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Grape Escapes: Clos Apalta Lodge

Bruce Wallin

Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle’s

favorite rock sits halfway up a narrow hiking trail at the Clos Apalta estate in

Chile’s Colchagua Valley. A quick scramble up the almost perfectly round,

Volkswagen Beetle–size boulder puts Lapostolle in position to admire her

property: hillsides and a valley floor planted with Carmenère, Cabernet

Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Merlot; a functionally and architecturally

innovative winery that juts from a ridge above the vineyards; and, farther up

the hill, the infinity pool, main house, and four casitas that compose her new

Clos Apalta Lodge.

Lapostolle has been partial to the Colchagua Valley scenery

since 1994, when the French businesswoman and her husband, Cyril de Bournet,

founded Casa Lapostolle. Set just outside the town of Santa Cruz, the couple’s

winery helped establish Colchagua as a legitimate viticultural region. But

Lapostolle, the great-granddaughter of Grand Marnier founder Louis-Alexandre

Marnier, believed she could achieve true greatness at a new property she

acquired in the Apalta Valley, a horseshoe-shaped stretch within the larger

Colchagua Valley. "When I first arrived in the Apalta Valley, I realized its

potential for producing world-class wines," she says. "I had the impression that

I knew this place all my life, or maybe in another life."

If one is to believe the latter, Lapostolle might have spent a

past life as a Spanish conquistador or missionary, the settlers who share credit

for introducing vines to Chile in the mid-16th century. The wine industry in

Colchagua is relatively new, but the region has emerged as perhaps the country’s

finest—and savviest—viticultural area. "When I got here there was nothing—an

ugly little bar on the plaza and that was it," says Clos Apalta winemaker Andrea

León, who moved to Santa Cruz seven years ago from Santiago. "But we are very

organized in Colchagua. We now have a wine route. We have museums. We are only

20 years old as a wine industry, but we are a very organized industry and

destination."

Launched as Casa Lapostolle’s premium estate in 1997, Clos

Apalta is one of 18 wineries on the Colchagua Valley route, which also features

such Napa Valley–inspired attractions as a wine train and hot-air balloon rides.

Unlike Napa, however, Colchagua traditionally has lacked upscale accommodations,

a void Lapostolle filled last year with the opening of the Clos Apalta Lodge.

The lodge’s casitas are set along a dirt path that twists and

climbs from the main house and winery. Granite salvaged from the winery’s

construction (which required digging through 85 feet of the stone) now serves as

flooring in the accommodations, where French and Spanish antiques pair with

Chilean artworks and furnishings. Each casita’s living room opens to a sprawling

wood deck with vistas of the vine-covered valley.

Lapostolle plans to add tennis courts and horse stables to Clos

Apalta, but the only requisite activity at the lodge is a tour of the winery.

Four of the facility’s six floors are underground, including Lapostolle’s

personal cellar, where she keeps her collection of French and Chilean vintages.

Clos Apalta’s wine, which León produces with renowned French consultant Michel

Rolland, is a combination of both winemaking cultures: a Carmenère-based blend

with Bordeaux-style refinement.

Lapostolle, whose family still runs Grand Marnier and owns

Château de Sancerre in France’s Loire Valley, sees another parallel between

Chile and her homeland. "The Loire Valley was the valley and the wine of the

kings of France," she explains. "Shall we say that Colchagua will be the valley

of the queens of South America?" If so, Lapostolle’s throne is ready, halfway up

the trail at Clos Apalta.

Clos Apalta Lodge,+5672.321.803, www­.closapalta.cl

($400–$650)

Location: Between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean in Chile’s

Colchagua Valley, just outside the town of Santa Cruz and about 120 miles

southwest of Santiago.

Accommodations:

Four casitas scattered along a winding path above a main lodge and the Clos Apalta winery . Each of the casitas—named Cabernet

Sauvignon, Carmenère, Petit Verdot, and Merlot—has its advantages, but Carmenère

(the favorite of owner Lapostolle) is the most private.

Dining: The staff

serves meals on request in the guest rooms or lodge and can arrange for local

chefs to host dinners at the hotel. It is worth venturing out to dine at the

nearby Viu Manent winery’s restaurant.

Wine: Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta is a chocolaty

Carmenère blend that consistently ranks among Chile’s best red wines. The winery

is open for tours most days, as are the more than 15 other estates on the

Colchagua Valley wine route, the first such route in Chile.

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