On a recent trip to Chile, I spent an afternoon in one of the country’s most noteworthy wine regions, the Rosario Valley. Located about 60 miles due west of Santiago and just north of the seaside city of San Antonio, the Matetic family operates a vineyard of the same name amid rolling hills and brown-blond fields. The clan also runs a 10-suite hotel nearby called La Casona and a restaurant known as Equilibrio. The climate feels Mediterranean, and most summer days are dry and hot. But evenings are often cool, thanks largely to the ocean being a mere 20 miles away.
The first thing I noticed about the Rosario Valley was how open and undeveloped it was, and as I passed vineyards filled with rows of Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, I could not help but imagine this must have been what the Napa or Sonoma valleys looked like half a century ago: little traffic on the roads and vast stretches of empty meadowland, populated only by occasional stands of eucalyptus and thorn trees.
What also reminded me of those regions back home was the overall quality of the wine that members of the Matetic family, who first came to Chile in 1892 from what is present-day Croatia, have been making here. One of the centerpieces of their vineyard is a modern cellar built in 2004. Three underground rooms give it the capacity to store some 1,800 barrels, and I was able to sample several of its higher-end EQ line (the letters stand for “Equilibrio,” meaning “balance”). The Sauvignon Blanc was deliciously dry and featured hints of pineapple and peaches and just a touch of salt, which spoke to the nearby presence of the Pacific. As for the Syrah, it boasted traces of pepper and plums, and I was so smitten that I immediately bought two bottles.
Enjoying some of those same wines during lunch at Equilibrio was a pleasure. While there were tables arrayed in the shade of hardwoods and under pergolas outside the eatery, I opted for one inside, in a cooler space built in the shape of an octagon. There, I happily worked my way through a three-course prix fixe meal. The Sauvignon Blanc paired perfectly with my ceviche starter, and the Syrah was an excellent match for the short ribs prepared in a typical Chilean clay oven.
La Casona is only a short walk from Equilibrio. All 10 rooms of the hotel are located in the type of one-story, tiled-roof colonial structure commonly found in the Chilean countryside. The quiet beauty of the setting, to say nothing of the spacious porches outside each room and the lush gardens they overlook, persuaded me that I must return one day for an overnight.