Chile’s Colchagua Valley

By Randy Keck

Two hours’ drive south of Santiago lies one of Chile’s most renowned wine-producing regions, Valle de Colchagua. On my last visit to Chile, in February ’05, I had the opportunity to visit, albeit too briefly, this impressive valley of abundance on the Ruta del Vino.

A lengthy list of awards and medals have to date been earned by the valley’s wineries in prestigious international competitions and publications. This was highlighted in 2003 when the Colchagua Valley was named Wine Region of the Year in the U.S. magazine Wine Enthusiast. Valley wines are of consistently high quality.

Two of the wineries in the valley also feature small hotels, and I had the opportunity on this visit to be hosted overnight at the newest property, the luxurious, 11-room Viña La Playa Hotel (Fundo San Jorge s/n, Camino a Calleuque, Peralillo, Santa Cruz, Chile; phone 56-9-020-7700 or fax 56-9-020-7741. . . or call the Santiago office at 56-2-335-4000, or visit

After a long day of exploring, the Viña La Playa was a welcome respite, and my travel industry friend Scott, from Santiago, and I vowed to make the most of the beautifully landscaped facilities. In a bountiful setting bordered on one side by the Tinguiririca River and surrounded by vineyards stretching to the horizon, we lounged by the hotel pool after indulging in an energetic game of tennis.

In the evening we each enjoyed excellent seafood meals in the dining room, approximately $20 per person including all the wine we could manage from any of the winery’s current vintages. The Carmenere was my favorite, but we, with encouragement from our waiter, sampled them all. To describe the meal experience as “good value” is a drastic understatement.

We next enjoyed an espresso in the bar before launching into a serious game of billiards on an oversized table that revealed, beyond doubt, our serious lack of cue talents. How could two such unskilled partakers have so much fun? Blame it on the bottomless wine glass.

At the Viña La Playa Winery, accommodations at the hotel range from $135 for a standard twin room to $175 for a suite, including breakfast. Many enticing packages are available.

Santa Cruz

Our whirlwind tour through the valley the next day took us to charming, sleepy Santa Cruz, the center for winery tours in the valley. Colchagua Wine & Tours (phone 56-72-823199, fax 56-72-825458, e-mail or visit, located in Santa Cruz, coordinates and arranges actual winery tours for most of the wineries in the valley.

In fact, information regarding most valley wineries can be obtained through that company’s website. Most wineries welcome tourists on a direct basis for wine tasting.

The life pulse of Santa Cruz evolves around a pleasant, shady town plaza. Incumbents include the attractive Hotel Plaza Santa Cruz (phone 56-72-821-010 or visit, at $120 single or $150 double, plus a few fine artisan shops and several restaurants.

Upon recommendation, we dined at the Santa Cruz Social Club on their grape-arbor-strewn outdoor terrace. The setting was unpretentiously perfect, and the fresh fish fare along with house vino tinto, the ideal accompaniment, cost $11 per person.

The unique Museum of Colchagua, just off the town plaza, is also worthy of a visit.

Nearby is the fascinating El Huique Museum, providing a fascinating look back in time at traditional hacienda life and early Chilean history. Its furnishings and timeless landscaping alone are worth a visit. While it’s a very worthwhile excursion, visitors should note that all guided tours are conducted in Spanish. English guidebooks are available.

Our final stop in Colchagua Valley was Viña Casa Silva (www., the oldest winery and vineyards in the valley. We dropped in because Viña Casa Silva recently finished renovating the original farmhouse of the Angostura Estate on the winery grounds, turning it into a luxurious small hotel with nine rooms. A fine restaurant has also been added above the winery’s premium barrel room. I hope to return for a residential visit soon and will report further at that time.

This too brief visit to Valle Colchagua was combined with a visit to the nearby coast at Pichilemu, a small, popular seaside resort town that I will report on in future.

Keck's Beyond the Garden Wall

❝The covenant of fine imbibing,
The vine toils in patient reverence,
Its treasure time revealed.❞
— Randy’s summary reflection of all that’s fine about the fruit of the vine