostolle is the guest residence for the Lapostolle Winery and is located at Lapostolle’s ultra premium Clos Apalta Winery.  We entered the winery perimeter through a security gate.  The guard spoke no English but somehow we communicated that we were guests after I pronounced my name as “o-ray”.  That always worked in Italy and I guess it works in Chile, also.

The stairwell at the Clos Apalta Winery

The stairwell at the Clos Apalta Winery

Casa Lapostolle has five guesthouses or casitas on the hillside overlooking the winery and the vineyards.  There is also a main house next to the winery that functions as a lounge, a dining area, the reception, and a pool house.  We parked at the main house and a staff member shuttled us, complete with our luggage, up the steep, narrow path to our house in a straining, overburdened golf cart.  I told the driver that it was all “her shoes” indicating the baggage.  I don’t think he understood precisely what I was saying.  But, when he me gave a sympathetic nod, I was pretty sure the idea was communicated.

We’ve stayed in a lot of nice places in our travels, but Casa Lapostolle is tops.  The French family that owns the Grand Marnier liqueur brand also owns the Lapostolle and Clos Apalta wineries.  When they visit, they stay in the casitas.  Our two-night stay here was definitely a splurge.  Surrounded by a wrap around deck with commanding views of the vineyards of the Colchagua Valley and the Clos Apalta Winery, our guesthouse had a large main room for the bed and a seating area.  The bathroom was larger than most of the rooms in our house and is connected to the main living space by an enclosed, window-lined walkway.  It feels like we carry a lot of baggage, but it would take much, much more to fill the mahogany coated walk-in closet.  I’m pretty sure we don’t own enough clothing to fill the closets of the casita.  Surprisingly, there was even enough space for all of Becky’s shoes.

Making wine at Clos Apalta

Making wine at Clos Apalta

It was a relaxed pace for the remainder of our day our day.  After a light lunch on the patio of the main house below, we headed down the hill for a personal tour and tasting at the avant guard Clos Apalta winery.  The winery is configured as a five-floored cylinder built into the side of the hill. We started at the grape sorting tables where 80 to 90 senoras pick and chose the grapes amongst the clusters.  Only women are used for this task.

“Men no good,” said our female guide with a smile that suggested that this statement applied more broadly than for sorting grapes.

Ready to taste?

Ready to taste?

We moved vertically down the floors of the winery, tracing the gravity fed flow of the wine.  Passing the large oak fermentation tanks where the grapes from the new harvest were being manipulated during fermentation, we eventually made it to the beautiful wood lined, oval cask room.  In the cask room, we tasted the Clos Apalta and Casa Lapostolle’s offerings.  Carménère, a forgotten Bordeaux varietal, is the specialty grape of the region and is a major component of Clos Apalta’s premium wines.  The wines were intensely colored and flavored and were memorable.

After a nap with the soothing cross breeze in the casita, it was time for diner.  Prepared by the winery’s chef, we were one of two parties having dinner at the winery this evening.  The other dinner party was a collection of young women wearing stylish clothes complete with riding boots.  They looked more expectant and accustomed of the level of service provided by Casa Lapostolle than we were.

The ribs of the Clos Apalta Winery and the Casa Lapostolle guesthouse

The ribs of the Clos Apalta Winery and the Casa Lapostolle guesthouse

As a whole, the visit to Casa Lapostolle felt like visiting the estate of a super rich, but absent friend.  Or so we imagine, as we don’t have any friends who fit that category (applications are being accepted).  All we know is that this is something you could get used to.

Our day ended with a little of the Grand Marnier that was left for us in our room. Sipping the liqueur on the deck of the casita, overlooking the vineyards in the gentle breeze of the cool, wine country air, we felt we were not worthy of the experience.  Not that we wouldn’t give it a shot, though.

Ready for bed?

Ready for bed?

Our room:

http://www.casalapostolle.com/LapostolleResidence/lodging.php

Pictures:

http://picasaweb.google.com/AnotherHeader/ToSantaCruz#

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