Founded in 1976 by Emilio de Solminihac, Santa Monica is one of the more contemporary wineries in Chile. Yet, this superb property is truly an amalgam of Old World charm and modern technology. Located in the beautiful Rapel Valley, this historical 19th century property includes a beautiful old hacienda that dates from Chile’s colonial past, yet it is one of the tidiest and most up to date wineries in all Chile.
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. Hailing from a wine making family, 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 – then 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.
In the 1970’s Don Emilio returned to Chile. He 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 – a devotion he still pursues.
Chile in the 1970’s was a time of great economic uncertainty. Nevertheless, in 1976, when other growers were continuing to pull up vines because they were barely able to give away their wares, let alone make a living by producing wine, Don Emilio made a fateful decision: he purchased the old Vina Purisma estate outside of Rancagua. Originally planted in 1930, this established 230- acre Rapel 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 their family winery. What many considered madness three decades ago has now become a dream come true.
Today, Santa Monica reigns as an oasis of calm and simple elegance. Beyond its gates lay long rows of well-tended vines that doze between the towering Andes and the coastal mountain ranges. From these neat rows of vines that hold just about every grape imaginable, Don Emilio fashions a bevy of delicious wines. However, the highly acclaimed Private Reserve Tierra de Sol and Gran Reserva offerings of Cabernet Sauvignon constitute the signature wines at Santa Monica. In them, one can taste and see Don Emilio’s passion for making traditional Bordeaux style offerings, with a personal touch. These are complex, age worthy wines that are as endearing as they are enduring.