Wine Country

18th Nov. 2016

Beautiful lake but nowhere to stopToday we are heading for Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley famous for wine. It is back up the Pan American highway retracing our steps of yesterday to begin with and then heading north west. In planning our route, we have spotted a large lake which looks a good candidate for a picnic lunch stop. We have been unable to obtain an old fashioned paper map so are relying on technology.

DamMy phone is playing up and I cannot access settings, so have been unable to download a map of Chile. Dave has two maps on his phone so what could possibly go wrong. We lost GPS signal and so were travelling blind, going from memory I was sure it was somewhere close. Finally rounding a corner we saw a huge dam. Following the road which wound its way up the hill, we saw the expansive lake with snow covered Andes in the background. Time for a photo, but the roadside is all fenced off with nowhere to stop. We do find a break in the fence and get the photo but it is a missed opportunity not to have a picnic area or watersports.

Cementario ParkContinuing on we land up in San Fernando and spot a Cementerio Park, on the now working phone map, which makes an interesting lunch stop. There are benches in the shade of trees overlooking small grave stones. More like a crematorium cemetery back home but a tranquil setting to sit a while. As Dave photographs a local pair of nesting birds, one is obviously quite protective of their nest and dive bombs at his legs!

Stupid place for a nestTime to move on and switch drivers, we begin discussing the wineries, and I have read that many have tours but they are quite expensive compared to say France or even New Zealand and they may require reservations. As we pass Viña Viu Manent we decide to investigate. They have a 3pm tour starting in five minutes and spaces on the English tour, so we sign up. Our flexible friend swallows the near £20 per head cost.

Taken for a rideIt is quite a slick operation and well rehearsed spiel explaining vines, grape growing and wine production. Having studied the vines we climb aboard a horse drawn cart for a ride around the vineyard to see the different types and ages including the 80 year old vines. The fields of vines seem to stretch away into the distance and we are told that this is only one of three estates that are owned and used by this winery.

I think I need a bigger glassWe are handed wine glasses so we can pour direct from the large vat full of three months old wine and have a taste – essentially just alcoholic grape juice. Also a well rehearsed photo opportunity for us punters. We return to visitors centre on the horse drawn cart to hear the  history of the third generation Spanish family who own the winery and three different areas of vines from here to the coast. It has a 5 million litres capacity in their tanks but normally produced only 3 million, relatively small by Chilean standards.

All ready for tastingIt was then to their tasting area already set up with four reds poured and a white chilled ready for when we arrived. We have read that Chile has an almost zero alcohol driving limit so I restrict myself to a sneaky few sips of the Sauvignon Blanc before sniffing the reds, which Dave therefore enjoyed double samples of. This did not go unnoticed by the guide!!

Sunset over the vineyard

Luckily it was an easy route of a few miles to our accommodation for the next two nights, in a lovely villa overlooking a courtyard and an outdoor pool. It is however not within walking distance of restaurants so I get to drive to Casa Colchagua about 6km away. Here we sit on the terrace overlooking more fields of vines, with swallows swooping and falcons(?) circling as the sun sets. I finally get to taste Pastel de Choclo, which is like cottage pie but with a corn mash, and very tasty.

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