Wines of Passion

Location: Talca, San Fernando, Pichilemu & Santa Cruz Chile

Introduction:

We’ve come to learn that producing good, inexpensive wine is fairly easy for winemakers to do in Chile. Through incredible good fortune, we’ve also come to learn that a small number of independent wine makers are pouring their passion into producing more distinctive wines that showcase the numerous grape varietals that are grown there. We enjoyed a number of these newer wines, some of which have not yet made it to market. We came away thoroughly impressed with the high quality “Wines of Passion” that these artisan’s are crafting and we hope that we’re lucky enough to find them exported to the USA in the future.

Sites Visited:

Cabernet Sauvignon is the top varietal produced in Chile but they are well known for Carménère, a noble grape once thought to be extinct. We went in search of both varietals and found many wines that we liked, especially Carménère. We started the week out in Talca and used it as a base to explore the wine region of the Maule Valley where red grape varietals prosper. We tried various wines from Balduzzi, Botalacura, Casas Patronales, Corral Victoria and El Aromo. The wines are good and incredibly inexpensive with Gran Reserve wines often priced at under $10 US. We especially liked the Carménère from Casas Patronales and Corral Victoria.
Next, we headed back to Santa Cruz to meet up with Ximena Pacheco, a fine winemaker who let us tag along with her for the day. First, we headed for the Lolol Valley where Andreas Caballeros and his partners have an extensive vineyard containing Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. He supplies Ximena with the Malbec grapes for her wine. After touring Andreas’ vineyards, he and his family hosted us for a delicious lunch at their home on the property.
By the time we left Lolol, it was late afternoon and we set out for San Fernando, to meet up with some of Ximena’s friends and fellow winemakers for an Asado (Barbeque) at one of their homes. WOW, what an amazing experience we had. Our hosts Jose Ignacio Maturano & his lovely wife Gloria made us feel right at home and served up several courses of delicious food and wine. Their 7-year old daughter, Josefa, even presented us with an American flag that she drew for us. The conversation throughout the night was engaging and Jose kept disappearing into his wine cellar and returning with a new bottle for us to try. We started the evening with sparkling wine and moved on to savor new wines that each of the winemakers had just produced including the varietals of Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, followed by Pinot Noirs, a home made wild-cherry digestive, Sauvignon Blanc, a Premier Cru from Burgundy and a very special bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon crafted from a blend of barrels from each of the top100 Chilean winemakers (http://www.topwinemakers.cl/english/?page_id=9). Our favorite wine of the night was Jose Ignacio’s new wine, a blend of 72% Carménère and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon (http://maturana-wines.cl). We were floored when he gave us the 1st bottle of their production to take with us. We can’t stop talking about what a great time we had that night.
We moved onto Pichilemu, a popular resort town with Chileans on the Pacific Coast, with beautiful dark sand beaches where we cooled off for a couple of days.
We returned to Santa Cruz and the Colchagua Valley, Chile’s most famous wine region, where we visited several wineries: Casa Lapostolle, MontGras, Estampa and Santa Rita (in the Maipo Valley). We also sampled wines from Via Manent, Miguel Torres, Santa Carolina, Laura Hartwig, Garcia Schwaferer, Montes & Casa Silva. Our visit to Chile has really opened our eyes to the high quality wines that they are producing. These wines may represent the best values of any wine region we’ve ever visited. We consistently enjoyed Chile’s Chardonnay and Carménère with some bottles costing as little as $5 US.

Accommodations:

We stayed 3 nights at the Eco Hotel in Talca. It’s a modern hotel with decent A/C that came in handy in the midst of a heat wave that had temps up in the high 90’s.
We spent 1 night in San Fernando at Hostal San Fernando. It was very basic but the A/C worked great and they provided a basic breakfast.
We spent 2 nights in a cabin @ Cabanas Houseki nestled on the Pacific Ocean in Pichilemu. There was no A/C and no Internet but it cooled off at night and we used our Sim Cards to get some basic Internet access. We also took advantage of the kitchen to cook dinner both nights.
We spent 2 nights at Hotel Vandimia in Santa Cruz. It had good A/C, poor wifi and a very nice breakfast.

Food And Drink:

We took advantage of the reasonable prices to eat out and got a salad and seafood fix for dinner twice at Nis’sant in Talca.
We enjoyed a very nice lunch at a small winery named Vina Corral Victoria in the Maule Valley wine region. One of our dishes was Pastel de Choclo, a sweet corn casserole that is a local favorite. It was hard to believe that our 3-course meal, including a bottle of wine and tip, was under $40 US.
We were spoiled with some delicious home cooking at Andreas Caballeros’s house that included Porotos Granados (bean & corn stew), Pebre (salsa) and Pam Amasado (bread from scratch finished on the grill).

Transportation System:

We extended our rental car for another week tacking on an additional 800 Km.

Shout Outs:

We can’t thank Ximena Pacheco enough for spending a day with us and immersing us in the essence of Chilean wine, including her lovely new natural Malbec. That’s a day we’ll never forget.
We’re very grateful to fine winemaker Jose Ignacio Maturano & his lovely wife Gloria who hosted us for an Asado at their home in San Fernando, Chile.
We’re also grateful to Felipe and Tomas Uribe for sharing the pre-release of their new “700” wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Malbec produced from grapes grown at 700 meters in the Andes mountains. They then gave us a bottle to take with us. Thanks Guys!
 
We greatly appreciate the vineyard tour and fine lunch that we enjoyed at Andreas Cabellero’s home in Lolol, Chile.

For Your Amusement:

The Eco Hotel gym included a lounge massage chair to sooth one’s aching muscles after a tiring workout on their extensive high-end equipment.
Just about every town in South America that we’ve stayed in has had a casino, which has surprised us. We were further surprised when we decided to check out the casino in Santa Cruz and learned that there was a fee to get in and people were lined up to get in. Needless to say, we passed.

Highlights:

Chilean wines and the day we spent with winemaker Ximena Pacheco, which is one day that we’ll be talking about for years to come.

Next Up: We return to the big city of Santiago, where we’ll close out our visit to South America.

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