The Telluride Connection in Marchihue

The Telluride Connection in Marchihue

Birthday Cakes for Vivien and Clint

The Residencia Historica is located just a few kilometers from the toy town of Marchihue and 40 minutes from the much larger Santa Cruz in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Colchagua is one of the centers of the country’s rapidly growing wine industry and the Chilean outpost of blue chip labels such as Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite. We first visited the place in 2005, when it was still a work- in- progress.

When Vivien Jones and her partner Silvio Castelli discovered what has become the hotel six years ago, the sprawling 18th-century home had seen better days. The bones remained, but they were buried in a tangle of old eucalyptus trees. Dead fruit trees and the thorns of roses tortured the grounds like a hair suit. Undaunted, the couple pursued a vision that can only be described as a labor of love: the promising wreck received the makeover it deserved. The result is a fabulous boutique hotel, where old and new artfully co-exist. To celebrate, on November 8 Vivien threw a joint birthday bash, a traditional Chilean BBQ or asada, for herself and Clint.

front: Frances Barlow, Susan Dalton;
back: Ed Barlow, Tomas Correa, Eric Dalton, Santiago Correa

Joining in the fun were part-time locals Ed and Frances Barlow, who recently purchased two vineyards in Colchagua. Some might call it beginner’s luck: the property the couple thought was good only for growing almonds turns out to have a “terroir” perfect for the high-end wines produced by Casa Lapostolle, another French operation located smack dab in the heart of Chile’s Apalta Valley. Owned by the Marnier family of liqueur fame, Lapostolle will be buying grapes from the Barlows. No big surprise, however, to those who know Ed: he routinely throws sevens on the first roll.

Susan Dalton and son Eric, owner of Jagged Edge, were also with our group.

Since Vivien is the Chilean consul to Torino, Italy, where she has a second home, many of her friends are in the diplomatic corps.
Very diplomatically, they asked how we felt about the results of our recent election. Our Cheshire cat grins triggered a toast to Obama. In that moment, eight years of embarrassment disappeared with the grape.

The following Saturday, Ed, Susan, Eric, and Clint smiled out at us from the society pages of El Mercurio, one of Chile’s oldest rags.

Our stay at Residencia Historica, in fact our friendship with Vivien and Silvio, links back to Telluride and Mountainfilm We met our friends thanks to a conversation I had with Rick Silverman when he was director of the nonprofit.
When I was covering the event for the Daily Planet, Rick and I traditionally met in March to review his list of speakers before Clint and I left town for the mud season. If anyone was located where we were headed, I scheduled an interview.

In 2004, Mountainfilm had planned a program around the Slow Food movement, whose birthplace is the northern Italian city of Bra. That year, our itinerary included Venice, Florence, Siena, and Montalcino, all located further south. Bra would be a detour, but we decided to go for it. In the past, just saying “yes” has opened doors.
In Bra we met a Chilean chef who invited us to a party in an old Savoy castle in the nearby town of Verduna. When we walked in the door and down the long hallway, the first people we met were Vivien and Silvio. Vivien was on duty, standing in for the ambassador who had a previous engagement.

At the end of evening, Vivien left the table of bureaucrats to rejoin Silvio. An invitation to their home in Rapallo followed. That chance encounter has evolved into an abiding friendship and more Telluride-Chile connections. Vivien was, for example, a major advocate for another former Mountainfilm director, Arlene Burns, when she was living in Torino with Giorgio Cappabianca in the final months of his battle with brain cancer. In healthier, happier times, Giorgio and Arlene had also spent time with Vivien and Silvio at Residencia Historica.

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