16 Aug Enchanted by Chile: Three Wine Country Wonders
I recently had the good fortune to visit Chile for the first time, to speak at a tourism conference in Santiago. After my remarks about the American view of Chile and what Chilean travel companies could do to attract more American travelers, the first question I was asked was, “You’ve been a travel writer and editor for four decades. What took you so long to get to Chile?”
This was an excellent question, and now, after having experienced the extraordinary warmth of the people and some of the soul-expanding riches of the country for ten delight-filled days, I’m asking myself the same thing.
I discovered many wonders in Chile — here are three I found in the wine country:
Located just 45 minutes from Santiago in Maipo Valley, this historic winery is set within a beautiful 98-acre estate. In addition to showcasing its award-winning wines, the winery complex also houses the elegant 16-room boutique Hotel Casa Real, the delicious Doña Paula Restaurant (a National Monument!), and the Museo Andino, a superb museum that imaginatively displays 1,800 pieces of pre-Columbian art collected by one of the winery’s previous owners.
This brilliant new enterprise brings Chile’s wine countries to the heart of downtown Santiago. Visitors begin their “tour” at the Sensory Exploration Room, where the distinctive aromas — from apple to violet — associated with varied wines can be whiffed. They then move on the Film & Tasting Room, where each seat is graced with a placemat and five glasses of wine. A video introduces a wine region and five of its resident winemakers, who describe their wines and invite the visitors to taste the glasses before them. It’s all artfully done, and great — and educational — fun.
Set in the owner’s former childhood home in Casablanca Valley, midway between Santiago and Valparaiso, this inviting restaurant is an absolute delight. Seasonal regional ingredients, plucked fresh from Andean foothill farmlands and Pacific coastal waters, are presented in innovative and delectable ways, and paired masterfully with Casablanca Valley vintages. Dining here combines cuisine of the highest level with the warmth of a home-cooked meal.
If the wonders of Chile are luring you south from Santiago, grab a bike! Backroads Active Travel leads a tour through Chile’s lakes and volcanoes district, and will pair your pedal-fueled days with local wines and inspired cuisine.