Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Casablanca Wine Valley, Day 1

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.

Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley felt like home! Vineyards are plentiful in the South Okanagan of B.C., especially around Penticton and Oliver. Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley was our first hint that Chile was more like British Columbia than any South American country we've visited so far (Peru, Ecuador, Chile and a taste of Argentina).

Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley felt like home! Vineyards are plentiful in the South Okanagan of B.C., especially around Penticton and Oliver. Driving to Casablanca Wine Valley was our first hint that Chile was more like British Columbia than any South American country we’ve visited so far (Peru, Ecuador, Chile and a taste of Argentina).

"Steven King" et moi at Emiliana Organic Vineyards. Emiliana is doing a great job of advertising around Chile. Wherever we went, we'd spot their name on restaurant awnings. Wines of Chile named Emiliana Winery of the Year for 2015. The vineyard was impeccable.

“Steven King” et moi at Emiliana Organic Vineyards. Emiliana is doing a great job of advertising around Chile. Wherever we went, we’d spot their name on restaurant awnings. Wines of Chile named Emiliana Winery of the Year for 2015. The vineyard was impeccable.

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 roving chicken coop. The chickens are moved around the winery, as needed.

The roving chicken coop. The chickens are moved around the winery, as needed.

one of the chickens (well, I guess a rooster) in question. I snapped this guy as he was racing with a bunch of hens for an afternoon snack (of seeds or whatever they feed chickens once they are full of insects).

One of the chickens (well, I guess a rooster) in question. I snapped this guy as he was racing with a bunch of hens for an afternoon snack (of seeds or whatever they feed chickens once they are full of insects).

Voila! Les grapes! (Translate to Spanish at your leisure).

Voila! Les grapes! (Translate to Spanish at your leisure).

Wine tasting!

Wine tasting! Paired with different cheeses.

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).

Antonio from Private Tours Chile, enjoying the Pastel de Choclo we had for a late lunch en route from Emiliana to our lodgings for the night in Vina del Mar.

Antonio from Private Tours Chile, enjoying the Pastel de Choclo we had for a late lunch en route from Emiliana to our lodgings for the night in Vina del Mar.

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:

We were all so full of lunch that we all to do for dinner was pick up some snacks and order an appetizer from the bar to enjoy with the wine purchased at Emiliana while we listened to the waves crashing against the rocks and watched the lights of Valparaiso sparkle to life across the bay. Ah, holidays!

We were all so full of lunch that all we had to do for dinner was pick up some snacks and order an appetizer from the bar to enjoy with some of the wine purchased at Emiliana while we listened to the waves crashing against the rocks and watched the lights of Valparaiso sparkle to life across the bay. Ah, Chile! You’re treating us right!

 

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