Diverse, Vibrant Chile
“In wine, there is truth”, goes the old Latin saying. We have been traveling and discovering the terroir of Chile’s Mediterranean Central Valley for years. The hallmark of Chile is its diversity and purity—in landscape, foodstuffs, wines, people. Where else can you scale towering mountains and take in the roaring Pacific at sunset? Drive through green rolling valleys and past stony, rushing rivers. This trilogy of Mountains, Ocean, and Valleys is the canvas on which the intense, unique, and varied foods and wines of this Garden of Eden are created. Here, you’ll taste wines from earthy Pinot Noir and zesty Sauvignon Blanc on the foggy coast to robust Syrah and Bordeaux-style blends. Meet passionate “garage” vintners to grand cru classé projects. Saunter through markets exploding with seasonal produce and choose just-out-of-the-sea fish. Connect with artisan cheese makers, olive oil producers, and organic farms making a difference in locals’ lives. In the Chilean campo, countryside, locals measure time by the seasons. We’ll calculate it by each meal and wine.
Land this morning in cosmopolitan Santiago nestled at the feet of the Andes. Check into your hotel at the feet of the Parque Metropolitano, a stylish renovated mansion with contemporary touches.
Today is free to rest and explore our beloved capital city at your own speed. In the evening, meet with owner Liz Caskey at her private apartment overlooking Santiago’s Parque Forestal. Sip on boutique wines and nosh on tapas and inspired from authentic recipes, regional cooking techniques, and the fantastic fresh ingredients. Welcome to Chile! (The Aubrey)
Set off to explore the labyrinth of stands at Santiago’s sprawling wholesale market dating back to the late 1800s: seasonal fruits and vegetables, local cheeses, a plethora of meats, mounds of spices, and indigenous foodstuffs. Wander through the maze of picadas, joints, and pull up a stool an old school eatery pumping out Chilean classics like sweet corn tamales, steaming brothy stews, and avocado-laden sandwiches. Sample delicious treats for a late morning snack. After, head to the bustling fish market where seafood turns over at the speed of light. Visit our favorite mongers and watch the show while expert hands perfectly fillet and shuck orders like straight-from-the-sea-fresh fish or tender machas (razor clams).
Lunch is in the countryside outside Santiago and a unique opportunity to connect with Chile’s amazing farm-to-table culture at a non-profit organic farm. First, visit the organic vegetable garden, meet the goats and chickens responsible for the delicious cheese and free-range eggs. Then partake in an exquisite intimate lunch in the garden where all ingredients are homegrown. Dig into creamy goat cheese, juicy vine-ripened tomato pebre, crunchy home-baked bread, and a wine flight from local wineries. Return to Santiago in the afternoon. Dinner is on your own tonight. (The Aubrey)
Head northwest of the capital to the Casablanca wine valley where white whites and Pinot Noir have thrived with delicious natural acidity, potent fruit, mineral, and earthy aromas. Head to a tiny boutique winery experimenting with Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah with tremendous results. First, saddle up on horseback for a short ride into surrounding eucaliptus forest and vineyards. Aftewards, sit down to a selection of their premium wines with the resident sommelier.
Lunch nearby at a casona with a chirpy garden and short-but-sweet menu focusing on country dishes provisioned by artisan producers. Savor wild rabbit, estate-raised lamb, organic produce or exquisite seafood from the Robinson Crusoe islands. Simple. Savory. Local.
Visit a family-owned winery tucked in a cool corner on the eucalyptus-peppered hillsides. They excel at making limited amounts of lip-smacking Sauvignon Blanc, satiny Pinot Noir, and electric Northern Rhone-style Syrah. Visit the petit winery with the winemaker, or sommelier, and then sit down to a tasting of their premium line with a sweeping view of the vines, valley, and surrounding hills.
Drive to land’s end to Valparaíso and check in at your hotel, set in a gorgeous 1920s Victorian mansion overlooking the port and bay below. Contemplate the picturesque port with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from their terrace, dive into the infinity pool, or dine at the excellent restaurant. Dinner is on your own. (Casa Higueras)
Start the day with an exploration of the enchanting port of Valparaiso, now a UNESCO world heritage site. Take the pulse of the turn-of-the-century hills through a historical walk and ride the city’s emblematic elevators dating back more than 100 years.
Drive up the coast, taking in the azure waters and rocky coastline from the scenic coastal highway. Stop for a local favorite: empanadas! Filled with the freshest seafood plucked straight from the sea, crab, razor clams, abalones, scallops, or with cheese, visit our friends who have been making these from scratch every day for generations.
Continue up the “Chilean Riviera”. Stop at our favorite village with dramatic cliffs, golden sand, and turquoise ocean cove. Dine by the sea with a wide variety of seafood and views overlooking the surf. Afterwards, work off lunch on your own following the footpaths, or simply soak up the spring sun on the beach.
Relax on your own in the hotel after lunch. In the evening, join the group for a private tasting dinner creatively showcasing of Chile’s primo ingredients like villagay (rockfish) to Patagonian lamb, Chilean papayas, and of course, lots of lush wine. (Casa Higueras)
Check out and travel to the San Antonio Wine Valley, a “wild west” of rugged, natural beauty and home to a handful of first-rate boutique wineries making stellar Pinot Noir, cold-weather Syrah, aromatic whites, and crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Connect with a family-run winery on their windy, sloping vineyards planted only kilometers from the ocean, making some of Chile’s finest Sauvignon Blanc. The lifelong dream of the winemaker/owner, her passion led her to plant cool-weather grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and lesser-known white varieties such as Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Gris–with phenomenal results. The family will show us the property and invite us to a tasting of their finest wines.
Drive south through Chile’s agricultural valleys dotted with orchards, vineyards, avocado groves, shiny lakes, and rolling hills. On the western edge of the Colchagua Valley, stop to visit a friend on her dairy farm. A passionate artisan cheese maker, join her to see how addictive manjar (milk caramel) and exquisite fresh and mature cheeses are hand made every day. You can even feed the baby calves with a bottle! Connect with her in a casual tasting of her products with fresh juices. After, the feast continues with a private, home-cooked traditional barbeque lunch in their garden with selected valley wines.
Head to the country town of Santa Cruz. Check into your comfortable colonial-style hotel on the main square adorned with wrought-iron balconies and fuchsia bougainvillea. The rest of the day is on your own. (Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza)
After a hearty country-style breakfast, drive nearby to the horseshoe-shaped Apalta Valley, a micro valley within Colchagua, renowned for its outstanding reds. Here, drop in on friends at one of Colchagua’s most prestigious boutique wineries, producing a single Cabernet-Carmenere blend from 115 year-old rootstock. Walk amid the craggy vines and admire the restored colonial cellar. Appreciate the exquisite 2008 harvest, known for remarkable finesse and balance.
Down the road, stop in to experience Chile’s chic, innovating, and highly acclaimed winery belonging to the Marnier family. Named 2008 Wine of Year, the wine reflects its opulent setting buried deep in an Apalta hillside. See the shiny installations followed by a private tasting in their gorgeous barrel cellar. Stay on for lunch as their private guests. Sip on some dazzling Sauvignon Blanc and take in the vineyards, valley, and snow-capped Andes in the distance. Let the resident chef dazzle you with elegant, simple food made from their biodynamic and organic garden paired with house wines. Ahh, this is the life in Chilean wine country!
After, head back to the hotel for a siesta and free afternoon. Indulge in the hotel’s spa with wraps, massages, and facials. Before dinner, visit friends in their charming, private country home of friends whose passion is creating homemade liqueurs. Utilizing a centuries-old tradition, organic native herbs, fruits and dried spices infuse artisanal spirits. Learn about this fascinating art and delight in the fruits of their labor. Dinner is on your own. (Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza)
After check out, meet artisans making some of Chile’s best premium olive oil. Walk with the passionate owner through the fascinating process of growing the olives, extracting the oil, and finally tasting the different varieties like Arbequina and Picual. Chile makes extremely high-quality low-acid extra virgin olive oils so this is a unique opportunity to learn about this art.
Stop at Colchagua’s oldest winery with terracotta-tiled roofs, whitewashed adobe facades, and hand-painted tiles. Visit their intimate medialuna (rodeo ring) nestled in tall eucalyptus trees. Be treated to a private showing of the traditional Movimiento de Riendas (Reign Display) by talented cowboys dressed in their elegant costumes with silk ponchos and silver spurs. Watch how dexterously they manage their horse in this short, and exhilarating demo.
Afterwards, lunch in the charming restaurant aside the polo field. Savor Chilean comfort creations that include grilled fish and meat, stuffed Cornish hens, and their addictive charqui (dried beef) empanadas. Raise your glass of delicious house Viognier or brilliant Caremenere in a hearty ¡Salud!
The last visit is in the foothills of the Cachapoal. Visit a project conceived with the sole objective of making a grand cru from Chile. No detail has been spared here—and the result is concentrated wines with great structure, soft tannins, bright aromas, and a tremendous balance. Get to know the soul of this wine with a tasting of the outstanding 2007 vintage.
Watch the scenery change from tranquil countryside to bustling city. Drop-off at Santiago’s airport for your departing international flight. Adios amigos!