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article imageReview: ‘Santa Rita Winery’ — History and wines in Chile’s Maipo Valley Special

By Igor I. Solar     Jun 10, 2014 in Travel
Santiago - Excellent wines, superb gastronomy, a museum of pre-Columbian art, beautiful gardens, and a tour into the history of Chilean wine, are part of the attractions offered to local and foreign visitors at “Santa Rita Vineyards” in the Maipo Valley.
In a unique setting in the Andean foothills of Alto Jahuel, in the Maipo Valley, about 45 minutes away from downtown Santiago de Chile, is “Viña Santa Rita” (Santa Rita Vineyards). The location not only shows elements in the history of the independence of Chile, but also some of the most distinctive aspects of Chile’s wine-making tradition.
At the time of the war for the independence of Chile, the lands and the old house where the restaurant now operates, belonged to Doña (*) Paula Jaraquemada (1768-1851). Lady Jaraquemada is remembered as one of the main Chilean heroines during the war for Chile’s independence. She passionately supported the Chilean army in the war against Spain by supplying Chilean troops with horses, foodstuffs and equipment and by hiding in her cellars 120 soldiers seeking refuge after a defeat in the battle of Cancha Rayada. Subsequently, she converted her property into a field hospital for patriot soldiers wounded in combat.
Lunch time at  Doña Paula  Restaurant. The atmosphere is typical of a colonial building of the 18th...
Lunch time at "Doña Paula" Restaurant. The atmosphere is typical of a colonial building of the 18th century in Chile. Note the heavy ceiling joists, ceramic floors, oil paintings and wall sconces
After lunch one may enjoy a rest in the shade or a stroll in the beautiful gardens and pergolas arou...
After lunch one may enjoy a rest in the shade or a stroll in the beautiful gardens and pergolas around the old house of Doña Paula Jaraquemada.
Santa Rita Vineyards was founded in 1880. The winery introduced some of the finest grape strains and hired the best viticulturists and enologists who applied technology and machinery imported from France. One hundred years later, in 1980, entrepreneur Ricardo Claro acquired the vineyard which in a short time became one of the largest in the country, at the same time it played a significant role in bringing Chilean wines to the top position it now enjoys around the world. Claro died in 2008 at age 74.
Gardens behind the 200-year-old colonial building housing  Doña Paula  restaurant.
Gardens behind the 200-year-old colonial building housing "Doña Paula" restaurant.
Naturalistic gardens behind the 200-year-old colonial building housing  Doña Paula  restaurant.
Naturalistic gardens behind the 200-year-old colonial building housing "Doña Paula" restaurant.
Currently, Santa Rita offers tourists and wine lovers the opportunity to visit its winery in Alto Jahuel where fine wines age in French and American oak barrels. Among the most prestigious Santa Rita wine labels are “Casa Real”, “Floresta,” the “120” line, and “Medalla Real” (Royal Medal). In addition to the extensive vineyards and ancient cellars, the grounds contain an attractive Chilean food restaurant called "Dona Paula" and the “Museo Andino” (Andean Museum), where hundreds of pieces of pre-Columbian art are exhibited.
Doña Paula Restaurant
After visiting the wineries and tasting some selected wines, a logical next step is to have lunch at "Dona Paula." The restaurant is located in a 200-year-old colonial house. The menu offers typical Chilean and international food including meats (beef, lamb, and pork), seafood (fish and shellfish), pastas, a complete assortment of salads, and mouth-watering desserts, all this obviously matched with wines from a large selection of the best Santa Rita products.
The Andean Museum
After lunch one may enjoy a stroll in the beautiful gardens and pergolas around the house and complete a good day with a visit to the Andean Museum. The Museum is located just meters from the restaurant in a modern building where about 2,000 pre-Columbian and post-conquest art pieces, collected by Ricardo Claro for 40 years, are displayed.
The museum exhibits objects of pre-Columbian Chilean indigenous people including Diaguita, Mapuche and Easter Island cultures. There is also a sample of objects used historically by Chilean men in rural activities.
The Andean Museum is located just meters from the restaurant in a modern building where about 2 000 ...
The Andean Museum is located just meters from the restaurant in a modern building where about 2,000 pieces of pre-Columbian art are displayed.
Andean Museum. Objects and tools used by Chilean  huasos  (cowboys) particularly related to horsebac...
Andean Museum. Objects and tools used by Chilean "huasos" (cowboys) particularly related to horseback riding.
Andean Museum. Easter Island wood carving depicting a male figure with an emaciated body  and a goat...
Andean Museum. Easter Island wood carving depicting a male figure with an emaciated body, and a goatee. Ribs and genitals are clearly shown. These carvings are rare because wood was very scarce in Easter Island.
Andean Museum. Silver and gold decorative pieces regularly used by the Mapuche Indians in ceremonial...
Andean Museum. Silver and gold decorative pieces regularly used by the Mapuche Indians in ceremonial events.
To finish the gastronomic and cultural tour, one may visit the wine-shop and buy some of the most outstanding wines from Santa Rita Vineyards, and see equipment formerly used in wine-making. In summary, “Viña Santa Rita” in the Maipo Valley, is an excellent place for visitors with little time in the Chilean capital where they can learn some of the history and culture of the country, enjoy a delicious lunch, and taste excellent wines, some of Chile’s best export products. For visitors with more time during their visit to Chile, the 16-room “Casa Real Hotel” is a good place to relax and enjoy the stunning gardens surrounding the property.
Santa Rita Vineyards seen from the Andean Museum.
Santa Rita Vineyards seen from the Andean Museum.
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(*) “Doña” is used as a courtesy title before the name of a woman in a Spanish-speaking country. The corresponding prefix for a man is “Don.” Don and Doña are equivalent to Mr. and Mrs.
More about Santa Rita Vineyards, Santiago de Chile, winemaking, Dona Paula Restaurant, Andean Museum
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