The views at Chile’s VIK winery and boutique hotel are as good as the pours. (Courtesy: Vik Retreats)
By Rocky Casale
The drive from Santiago to parts of Chile’s southern wine region is not exactly straightforward. At times you will crawl through traffic on the Pan American Highway, then veer onto two-lane roads that link up villages with vineyards, and then into a web of unmarked dirt tracks.
With luck, or an experienced guide, you might wind up at VIK, one of Chile’s most-talked about holistic wineries, set in the clandestine Apalta Valley.
Before 2006, when Alexander and Carrie Vik found and purchased more than 10,000 acres of land here, the valley was quite a different picture.
“It was hard to imagine a vineyard; here were some small, poorly kept orchards and the rest was high grassland, brush, forests, canyons, and mountains,” says Mr. Vik.
One of VIK’s varietals. (Courtesy: Vik Retreats)
Still, the conditions were favorable for producing great reds — the hills’ blunt exposures to the sun, the coastal breezes that cool the valley — and the Viks set about planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grape varietals.
By 2009, the couple’s hard work had paid off when they produced 12,000 bottles of their first vintage. According to VIK’s chief oenologist, Patrik Vallete, who previously led some of France’s most respected wine houses, he expects the 2014 vintage to be somewhere in the ballpark of 90,000 bottles.
“You have to consider the love we put into this project,” says Vallete.
“Before we came to the valley, it used to be a tangle of trees or wheat fields that occasionally were hit by wildfires.”
VIK’s suites are chock full of art. (Courtesy: Vik Retreats)
On Nov. 1 the Vik family opened Viña Vik (rates from $1,200), a 22-room, all-inclusive hotel on a bluff overlooking their vineyards.
Crowned with an enormous wavy silver roof, the hotel stands in high relief against the green valley — resembling a Frank Gehry Guggenheim that dropped out of the sky.
Rooms have a sort of playful extravagance, like the one decorated with blue Portuguese painted tiles that depict the Vik family and colleagues in various scenes of bacchanalia.
But the artwork in the hotel — and there is an enormous collection, scattered throughout the rooms and public areas — can’t compete with the views, especially from the Olympic-size slate pool overlooking the sawtooth peaks of a gorge.
Though Viña Vik is striking, perhaps what is hogging most of the attention right now is VIK’s new winery. The colossal structure is by Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, who recently designed the Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Hyde Park. The winery looks almost like a futuristic airplane terminal, with its arched roof of stretched transparent fabric that allows the light to pour down on the stainless-steel wine tanks inside. It lives in the midst of Carménère vineyards, and is flanked on one side by a large sloping plaza of trickling water flecked with stone sculptures. At its other end is a restaurant and tasting room with views of the distant Andes. It’s an architectural statement in the middle of nowhere — and one definitely worth finding.
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