Wine tasting in the Casablanca valley!
After getting a little bit of a late start (thanks to the terremotos from the night before) I walked across the city to the bus stop to take a colectivo to Casablanca. I was pretty unsure what I was doing and because it was Sunday literally nothing was open, I settled for a pino (Chilean style of carne) empanada for breakfast.
Valpo to Casablanca by Colectivo
Quickly I then learned what a colectivo actually is in Chile, a shared taxi! In Argentina colectivos are the main bus system to get around the city, definitely not the case in Chile. I crammed in a taxi with 3 other people and we were off to Casablanca.
I couldn’t help but smile to myself on the way; here I am in Chile, alone, eating a pino empanada, crammed in a taxi with 3 other people, heading to a tiny town to attempt to do wine tasting where I am going to walk between the vineyards…. The route I thought the taxis were going to take into Casablanca wasn’t correct and my original plan to get dropped at the first winery and walk towards town didn’t work out.
After being dropped in the town square, I regrouped my thoughts and decided to just pay a taxi $5000CLP (it cost $1500CLP for the 30 min colectivo ride to Casablanca) to take me to the first winery and then hopefully I could maybe meet people or something to get to the next winery or back to Casablanca.
Emiliana Organic Bodega
The first bodega was Emiliana Organic, one of the first certified organic wineries in the area. I paid for a tasting ($9000CLP (almost 20$US) – are you kidding me?!?) and joined a group of Brazilians doing a tasting.
The wine was pretty good, but the tasting was very formal and impersonal. I was hoping that the Brazilians could maybe give me a ride to the next bodega, but they were headed into Valpo. I started to get a little anxious so headed outside to walk around the grounds and figure out what I wanted to do.
First of all, Emiliana is an incredible place. There are llamas in a little area, roosters and chickens with chicks, lavender and roses surrounding the vines, and a beautiful tasting room with great views.
However this was the first time I really started to doubt myself for traveling alone.
The transportation was expensive, the wine tasting was expensive, and the walks between the bodegas were probably going to take awhile. The dreaded tour company may have been a good idea.
However I had noticed there was a blonde girl working in the tasting room who I had heard speak English, I was 95% sure she was from the states. I decided to go try and befriend her and maybe get some advice about how to do this. Going back inside I asked her a quick question about the wine and immediately we clicked.
Her name was Lindsey, she was from Oklahoma, and had never returned to live in the states after doing a study abroad program in Valpo. She was super nice, interesting, funny; an awesome person to chat with and joke about the great aspects and challenges of living and traveling in South America.
Before I knew it Diego, the manager of the winery (also happened to be her boyfriend), had me sitting at the bar doing another tasting. I got to try probably 6 more wines while chatting with Lindsey, it was awesome. Something really crazy here are the Chilean Pinot Noirs. I’m not the biggest Pinot fan in the states, but this Pinot literally tasted almost like cranberry juice. It was super light in color (almost like a rosé) but the taste was fresh, crisp, and fruity. Delicious! I also got to taste their top level brand, Ge, which are grapes that come from a specific part of one of their vineyards. It was a delicious red blend (and about $100US a bottle). After about 2 hours Lindsey had to give a tour and I decided I should probably check out other wineries in the area. I said my goodbyes and headed out the door, making sure to say an extra goodbye to the llamas and the chickens 🙂 as I was about to start the long walk Diego came back out asking if I would like a ride to House, the winery next door. YES! Diego was super kinda and I was so happy to get dropped off in front of House in a couple minutes versus 30.
House was this crazy beautiful looking building that lacked some of the rustic charm of Emiliana. With directions from Lindsey and Diego I asked for a tasting from Justin, who so happened to be the guy who greeted me as I walked in. As House sells lots of wine, not just the wine they produce, I opted to do a tasting of the House wines.
The most interesting thing I learned during this tasting was the Pais grapes. Back a long time ago, someone had brought grapes from France and planted them in southern Chile. They were abandoned for awhile, to where they evolved into being bushes instead of the classic vines you see at wineries. Today they harvest some of those grapes to make Pais wines, which I had the opportunity to try. I tried a 20% Malbec/80% Pais blend, a 80% Malbec/20% Paid blend, and a 100% Malbec. It was super interesting to taste the difference between the wines, and thanks to all the different blends I could get a real feeling of the flavor and tastes of the Pais grape. I also got to taste another Pinot (blew my mind again) and a sweet Sauvignon blanc (I was unaware they made those sweet).
Justin had to do another tasting, so I walked the vineyard out back with my last sips of Sauvignon blanc enjoying the sunshine and mountains. I purchased a bottle of the 20% Pais/80% Malbec, but sadly left it in the cab on the way home 🙁
I then set out walking to the last bodega of the day, Quintay. There may have been a solo spanish singing debut and a couple selfies on my walk… Oh the things you do when you’re alone. 🙂
There was a group of Americans I chatted with while I waited to do my tasting, I’m pretty sure all of us were feeling the effects of the end of a day of wine tasting haha. I tasted the grand reserve wines of Quintay while munching on cheese and talking to the tasting associate. At first he was pretty wound up, thanks to the long weekend all the wineries had been busier than usual and this was his fourth day straight working. But he quickly relaxed and we joked and talked about the wine. He shared lots of knowledge with me about Chilean versus Argentine wine while giving me very hefty pours. Because they were closing he offered to call a cab for me, or I could just ride back with him and his coworker to Casablanca.
Headed back to Valpo
I jumped on the idea, anyway to avoid a $10US cab ride… They dropped me back off in the central plaza of Casablanca, I got in another colectivo and we were off. I was so overwhelmed with sleepiness that I’m pretty sure I nodded off a couple times in the cab. I took the bus back from there and it was all I could do to make it back to my hostal, crawl in bed, and take a nap. I woke up 4 hours later at 11:15 pm super confused and unable to believe how tired I had been. I got up for about an hour, talked to some fellow hostal travelers, then crawled back in bed and fell back asleep. I guess my body needed some R&R!
The next day I headed back to Santiago to explore the infamous markets & city via walking tour.