Date Explored: January 27, 2016
After recovering from three long flights to get to Santiago, including a 9-hour overnight flight, on Wednesday morning our foursome was picked up by the always cheerful Antonio from Private Tours Chile for a half-day tour of Santiago and a visit to Emiliana Organic Vineyards in the Casablanca Wine Valley. Our visit to Emiliana was the first of four vineyard visits over two days. If you’re thinking about touring around Santiago, be sure to check out Leo Cuzmar’s site. He’s the guy in charge of Private Tours Chile and they do a great job, but I found it a little difficult, after hearing about Leo’s business on Trip Advisor, to find the website. So now that I’ve provided it, bookmark it!
Let me say again that Antonio was amazing. Friendly, helpful, always a smile on his face, chock-full of information, the kind of guy you want to take to lunch (and we did). The half-day city tour of Santiago was just enough for me, especially considering that this was our third time in South America. I liked what Antonio showed us of Santiago, but really we were itching to get to wine country, and I don’t even like most wines. But I wanted to spread my wings, try to educate my taste buds, and my comrades were already way ahead of me in that department.
Before we could proceed to the tasting, however, we had to tour the vineyard. Emiliana employs a lot of different methods to protect their grapes, including growing flowers and shrubs that pests will attack before getting to the vines, keeping llamas to “mow” the lawn, and employing tons of chickens to eat the insects.
The Emiliana vineyard we visited doesn’t do any wine production. That was carried out elsewhere. So when you visit, you’re pretty much focused on the vineyard. The wine house, whatever you might call it (are we picking up my ignorance here?) was empty when we had our tasting. I enjoyed the tasting very much. I’m just not meant to quaff four glasses of wine in short order. Not to worry, the other members of my troupe were very, um, adept at picking up the slack for me.
The cheese was very, very good.
Everyone was very happy following this tour. We had already figured out that Chileans eat “lunch” late by North American standards. Our guide Antonio suggested we stop at a little local Casablanca eatery en route to our hotel in Vina del Mar, on the Pacific Ocean. We all had Pastel de Choclo, also known as Corn Pie, a hot casserole of chicken, boiled egg, raisins, ground beef and olives, topped with corn. It was excellent and hearty, but the portions were huge! (This was also going to become a recurring theme. Chileans don’t scrimp on wine or food portions. Honestly, you can get away with splitting a meal easily).
In Vina del Mar, we stayed at an old hotel on the rocks, right down by the water, called The Oceanic. I don’t know about you, but I like some character in my hotels, so we usually go for “boutique hotels,” and during this trip we really tried to mix it up. I don’t have any photos of The Oceanic, but you can check out their website. Or admire this sunset, taken from the balcony of our room: