Emilio de Solminihac, more affectionately known as Don Emilio to a burgeoning legion of young Chilean winemakers, is the guardian of traditional winemaking in Chile and one of South America’s finest winemakers. He is also an affable gentleman who seems cut from a bygone age. Like most winemakers of his generation, Don Emilio received his first training in wine as a young man while working in his grandfather’s vineyard and winery. Later he would graduate from the Universidad de Chile with a degree in agricultural engineering, and subsequently depart for France, where he would study at the Université de Bordeaux under the legendary Emile Peynaud – France’s most renowned oenologist. While attending the Université de Bordeaux, Emilio earned that venerable institution’s esteemed degree in oenology, the first Chilean to do so. Today, Emilio de Solminihac is revered as much for his legacy of fine, age worthy wines as he is for his numerous oenological innovations – many of which have helped to transform the Rapel Valley into the Napa Valley of Chile. Upon his return to Chile in the 1970’s, Don Emilio established an oenological laboratory in Rancagua and began consulting for many local Rapel Valley vineyards and wineries, an experience that brought him an intimate knowledge of the region’s terroir. In the meantime, the young Emilio also began teaching oenology and vinification at the Universidad de Chile and the Universidad Catolica de Chile, where he earned a reputation for his unabashed dedication to the production of clean, complex, age worthy wines in the Bordeaux tradition. In 1976, amidst much economic uncertainty, when growers were pulling up vines because they were barely able to give away their wares, let alone make a living by producing wine, Emilio made a fateful decision: he purchased the old Vina Purisma estate outside of Rancagua. Originally planted in 1930, this established 230- acre property contained many splendid old vines whose yields were meager but whose quality was high. Don Emilio re-named the estate Santa Monica in honor of his wife Monica Fonseca and began with her a family winery. And what many considered madness three decades ago has become a dream come true. Bedecked by a rambling, traditional low-ceiling hacienda and long, neat rows of well-tended vines that doze between the towering Andes and the coastal mountain ranges, one could dream of paradise and not be asleep. Here, the hot sun and cool sea breezes of this majestic land work their magic on a weary traveler as well as the estate’s wide variety of grapes, almost all of which are French in origin. Tucked behind the hacienda is a gleaming, meticulously clean cellar that is as modern and beautifully designed as any we have encountered in Chile, thanks to Don Emilio’s acumen and passion for making wine the right way. In addition, he has preserved the ancient rauli-wood tanks that came with the property and still uses them for a number of his wines. But never have we seen such a spotless cellar, all in perfect order, as the old and new flow seamlessly into one. Indeed, it would be hard not to make fine wine in such a place. Don Emilio’s long collection of wines include splendid Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, and a limited quantity of South America’s finest Riesling as well a host of revered reds, not which the least is the estate’s excellent Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon. Yet, Don Emilio’s most appealing legacy remains the limited production of Chardonnay, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon that is bottled either as De Solminihac Reserva Privada or Tierra del Sol. These complex, age worthy wines are as endearing as they are enduring, and they go a long way to dispel the notion that Chilean wines don’t age in the bottle or develop the portfolio of secondary characteristics that wine critics generally refer to as complexity. Try a De Solminihac Reserva Privada and enjoy the dream.