Feb. 6, 2019 Santiago, Chile - wine tour of the Casablanca Valley
While we were still at home in Webster, we selected a wine tour in the Casablanca Valley - about an hour drive from the city. This has been a wine producing region for only about 30 years. It was dairy cattle before an enterprising person visited the wine country of California and observed that this particular valey in Chile matched the climate of the famous North American wine region. He was told wines could not be made made there because of freezing temperatures which would ruin the grapes. They were right! But undaunted, he tried methods to prevent freezing including misting the fruit and using windmills to circulate the cold air from the ground. He succeeded, and made award winning wines! Now there was a land rush to follow his example and the valley produces many of Chile’s best wines.
We learned all of this from our guide, Vivian (Vi-Vi). She and the driver Ricky took us to three wineries for tasting on this nearly all-day excursion. It turned out to be a private tour since no others had signed up on that Wednesday.
The ride out of the city into the fresh country air involved driving right through a mountain in a very long tunnel. From there it was on farm roads with many bumps and twists. Our first vineyard and winery (Loma Larga) was a small, family establishment where we enjoyed four different vintages. We learned how the vines are trimmed to protect the sunny side from the hot afternoon rays and how the top fruit is pared to allow only the soil nutrients to enrich the lower grapes. Roses are also grown between rows of vines to act as signals if a disease arises since a rose plant will be infected first. The soil for grapes should be stressed which invigorates the vines to fight for survival and make the best fruit for wine. Casablanca Valley is noted for its ‘poor’ soil (for other crops) but is perfect for wine production.
Our second stop was the most interesting since our host Judith is an experienced sommelier and an animated speaker. These vines are planted on hills and all the work was done by a quite old man and wife who were walking through the property. The Rose was delicious and the pairing with cheese spectacular!
Our final stop was at the largest vineyard, Morande Vistamar Mancura. This establishment was far from the family owned previous stops and seemed to be a major part of the Chilean wine industry. We cut the tour of the facilities short and had a limited food/wine paring experience since we were getting tired from the pace of the day. We headed back to Santiago and in an hour were snug in our hotel with a plate of cheese and cold cuts to make up for the shortened lunch which was not even very appetizing at the Morande location. By now Anne was starting to feel queazy so she skipped dinner. Luckily we always carry ‘emergency’ food for such situations.