The craft beer brewed at the end of the world comes to the table in an official-looking bottle, emblazoned with the logo of The Singular hotel, where its Chilean creator, 27-year-old Dario Matus, works.
Matus serves as the sommelier at the hotel outside Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia, making sure that the boutique property’s wine list is full of the country’s well-regarded Chardonnays, Merlots and Carmenere, a varietal that’s new to me, but has a long history as an original Bordeaux grape.
Microbrews seem more Portland than Patagonia to me. But I didn’t take into account the level of luxury that is now standard in this town that sits on the dire-sounding Last Hope Sound. Besides The Singular, a full-service resort created from a former meat processing facility, the town also boasts Hotel Indigo, which has three Jacuzzis on its rooftop spa, and Hotel Remota, created by famous Chilean architect German Del Sol.
While the architectural lines of that hotel, as well as The Singular – which has retained many of the original details of the meat processing plant – can seem a bit sparse, the sharper edges seem to work in the harsh environment. It did seem a little chilly at times walking through hotel’s hallways, but that’s to be expected when you have wind coming off the sound.
The beauty of this area, with the gray wind-swept water and stark grassland, with snow-capped Andes in the distance, comes at you slowly. But once your mind adjusts, you’re blown away. (Every room at the hotel faces the water with full-length windows looking out to the water).
Like many expedition-oriented hotels in South America, The Singular bases its program around half-day and full-day excursions that range from an all-day hiking trip in Torres del Paine national park, about 2 hours north, to a catamaran ride on Rio Serrano to look for birds. Unlike competitors such as Explora Patagonia, however, signing up for activities is optional. Which means if you want to spend all day reading in a cozy chair at the bar, learning a bit about Chilean cuisine at a cooking class or swimming in the spa’s indoor-outdoor pool, you can do so.
A la carte pricing also brings the expense of a trip like this down a bit. While a trip to Patagonia is never going to be cheap, The Singular doesn’t have a minimum stay. They’ve also sold rooms on Jetsetter, the upscale flash sale site (and we met several people staying there who had taken advantage of it).
Shoulder season months, with fall and spring reversed, are also more economical.
Our group took part in several excursions: a collection of walks at Torres del Paine, a horseback ride through the Andes, a gourmet picnic after a touring the Serrano Glacier. In between, we took advantage of spa treatments, went shopping in Puerto Natales (where I bought a pair of warm sheepskin slippers) and sampled the restaurant’s entire menu. True to the building’s history, lamb was served regularly, as were local king crab and guanaco (a relative of the llama). We had lots of fun pairing each dish with just the right wine.
At the end of the trip, though, it wasn’t the Carmenere or excellent Chilean Pisco that made it into my suitcase. Nope, it was Matus’ s craft beer that I fell in love with and wrapped carefully to bring home (despite fears that it might explode). Back home, the crisp taste even stood up to our Pacific Northwest microbrews. It’s not the only reason to travel to the bottom of the world. But enjoying the beauty of Patagonia with a certain level of luxury? Is.