The Chile Caper: Wine Tasting in the Casablanca Valley

As we mentioned in the last post, our flights to Chile were both red-eyes, which meant instead of spending all Sunday on a plane, we had another full day to explore. After spending all day Saturday within the city, we thought Sunday it would be fun to get out and see more of the surrounding area. It was too early in the year (typically November – March) to view the penguins on Punta Arenas Island (our first choice!), so we settled on the next best way to explore a new place: wine tasting!

Okay, so wine tasting in winter isn’t the most conventionally ideal timing, but even without the green blooms, the area is still a stunner.

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We booked through Uncorked Wine Tours, and would absolutely recommend them. We thought the price was a little high in the end, but it is hard to argue with the convenience and it did grant us a full day of transportation, 3 winery tours, a fabulous gourmet lunch, and a really knowledgeable guide. Plus they dropped us off directly at the airport after the tour!

There are quite a few different wine tasting tour companies within Santiago, so you can shop around for what interests you the most. The wine culture of Chile is interesting because it is more or less very new. Really taking off in the 1980s, the number of wineries in Chile grew from 12 in 1995 or over 70 in 2005. The climate is a mix of what you see in both California and France, with the most common grapes being Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot and the more unique (and my favorite), Carmenere.

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The Casablanca Valley is about 50 minutes north of Santiago, but the drive through the area is beautiful (okay, okay, I totally slept, but I tried really hard to keep my eyes open to soak in the scenery). A bonus of visiting in the tail-end of winter: we had the tour to ourselves (typically groups are 2-8 people).

Our first stop of the day was Bodegas Re. This winery uses a mix of wood barrels and clay pots for their wine and despite having a long history in wine, the family only had their first season professionally in 2008.

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Bodegas Re ended up being my favorite wine of the day. We bought a bottle to bring home as a gift.. you better believe we made work of the 2 bottles per person that custom allows you to bring back to the US 🙂

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Next up, we headed to the beautiful Loma Larga Vineyard. The ranch style buildings and surrounding lush farms and greenery were exactly what I was imagining for the Casablanca Valley.

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Loma Larga grows all the fruit that they use in their wines themselves, so in addition to the vines, they had a huge variety of trees and other plants. Unfortunately, the night before had been a pretty big storm and there were down trees and branches all over the place.

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While the wine wasn’t my top choice of the day, it was still my favorite stop. Just a beautiful place to explore and our guide was just so friendly and passionate about her job (Even though we were paying for the tour via Uncorked, each winery hosted their own tour, not our Uncorked guide).

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A beautiful place for a tasting overlooking the apricot trees!

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After two tastings we were more than ready to get some food in our stomachs! Lunch was at the beautiful Equilibrio Restaurant at Matetic Vineyards.

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Lunch consisted of a set four courses which each came with its own wine pairing.

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Ceviche

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Beef with Polenta

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Crab Stuffed Pasta

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Gooey Butter Cake with Cobbler

The entire price for lunch was included with the tour, and everything was absolutely wonderful! I’m a big supporter of every meal incorporating ceviche while in Chile.

The final stop of the tour, was then to Matetic Vineyard itself. By now the skies had opened and it had started raining. Thankfully Matetic had covered awnings so we could still soak in the vineyards without soaking ourselves.

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Once inside, they have a beautiful cellar. Matetic opened in 1999, but have already expanded to include a small hotel and the restaurant where we had lunch. They have the most land of the wineries that visited today and the hills surrounding were covered in vines. I can only imagine this place in the midst of Spring!

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Once we were done at Matetic, we were back in the van for the 50 minute ride back to Santiago.

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We were able to get dropped right back off at the airport around 2 and a half hours before out flight out. After very quick lines through security, we spent our time waiting around in the AA Admirals Club there. While dated, they had a rather decent selection of Chilean wines (far nicer than anything they serve in First Class…)

Since so much of this story was inspired by the cost of the hotel room being cheaper than the price of a hot dog…we just had to grab a few hot dogs to try while in the airport.

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Paul’s is the one without mayo (the traditional Chilean way!)

Paul Note: Interesting, for our flight back, we had the same flight attendants as we did on the way down. They recognized us immediately,  were very nice, and thankfully no seat issues this time. That said, American Airlines has a very disappointing international first class experience, saying nothing of the complete lack of any sense of customer service. I cannot rationalize the extra miles to fly it, and we will be actively avoiding it in the future. (First world problems, we know!)

Overall the weekend was a fun adventure. With Patagonia and penguins left to see, this surely won’t be our last trip to Chile!

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