Some of Cachapoal Valley's finest
There is a way to begin to end your time in Chile, and I happen to think the best is to worship at the feet of the grape. So that’s what we did today, in a 10-hour, three-winery, 12-wines tasting spectacle.
Yes, we had a driver and private guide. And, um, wow. We started at the Ankara Winery, in the foothills of the Andes, and tasted four spectacular wines, a Syrah, Carmenere, Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet blend. The tasting room had dramatic wood and stone and amazingly, the winery suffered no earthquake damage.
Tasting room at Anakena
We then headed off to Viña Altair, the premium winery of the San Pedro Group; in perhaps the most dramatic setting of all, its sleek, ultramodern building dominates a cleft in the Andean foothills, with a commanding view of the valley below.
The dramatic Vina Altair
Here, the owners have spared no expense in employing the latest equipment and technology. We were greeted with coffee on the terrace, then led on a private tour which ended with a tasting of the only two wines they produce, the Altair and the Sideral. Simply divine…..
We then moved on to the Vina Casa Silva, the only one of the wineries we visited to have suffered some damage during the quake.
The restaurant at Casa Silva
The old house that served as the boutique hotel and restaurant was closed, but we ate at the “makeshift restaurant” entering to find a roaring fire, perfectly set table, beef cooked to perfection accompanied by the Casa Silva Reserva Carmenere…. The Casa Silva winery is a family affair, run by Mario Silva, his wife, and three of their four sons. This winery was the first to produce a Sauvignon Gris.
The wines are stored in underground passageways, evoking some of the ancient caves in Europe. The exclusive Altura wine is bottled and stored below in one of these underground passageways, carefully labeled by hand when buyers order the bottles.
The winery uses older cement casks (lined with stainless steel), oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. The wineries we visited, although they used presses for several wines, used gravity as well, so as not to “bruise” the grapes.
A "modern crusher" at Altair Vineyards
Old french press at Vina Casa Silva
The guide told us that when she arrived at the winery the morning after the earthquake, the streets outside the vineyard were running red with wine; a few of the barrels had developed cracks and gravity took over from there. Yet another tragedy.
One of the buildings at the winery collapsed by the quake