Two highway hours south of Santiago is a valley the Mapuche people of south-central Chile named Millahue, meaning place of gold, for its natural beauty and prevalence of the precious yellow metal. Now it's part of the Colchagua Valley wine region and the place where the 4325-hectare vineyard of entrepreneurial power couple Carrie and Alexander Vik has taken root in recent years. On a small rise near the local reservoir is an extraordinary building the Viks co-designed with Uruguayan architect Marcelo Daglio. Just one in a portfolio of Vik art hotels, its gold-hued titanium roof appears to have been shaped when soft by a gargantuan palette knife.
Stepping into Vik Retreat I'm amazed at how open to the elements it is. A Japanese-style dry landscape garden bordered by a blooming flowerbed, open to the sky, is the rectangular centrepiece to open-air walkways, guest suites, a living room, library, terraces and a restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The rear of the building drops down to a game room, gym, sundeck, outdoor infinity pool and the Wine Spa.
A gravity-defying carbon-fibre tub at Vik Retreat.
Art and design are also central to the Vik Retreat experience. Murals, installations, sculptures, furniture and paintings ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous are showcased throughout. Various artists – mainly South American – have left their mark on each suite. Chilean realist Alvaro Gabler, for instance, spent six months living in and working on what is now considered the most artistically intense room. A gravity-defying carbon-fibre hammock bath hangs in the Vik Suite bathroom.
Of the hotel's 22 suites, five are master suites. I'm in 42-square-metre Louis Louis and my king bed is overlooked by a dramatic painting by the late Jean-Baptiste Edouard Detaille of what appears to be men slaughtering each other in the French countryside. The exterior wall is floor-to-ceiling glass and half of that slides back. All suites accommodate an extra bed.
After dinner and a long bath I lounge against the generous bedhead and read for hours while sampling the free-of-charge minibar. I eventually slip between Egyptian cotton sheets and sleep with the sliding door wide open – assuming that wild puma no longer roam the area – so a fresh breeze cools my face all night.
A serene and spacious master suite.
Santiago-born Rodrigo Acuna Bravo has been executive chef at Milla Milla since the hotel opened in 2014. The restaurant is now considered one of Chile's best. Seasonal local produce is the basis of a South American-style cooking Acuna Bravo refers to as "honest". To take advantage of the freshest ingredients and reduce food waste, an ever-changing selection of dishes is on offer each day.
A so-called experience concierge will set you up for a bike ride or guided horse ride through the vines and past the towering San Pedro cacti. And it's only a short walk to VIK Winery – the whole reason Vik Retreat is there – to take in the cutting-edge architecture as well as the fine wines. Hotel guests are prioritised and my tour experience was, incidentally, the second-most engaging and educational wine tasting of my life. Afterwards you can lunch at nearby Milla Milla Pavilion where the cuisine is also overseen by Chef Acuna Bravo.
Guests of Vik Retreat are looked after as opposed to fussed over. It's a place to rest, relax, eat and drink extremely well, and soak up the surrounds knowing your desire or need for space will always be respected.
Bed and breakfast for up to two people from $US400. The full experience includes a welcome drink, breakfast, lunch (with a glass of La Piu Belle wine), afternoon tea, three-course dinner (with two glasses of premium VIK wine and a glass of Milla Cala), activities, minibar, sauna and pool access from $US600 a person. The resort is advertised as wheelchair accessible. See vikchile.com
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
It's a tie between the food, the wine and the warm and attentive service.
Some tacky artworks such as a female-shaped mannequin on all fours supporting a bedside tabletop in the Redondo Suite.
Elspeth Callender was a guest of &Beyond (andbeyond.com).