The cuisine is delectable and unique, the vineyards and landscapes are breathtaking, and the wineries are world class. Heading for a late dinner in the hip city of Mendoza, engaging in conversation with a Chilean wine maker, or simply saying “hola!” to the many locals we meet on our activities, reminds you that South Americans seem to have a proper balance to their lives, with friends, family, and fun co-existing with work.
We meet at our Santiago hotel at noon and begin our experience together in Chile with a chef-guided exploratory tour of the city’s La Vega market and Mercado Central (one of the top food markets in the world), which feature numerous local food and seafood vendors and restaurants, and is an excellent place to peruse the area’s freshest ingredients for cooking. From there, we will take our purchases and head to a private kitchen, where the real fun begins!
Together, we will create authentic Chilean dishes. Once we have finished cooking, we will feast on our creations – and our food, of course, will be complemented by delicious Chilean wines. We’ll return to our hotel in the early evening where you’ll have time to rest up and then explore a bit on your own tonight, if you like.
After breakfast, we’ll check out of our hotel and begin our travels south, ultimately arriving in the town of Santa Cruz. Along the way, we will visit Vina Undurraga, in the Maipo Valley south of Santiago. Undurraga is one of the most prestigious and longest-operating wineries in Chile.
We’ll also enjoy a tasting and country-style Chilean cuisine at the 100% family-owned Casa Silva estate. You will have your first views of the most highly decorated wine valley in Chile — the Colchagua Valley — also known as the “Napa” of Chile. Additionally, we ’ll be treated to views of the surrounding Andes Mountains, the vineyards, and the estate’s polo field! After checking into our beautiful hotel among the vines this afternoon, you can relax poolside a bit before dinner.
After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll have the option to visit the incredible Colchagua Anthropological Museum (a unique museum considered to be the most important in Chile by many).
Our first winery visit today will take us to the beautiful Apalta Valley. Here, surrounded by breathtaking steep hillsides and panoramic views, rests the venerable Montes winery owned by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray. We’re not sure which is more spectacular: the wines or the winery’s tranquil setting and verdant design.
Next we’ll take you to Clos Apalta for lunch (and, of course, wine), a winery that produced what Wine Spectator Magazine named the Wine of the Year in 2008. Owned by the Lapostolle’ family, there is not a more picture perfect and architecturally stunning winery in all of the Apalta Valley. (They were also featured on the cover of Wine Enthusiast’s March 2015 issue for their Clos Apalta 2011.) Tonight’s dinner is at one of the many wonderful local restaurants.
We drive north from Santa Cruz this morning, toward the cooler Casablanca Valley, several hours to the north. This stretch of land nearer to the coast has become Chile’s top white wine region.
Our first stop will be just south of lovely and vibrant small town of Casablanca, where we will enjoy a relaxing wine-pairing lunch at a local winery. We came all this way to taste wine, didn’t we? Of course, we did! So we will have another short tasting at one of the other wineries – perhaps at Emiliana, which focuses on biodynamic practices, or Veramonte, whose facility is built for small-lot wine production to allow individual vineyard blocks to be fermented and aged separately prior to final blending, which in turn allows winemakers to produce vineyard-expressive wines. Then it is on to the coast and the seaside town of Viña del Mar, where our hotel is right on the ocean.
Tonight’s dinner is on your own — if you are up for more exploration, we recommend taking a taxi to Valparaiso, just a few minutes away. Otherwise, there are plenty of great options right out the door of the hotel. In either case, you’ll fall asleep listening to the crashing waves below.
After a relaxing morning near the ocean, we move to our final (and prettiest, we think!) wine valley visit in Chile: the Aconcagua.
Our first stop will be a visit to Vina Von Siebenthal, with a tasting of their eloquent wines led by the lovely Soledad. With a backdrop of the snow-capped Andes and the fresh spring vines spread out in front of us, you will wonder if you will ever see a prettier vineyard! Dinner tonight is at a private wine estate and our husband (winemaker) and wife (chef) hosts will ensure it will be one of the trip’s most memorable.
After breakfast, we visit Vina San Esteban, where Maria Jose will lead us through a blending course and where you will make your very own cuvee’. Be warned, if you don’t like your wine, you can blame the winemaker – yourAfterwarderwards, we depart Los Andes and head south toward Santiago to catch our flight over the Andes Mountains to Argentina and the vibrant, exciting city of Mendoza, which is surrounded by hundreds of wineries. (This flight is estimated to cost $400 — we will purchase this for you and include this cost in your invoice). From the plane, we just might see the impressive Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas!
We will head directly downtown to check in our hotel next to the main square of Mendoza. We purposely give you a little free time this afternoon for exploring on your own. Tonight, we have an over-the-top dinner with wine (and perhaps a cigar, if you’re so inclined) at Cavo de Cano. You have never seen so many plates of wonderful food on one table, we guarantee it!
Today we head south to visit the wine-producing region of the Uco Valley, the highest-altitude vineyards in the province, with the massive dormant volcano Tupungato staring down at us! Our first stop is at Bodegas Salentein. This cross-shaped building was made as a tribute to the Jesuit missionaries who settled here in the 16thcentury.
Next, we head over to the private vineyards and luxurious resort at The Vines of Mendoza which is also home to Siete Fuegos, a restaurant of internationally acclaimed chef Francis Mallman. Mallman creates inspired regional dishes that showcase Argentina’s famous beef. Our late lunch here has us looking out at the snow-capped peaks of the Andes while we sip on their private label wines – a true oasis in the desert.
We begin our day with a comparative Malbec tasting in the wine area outside Mendoza of Lujan de Cuyo. Malbec is Argentina’s “signature” wine (as much as Carmenere is Chile’s) and is a rich, chewy wine with many fruity tones – comparing similar wines like this helps isolate the smaller differences. A trio of Malbecs, made by the same producer, in the same year, from different vineyards will end up with similarities in the flavors and aromas but can help the taste buds recognize the subtle differences when directly compared.
Afterward, we will have a multi-course lunch with wine at a different winery. Mendoza’s three wine areas are home to close to a thousand wineries, with new ones rising to fame all the time, so we often wait to see what is new and hot before deciding exactly where to go this day. Later this afternoon, you can partake in a siesta, or explore the very walkable neighborhood near our hotel on your own.
Tonight, we have a farewell dinner in Mendoza. It’s time to share your wine country adventures and stories over a glass of your favorite varietal(s), a wonderful meal, and great company!
After a restful last night in the hotel, we will say our goodbyes on this final day of our Taste Vacation, depart for the airport, or continue on to your own South American wine journey!
We will return you to our hotel in the late afternoon, where the rest of the afternoon and dinner is on your own (if you still have room for it). We recommend the lively Aristides Street, where you can get a big helping of Mendocino culture and join the locals as they live it up.