This is where the trip got really interesting.
Having had our fill of Santiago, we decided to make our way to Vina del Mar on the Chilean coast. I found a wine guide that would pick us up in Santiago at our hotel, take us to 3 vineyards and lunch, and then drop us at our Bed and Breakfast in Vina.
Al Rameriz is a sommelier (one who studies wine) from Chile that basically grew up in New York City. It was such a relief to find someone who spoke English well. Most Chileans do not and our espanol es mal! Al was quite knowledgeable and has had some incredible life experiences at his young age. If you’re ever in Chile, check him out here.
The Casablanca Valley is a cooler climate, making it better for white wines. This is where a lot of the more well-known Chilean wine come from, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. that’s all well and good, but I’m in it for the big reds! We made sure to have a sampling of Carménère everywhere we went. I won’t bore you with all the details of everything, but here were my highlights:
I should preface this by saying that Chile is not Italy. In Italy, they have tons of small wineries and you often do a tasting with winemaker or a member of their family (like these tastings we did with the winemaker and their winemaker’s mother in Barolo last year). At Emiliana the tasting guide was Brazilian and it was his second day on the job. If you ever go to Chile, it is worth the money for a knowledgeable wine tour (such as Al).
Here we tasted a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. I likes the Sauvignon Blanc better, but it’s a matter of taste. Crisp, citrus-y young whites are my favorite. the lighter and greener the wine it is in color, the younger the wine.
Our favorites were the reds. Their blend, Coyam (pictured on the far right above), was a hit throughout the trip. We ordered it whenever we saw it in a restaurant! The blend was 41% Syrah, 29% Carménère, 20% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Mourvedre, 1% Petit Verdot. Normally I’d say that’s too much, but the berries and black fruits on the palate were fabulous. It was a good structure and soft tannins. It was a fun, complex wine that was wonderful to taste.
Tip of the day: Always snack while wine tasting!
This was my favorite winery. William Cole founded the winery in 1999, right as the valley was being established. The funny part about the story is that Mr. Cole is an American! He’s from Denver, Colorado, but married to a Chilean woman. The symbol on his wine bottles is the Columbine, Colorado’s state flower.
The wines we tasted were from his Columbine Special Reserve line. They were: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a Carménère. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was quite green in color with grapefruit and pepper on the nose. The minerals and acidity were prevalent, but this young white we well balanced with a pleasingly long finish. The Pinot was good,nut the tannis were a little sweet for my palate.
Predictably, my favorite was the Carménère. It had a deep, rich garnet color and was the most complex wine we tasted this day. The nose was filled with tobacco and vanilla, with just a hint of cocoa. In the mouth this wine is layered with dark berries and some oak.
A bottle may have found it’s way into my suitcase. 🙂
It was at this winery that we heard two guys walk in speaking with Southern accents. We struck up a conversation and learned we were all from the Southeast. That is how we met a couple of Navy men that would make our trip 100x more fun. The guys were the top two officers on a US Navy ship parked in Valpariaso. We immediately hit it off, and even exchanged contact information with the thought of meeting up in Valpo. I didn’t think we’d ever see them again, but I was proven wrong! More on that after lunch and the rest of wine tour…
At this point it was past time for lunch. Al and Eduardo took us to this adorable restaurant called Macerado. It’s in an beautiful old house on a farm, so most of their food is quite literally locally sourced. If you’re ever in the Casablanca Valley, I highly recommend it.
We shared a huge salad with hearts of palm, olives, and avocado, as well as a grilled fish served with a baked pepper, parsley and abalone sauce and Parmesan husked wheat stew. It was fantastic.
This may not look like much for the 3 of us to share, but they bring out a TON of bread and salsa before meals here. We learned quickly to share entrees if we were going to enjoy the carbs!
Al ordered a rabbit dish that was cooked in an apricot gravy and served with a baked vegetable salad (basically ratatouille) with sesame with fresh thyme. It too was scrumptious (thanks for the taste, Al!).
Casas del Bosque
Unfortunately this was not our favorite winery. It was the most commercial and the wine tasted… more processed, I suppose is the right word. There weren’t the layers and complexity present as with the previous wineries.
They did do one neat thing – on the table there were glasses filled with red and green peppers and coffee. Smelling one of those prior to tasting the appropriate wine further bring out the flavor of the juice.
The day’s fun had just started to begin. We bid our adieus to Al and Eduardo, successfully checked into the B&B, and checked our email. The Navy officers had actually emailed us! We were to be picked up by their driver at 9:30p. Impressive, no? We got showered, watched some TV (they had E! in English!), and waited. And waited. And waited. They finally showed at 10:30p. It turned out the restaurant was much further than anticipated and yada, yada, yada…
Any annoyance I felt dissipated when the driver turned on the lights and sirens to rush us to the restaurant. I wish I could do that every time I’m starving!
Before you get the wrong idea… my 2 friends are married, and one of the officers is married. No inappropriate shenanigans was had with the Navy officers. We were glad to find some other Americans to hang with and I think they were glad to have someone off the ship (i.e. not an 18 year old kid) to talk to. And we would have NEVER gotten in the car with strangers had they not been US Naval officers.
Dinner was at a very nice steak house called Santa Brasa in Concón, which is right outside of Valpariaso. At this point it is nearly 11p and we are starving. Thankfully, Micheal (the XO officer) had empanadas waiting for us.
That was followed by the most gigantic pieces of steak I’ve ever seen (we ordered family-style). It came out smoking! It also came out with a couple of (unpictured) bottles of Carménère.
Its been a loooong time since I’ve had a steak on my plate. It will probably be a long time before I do it again… but OMG this was a good one. Well worth the interesting tummy issues the next day.
I tried to balance it out with a spinach salad and roasted asparagus with mushrooms. Followed by a few french fries.
The 5 of us shut down the restaurant, but we weren’t tired… bring on the casino!
(Note to self: you are too old to stay out this late.)
To be continued…
I hope I’m not boring you guys too much with all the recaps. There is just so much to share! 🙂
Have you ever had such random things happen on a trip? Do tell!
Are you a red or a white wine fan?