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Lapostolle Residence — Colchagua Valley, Chile

Ruta I-50 Camino San Fernando a Pichilemu Km 36, Cunaquito, Santa Cruz, Chile

Opened in 2006 by French "alco-aristocracy," Lapostolle is a Chilean wine lodge that knows a thing or two about service, sophistication and surprises.

You have a feeling you're in good hands when setting off for a weekend at a winery owned by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle, granddaughter of Alexandre, the Frenchman who found fame in 1880 when he invented the orange-flavored brandy liqueur, Gran Marnier.

The two–hour transfer down the Pan-American Highway from Santiago to the Colchagua Valley is slick as can be with a Lapostolle private transfer — just bear in mind the price tag for such ease and luxury is US $315 each way.

On arrival, the first thing you spot is a skeleton-like structure projecting from the hillside. Making your way up the driveway, this unusual building reveals itself as the Clos Apalta Winery, a wooden building spanning six floors and inspired by a bird's nest (funnily enough, not a rib cage!).

Alongside this highly original design winery sits the Lapostolle Residence with its dining area, living room flanked by large sofas and open fires, and outdoor patio with an infinity pool overlooking 400 hectares of vineyards below.

Up on the hill, easily reached on foot, or with the help of the small fleet of Lapostolle golf buggies, sit four hillside "casitas." Each one is named after a grape variety that grows on the estate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Carmenere.

Nestled in native foliage, it is hard to spot all four casitas. For the best views, try to book Carmenere; if you need assurance that it's the best, let's just say it's the one "Madame" uses when she's in residence.

A wine lodge with the Relais & Chateaux seal of approval, the Lapostolle casitas have open fireplaces, huge walk-in closets, private terraces and bathrooms big enough to sublet. Each one has a different color scheme — green, orange, blue or red — but wood, silk and leather run throughout.

Designed by French decorator Joelle L'Huillier, along with plenty of input from Alexandra, the furniture is mainly imported from Europe, silk from Cambodia and the merino wool rugs are from Chilean Patagonia.

The winery, meanwhile, is the work of Chile's Amercanda Architects and Roberto Benavente. The six levels span 25 meters, and were cut into the side of the granite rock. This proved a godsend in 2010 when Chile was struck by a devastating earthquake, but Clos Apalta only lost two bottles of wine.

As for the "bird's nest" beams, they are made from red-toned Chilean hardwood, rauli, and number 24 in total symbolizing the two years needed to produce Clos Apalta wine. A sundial sits on the roof, like a javelin that has landed from outer space, and serving as a reminder of the importance of the seasons in the annual wine cycle.

An afternoon tour and tasting at the Clos Apalta Winery is included in your stay, and after learning about the process and tasting three wines (Lapostolle Casa Souvignon Blanc 2012, Merlot Cuvee Alexandre 2011 and Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2010) the best part is exploring the James Bond-esque private wine cellar which spans floors five and six.

Look closely through the tasting table, which is made from a large egg-shaped piece of tinted glass, and you will spot a staircase descending down below. The table lifts up and you can enter Alexandra's wine cave, home to 6000 bottles of wine and accessible only to Lapostelle Residence guests.

Lapostolle is truly somewhere to kick back, take it easy, drink great wine and eat delicious food. The dining room has deep red walls and a two-sided fireplace. Each meal consists of three courses with different wine pairings. For lunch you start with an aperitif of Lapostolle Casa Souvignon Blanc 2012 along with nibbles, like mini cheese empanadas.

Next your glass is filled with Lapostolle Casa Chardonnay 2011 to accompany the starter of pumpkin soup avec scallops, anis and cilantro. For main course, the famous Lapostelle Clos Apalta 2010 slips down with steak and pesto crushed potatoes. Finally, desert comes in the form of orange pana cotta with kiwi sorbet and a glass of Lapostelle Late Harvest 2007.

Stays are all–inclusive and include overnight, aperitif, dinner, breakfast and lunch, private tour and tasting at Clos Apalta Winery, and also visits to nearby wineries in the Apalta Valley — such as Vina Montes, Neyen and Viu Manent.

Other activities included in your stay are hiking, mountain biking and early morning yoga on the decking outside your casita. For an extra cost, you can book massages and horse riding through the vines.

Evenings start by the fire with a Kappa Sours, the typical Chilean tipple made with Kappa Pisco from the family pisco vineyard up in the Elqui Valley. Like lunch, evening meals are a chance to try more wine, and a typical starter is octopus carpaccio with duck tartar, yogurt belinis and passion fruit sauce served with a glass of Lapostelle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay 2011.

You then have a chance to try the Lapostolle Borobo 2010 (a red blend named after three French regions — Bordeaux, Rhone and Bourgogne) along with sautéed salmon, quinoa, hummus and barbecued peppers. And for dessert, a white chocolate semi-frio with ginger and berries soaked in Navan, accompanied by a small glass of Navan: another family tipple, of course, this time a vanilla liqueur of the Gran Marnier line.

Surprisingly, given the number of vineyards in Chile, there is not a huge amount of competition for Lapostolle. Many wineries have simple lodgings, and often the historic ones have a reputation for slack service. You will be pushed to match Lapostolle's attentive service (helped by the fact there's a maximum of eight guests), haute cuisine, and spacious cabins.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms: 4
Published rates: All-inclusive rates for a double room are USD $600 per person

Review by Gabriel O'Rorke, photos courtesy of Lapostolle Residences.