Our Grand Tour

19th Nov. 2016

Off on our own Grand TourLast night we watched the first episode of Grand Tour on Amazon Video – where Clarkson et al moved to when they were sacked by the BBC. It seems it isn’t just the presenters that moved over but the whole production team as some of the ideas were clever (more were silly) and the photography was just stunning. Overall, it had a style & panache that the Chris Evans’ Top Gear just didn’t have. Anyway – getting back to the point – today, we are doing a ‘grand tour’ of our own. On bicycles, around some of the local vineyards – one of our very favourite activities.

Packed pool at Posada ColchaguaOne of the reasons that we chose to stay in Posada Colchagua is that they said they had free bicycle rental. Well they did, but we were too slow getting started and one of the two bikes left had a puncture. This nearly caused a major change of plan, but the husband of the owner set to, leapt on the other bike and trundled off returning 10mins later with a brand new inner tube. Another 10 minutes later and we were ready to go. Fortunately, I remembered to check the tyre and so removed the long thorn that caused the original puncture. This incident proved to be a metaphor for the entire day – things look like they’re going wrong but then work out.

Who's in charge here?We head off, cross-country, on a back road (dirt-track) out of town. At least this time, we’re on mountain bikes and we don’t have to worry as to whether or not they are sufficiently robust for the conditions. The countryside is quite reminiscent of home with flat fields with a variety of crops, predominantly vines which at one place have people tending to them (under the supervision of their dog). It’s spring here and the grapes can clearly be seen. At Viu Manent yesterday, we were told that in a couple of weeks the grapes will be fully established. However, the warm, bright sunshine is not exactly the weather back home at the minute, so we’re going to enjoy this while we can.

Bridge to nowhereAs we cross the main road, we also cross the disused railway line and spot a rusty iron bridge to one side. This does need to be investigated but I can’t get close either down the tracks (as they are too overgrown) or from the road. Oh well. Its only a few hundred metres now to Viña Estampa our first winery of the day. This is in a new, modern building set in the middle of a large field of immaculately laid out vines. Outside is set up for tastings with tables fashioned from old wine barrels each individually painted in a different style. The only problem is that there is no-one else here and the whole place is looking suspiciously shut.

The path to Viña Estampa Just as we are about to remount and head off, we spot a chap at the window waving us in so we are saved. Overnight, we had done some research on wineries and tours and we now knew that most offered tastings chargeable by the glass as well as tours. So, we ask our new friend about tasting options and settle on trying one of the white wines and three of the reds. This way not only do we not need to worry about having a designated driver, we also don’t feel obligated to buy a bottle or two as we do in French vineyards. Whilst we are sipping the wine and talking pretentious tosh about the aroma and the ‘complexity’ of the taste our host explains a little about the Estampa winery. He explains that with a production of c. 1m bottles a year, this is a tiny winery by Chilean standards. (Concha y Toro who produce Castillo del Diablo amongst other wines take 60% of all the grapes grown in Chile and produce 400m – 500m bottles per year).

How do I describe this wine? Yummy!He also asks us where else we are planning to go and suggests that instead of going to the larger Montgras winery (which did have a bad review on TripAdvisor) we go to the smaller Laura Hartwig winery back toward Santa Cruz. As this would also give us the option to have lunch in a nearby restaurant, it is a winning argument and off we head. The restaurant turns out to be the appropriately named Vino Bello very close to Casa Colchagua where we ate last night (and which was our lunch-time backup plan). As our plan is to have a cold buffet from the supermarket tonight, we feel entirely free to tuck into the Italian oriented menu here – and wash it down with a glass of wine.

Bustling office block at Laura HartwigFortunately, the Laura Hartwig winery is only a few hundred metres further down the road. Once again, although the gates are open, once we ride past the rows of vines there doesn’t appear to be any life in the buildings. Even the sales office is closed and locked. Again, we’re just about to leave when a chap appears and apologises for leaving the office closed whilst he gets on with some work. This winery only does red wines and after asking for recommendations we choose to sample a Carmenere (ubiquitous here in Chile), a Syrah and a Cabernet Franc. Unlike at Estampa these are not blends but each from a single type of vine. Cue more talking nonsense while we actually get on with enjoying the wine.

I don't think the statue is amusedWe’re now close to the town of Santa Cruz and although it is out of our direct route back to the hotel, we do need to go into town at some point to pick up our food for tonight. We know we won’t want to go out again once we get back, so we bite the bullet and head off into town. After a quick stop to take some photos in the Plaza de Armas (and raid the money-machine) we find the supermarket and grab a roast chicken, a baguette and an apple tart. Along with some red wine we were presented with as a welcome gift from the hotel, that sounds like a pretty good meal.

Looking out from our patioThen comes the hard part – the final 8km ride home. At least the road is flat and we see the marks painted every 25m on the road with the distance from the town centre written out every 100m so we can count down the remaining distance. We covered about 20km on our Grand Tour and our vehicles were a bit less fancy than the trio of supercars driven by Clarkson and the boys. However, as we sit on the patio outside our room enjoying our roast chicken in the last of the evening sunshine, we reflect on another good day and think that we’ve done a pretty fair job of sampling Chilean produce.

This entry was posted in Latin America 2016 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *