[On Location] Chile and Argentina’s wine country and cosmopolitan centers are a South American smackdown for sophisticated culinarians. It began just south of Santiago, where the revered Maipo Valley winemaking region lies tucked neatly between Chile’s Andes Mountains and Atacama Desert. We arrived at the vineyard Casa Lapostolle, founded by Grand Marnier heiress Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle and husband Cyril de Bournet, who brought their French expertise to the superb terroirs of Chile. Wine Spectator awarded their Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley 2005 the #1 position in its 2008 Top 100 ranking (96 points). Next we tucked into the Lapostolle Residences, four “breathtaking” casitas overlooking beautiful panoramas of the surrounding mountains and vineyards, providing peace, privacy and welcome serenity. Lapostolle’s cuisine champions the natural flavors from Chile by using local products from their organic vegetable and herb garden, and from local fresh markets. Guests enjoy forest hikes, botanical tours, biking the vineyards, and tastings in the private cellar. In Santiago, the luxurious Grand Hyatt Santiago is considered one of the city’s finest. Three restaurants offer superb dining and have access to outdoor terraces overlooking the gardens and pool area, while Duke’s Bar offers live music for entertainment. Five blocks south of the Hyatt is Plaza de Armas, with a bustling market overflowing with a wide variety of fresh, local and exotic produce. Nearby, Sukalde is a quaint restaurant where chef Matias Palomo describes his food as molecular gastronomy. I call it deliciosa. A king crab appetizer in white gazpacho accompanied a ripe sirloin on a potato crisp with a truffle sauce, perfectly paired with a Catalina 2006 blend from Vina Santa Ema vineyard. Mendoza, Argentina is one hour from Santiago aboard LAN Chile. The opulent 185-room Park Hyatt Mendoza Hotel Casino & Spa, just 15 minutes from the marquee vineyards, is situated in the centre of the business/banking district. Highlights include the 3,300-sf Salón de Los Espejos ballroom and preserved 19th century façade. Numerous innovative restaurants have flourished in Argentina’s wine valley. Familia Zuccardi’s Casa del Visitante is internationally recognized, immediately evident 10 minutes after we pulled a cork out of their Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2006. The vineyard is base camp for hot air balloon rides, picnic lunches under the olive trees, local art fairs, tastings in the vineyard aboard bikes or classic cars, and cooking lessons with the resident chef. Don’t miss the 14-room Cavas Wine Lodge at the foothills of the Andes. The quaint restaurant serves local, organically produced cuisine. There’s also a magnificent spa using signature wine therapy treatments, whitewater rafting, skiing, 18-hole golf, horseback riding, hiking and biking within close proximity of the lodge. To book tours like this or anywhere around the world, visit Fine Wine & Gourmet Travel at www.fwandgt.com.