Travel

Wining and Dining Through Chile’s Wine Country

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by Mark Thompson
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VINEYARDS:

Enotour: Travel from your hotel or residence in Santiago on a Mercedes Vinobus and enjoy Chile’s rich and diverse viticulture with the official tour operator of the Wines of Chile Experience program. Other travel options include H2 Hummer limousine, helicopter air service, the Colchagua Wine Train, or a two-day wine cruise through the channels of southern Chile.

LINK: Chile Wine Tourism
Enotour Chile


Region: Maipo Valley: Nestled between the Andes and the Coastal Range mountains (with Chile’s capital, Santiago, in between), the Maipo Valley is considered the home of Chilean wine. Celebrated for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, more than half of the valley’s 30,000 acres are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon.

Vina De Martino: Founded in 1934 by Pietro De Martino Pascualone, Vina De Martino has more than 700 organic acres, owned and managed by the third and fourth generations of the De Martino family. Located an easy thirty miles from Santiago, the winery hosts bilingual tours and guided tastings, which can also include "My Own Wine" making where individuals blend, bottle, cork, and label their own varietal.

Lunch or dinner is optional, but heartily recommended, as much for the regional specialties as for the bucolic locale under a contemporary pergola on a spacious lawn. A salad buffet is followed by barbequed meats, which is followed by a dessert buffet, truffles, and coffee. Of course, there’s also wine: 347 Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Legado Carmenere, and Legado Cabernet Sauvignon.

With the sun high above and a cool maritime breeze, an afternoon at Vina De Martino is a taste of "la dolce vita" in the Central Valley of Chile.

LINK: Vina De Martino


Region: Colchagua: The home of the Chilean horsemen known as "huaso," Colchagua was named "Wine Region of the Year" (2006) by Wine Enthusiast for its excellent terroir and full-bodied reds, including what is widely considered Chile’s best Malbec. Located in the southern half of the Rapel Valley, the city of Santa Cruz makes an excellent base camp for touring Chile’s first and primary wine destination.

Vina Viu Manent: A family-owned winery since 1935, Vina Viu Manent is the home of Viu 1, the icon wine dedicated to founder Miguel Viu Manent, as well as El Incidente, the wine named in memory of the hot air balloon ride that crashed into the outdoor market in nearby Santa Cruz.

Wine tours and tastings commence with a horse-drawn carriage ride through the vineyards. More than 600 acres of grapes provide the basis for exports to 40 countries around the world. Sign on for the harvest experience at Vina Viu Manent and you’ll have a greater appreciation for the detailed and arduous work involved in picking the grapes for your bottle of wine.

With a panoramic view of the Apalta hills, the new restaurant Rayuela Wine & Grill is a bit of paradise in Colchagua. Chef Christian Adrian prepares local, sustainable cuisine paired with the vineyard’s best wines. Fresh oysters on the half shell are served with Viu Manent Secreto Sauvignon Blanc; you’ll be tempted to order a second round.

A leisurely afternoon spent at Vina Viu Manent will make you believe, as the winery does, that the Colchagua Valley is, indeed, a privileged territory for viticulture - and that this third-generation winery is a generous custodian of the region’s riches.

LINK: Vina Viu Manent


Neyen: A stunning nature sanctuary of more than 3,000 acres, Neyen contains vines that date back to 1890. "Neyen" means "spirit" in the indigenous language and the vineyard is committed to producing exemplary wines that reflect the vineyard’s deep roots in Apalta. The elegance and potency of the winery’s Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon is a reflection of Neyen’s core values and its heartfelt desire to capture the "Spirit of Apalta."

Wine tourism includes both evening and daytime tastings, as well as horseback riding or trekking through the winery’s oak woods. Neyen’s wine cellar, converted from a local "bodega," is the oldest in the Apalta Valley. No matter where you wander in this vineyard, you’re certain to feel the sense of place and history that defines Neyen.

LINK: Neyen


Montes Premium Wines: Purple Angel - that’s all you need to know and most probably the very reason that you’re visiting Montes. This blend of Carmenere and Petit Verdot has been awarded the world over as the "Best Carmenere" and "Best New World Red" and "Greatness Attained" and "Gold Medal Winner" - and to taste this voluptuous aristocrat is to feel the wonder the Spanish might have felt upon discovering a brand New World.

Inaugurated in 2004, Montes’ new winery at Apalta was designed by Chilean architect Samuel Claro, while landscape architects and feng shui-inspired designers brought a comprehensive aesthetic to the surrounding gardens and park. Every element - water, metal, and wood - is placed in accordance with the ancient Chinese philosophy to insure harmony throughout the winery.

Wine tours include a ride up a 45-degree incline along the Botanical Trail where the best grapes are used to produce Purple Angel and Montes Folly (whose production is limited to only 9,000 hand-numbered bottles). A lunch at the winery’s Cafe Alfredo will leave you marveling at the surrounding scenery - and you’ll understand perfectly why the Montes label reads "From Chile with pride."

LINK: Montes Wines


Las Ninas: Eight French women - and one Chilean winery: it’s a fascinating story in a lovely setting. Chilean architect Mathias Klolz designed the minimalist cellar: a concrete cube with a translucent facade that blends into the landscape during the day. Wine tours include mountain biking and picnicking - and a charming and hospitable staff.

LINK: Las Ninas


Region: Casablanca: The San Francisco of Chile, the Casablanca Valley is often blanketed by early morning fog followed by midday breezes. Known for its crisp fruity whites with high minerality, the region is Chile’s first cool-climate region and one of the country’s top producers of white wine.

Vinedos Organicos Emiliana: One of the most fascinating vineyards in Chile, Emiliana Organic Vineyards is also one of the most visionary and a vineyard whose modus operandi might well serve as a template for the future of viticulture. Late in the 1990s, a conventional Chilean winery began its conversion into a completely organic and biodynamic winery. Emiliana’s primary objective is to create high quality wines that serve as a testament to the vineyard’s great respect for nature.

As practiced at Emiliana, biodynamic agriculture follows the teachings of philosopher Rudolf Steiner, with a belief that the land is a living being with a natural balance. A biodynamic calendar charts the cycles of the sun, moon, and planets, while homeopathic preparations are utilized alongside organic compost.

Animals such as alpacas, geese, and horses graze happily in the surrounding fields and lawns. A mobile chicken coop, shifted throughout the vineyard, provides pest control against vine weevils, while the beautiful araucana chickens lay blue-colored eggs.

Emiliana’s "Social Accountability" program includes organic gardens, native plant nurseries, apiculture (bee-keeping), and olive groves for oil. Workers at Emiliana receive the proceeds from the sale of organic honey and olive oil.

As for the wine, Emiliana Coyam (the native word for "oak forest") is completely biodynamic and widely acclaimed for its elegant and complex character.

Wine tours include a catered gourmet lunch in the gardens, chickens happily grazing underfoot - and the resultant tableau is not unlike a glossy spread from a Martha Stewart magazine.

An afternoon spent at Emiliana Organic Vineyard is as inspirational for the present as it is hopeful for the future.

LINK: Vinedos Organicos Emiliana


Veramonte: If you have only a half-day for a wine tasting, then Veramonte is a quick commute from the city of Santiago. Located directly off the highway, Veramonte opened in 1998 in a modernist building designed by Jorge Swinburn. An ornithologist’s paradise, the vineyard is surrounded by more than 10,000 acres of native forest, which are home to at least 24 species of birds.

Veramonte’s philosophy promotes the production of wines that reflect a "sense of place" and the winery is justifiably proud of Primus The Blend, one of Chile’s most celebrated and acclaimed red wines.

Wine tastings include house-made chocolates flavored with thyme, merkén, and lavender - flavors that complement the wines and put a smile on your face.

LINK: Veramonte


Region: Aconcagua: An hour’s drive north of Santiago, the highest mountain in the Americas, Mount Aconcagua, provides meltwater to the fertile valley below, one of Chile’s most celebrated wine regions. A combination of cool, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, punctuated with moist ocean breezes, helps to produce high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Carmenere.

Vina Errázuriz: If you must choose only one vineyard to visit while in Chile, then perhaps it should be Errázuriz, the Premier Family Wine Estate of Chile. More than 140 years old, with century-old cellars, Errázuriz is probably best known as the winner of the famous "Berlin Tasting" in 2004, where Errázuriz’s wines eclipsed both Chateau Lafite and Chateau Margaux - a feat that was repeated in another blind tasting in Beijing in 2008. The family motto "From the best land, the best wine" underscores the commitment to quality that is the Errázuriz signature for everything that happens at this estate winery.

Errázuriz was founded in 1870 by a member of one of Chile’s most illustrious families whose progeny have included four Chilean presidents, two Archbishops, and numerous diplomats, writers, and industrialists. (The family’s former home in Santiago is now the Brazilian Embassy.) Now run by a fifth-generation family member, Errázuriz is one of the most beautiful wine estates in the country. A guided walk amongst its vineyards and to the summit of a small hill provides a sweeping panorama of the estate with its century-old building juxtaposed with its stunning contemporary winery designed in 2008 by Chilean architect Samuel Claro.

Errázuriz is the vineyard that introduced Syrah in Chile in 1993, which is another good reason to schedule lunch with your wine tasting - and toast to the vineyard that brings together Apollo and Dionysius in perfect harmony.

LINK: Vina Errázuriz

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(Feature continues on next pages: Where to Eat/Santiago, Where to Stay, Getting There...)



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