Wines of Chile – Aconcagua and Casablanca Regions
About fifty miles to the north of Santiago is the town of San Esteban and the eastern border of the Aconcagua wine region. The region’s name comes from Mt. Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America at 22,828 feet, just over the border in Argentina’s Mendoza province. The wine-makers plant the Cabernet Sauvignon grape in the highest quantity in the region, followed by Merlot and Syrah.
In San Esteban is the Vina San Esteban where you can take a tourist tour (and sample 2 In Situ wines) or the expert tour that includes samples of four In Situ wines. Tour reservations must be made 48 hours in advance and last an hour. While at the winery, you can also take a tour of the petroglyphs nearby as well.
Eighteen miles west is the town of Panquehue, Chile and the nearby Viña Errazuriz. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. Looking at the tours, it seems like a combination of two-hour viewpoint tour that ends with a tasting of their Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon wines combined with the two-hour icon tour that has three other wines to taste after learning more about the history of the winery would be the best way to experience the entire winery and probably get a bit drunk.
From there, it is about a little over two hours to Valparaiso, the second largest metropolitan area in Chile and the main population center just to the north of the Casablancas wine region. Chardonnay is the most common grape planted here followed by the Sauvignon Blanc and then a virtual tie between Merlot and Pinot Noir.
From Valparaiso, it’s a 30-minute drive to Casablanca where you can find the Casas del Bosque Winery. Here you can take two different tours, both of which end with tastings of five different wines. You can also take a side trip to Mirador where you can sample wine and appetizers on your own beneath a big shade tree. (Don’t let the fact that they compare it to a “Sideways” experience scare you away – the pictures don’t seem to contain any Paul Giamatti look-alikes to ruin the romance.)
Also nearby is Vina Mar, a winery with tours on every day of the week. Unfortunately, the website describes tastings as “optional” when that would be a major selling point for stopping by in my book. However, the fact that they have Roman style calamari that they pair with a sparkling brut wine just sounds like a great way to start a meal and a celebration of a great time exploring vineyards. Heck, go here first and use the wine and food to celebrate the start of the exploration of vineyards. Either way, I know that I can’t wait to get down there to explore and taste. See you soon in the southern hemisphere.
About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."