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Published: February 8th 2019
Dad and I
Torreon de Paredes
After a full-on couple of weeks, our first day back in Santiago was a rest-day and, for me, a chance to catch up on the blogs. I edited and posted all of the Antarctica and Falklands blogs during the day, but generally just stayed in the hotel room and took it easy. Dad did similarly, although he’s not blogging, he is writing a journal and he spent the day getting it up to date.
We did, however, have something to do on Sunday night. My travel agent, Vanitha, had insisted we book for dinner at a restaurant near the hotel called Bocanariz. I thought it was because of the food so, not being a foodie, I wasn’t all that excited. Although during Sunday I finally got around to googling it and discovered it was essentially a wine bar that does food. Suddenly, I was much more interested!
It turns out it was across the road from where we ate on our first night in Santiago a couple of weeks ago, so we walked the couple of blocks and were soon there. Outside was a line of people waiting to go in. I asked someone at the front if this
was because they didn’t have a booking and it was. So, we walked in. Our table was reserved, and we had a nice view of the people lining up outside.
Dad had a view of the amazing wine list board, which was huge. They were all Chilean wines too, so it was the perfect way to start the next phase of our trip. The waiter talked about pairing the wines with the food but then… nothing. We were completely left to our own devices on that front and unfortunately, we got it wrong. We had flights of very nice wines to taste, and we ordered 4 very nice tapas plates. However, there was nothing from the waiter about what to pair with what. Also, all 4 plates came out at the same time and there wasn’t enough room on the table for them, let alone our own dining plates. So, while the wine and food were indeed excellent, the whole experience was somewhat let down by them leaving us to our own devices when it came to pair the food and wine.
Monday morning, we checked out of the hotel and while Dad waited with the bags, I
walked up to the pick up the hire car a couple of kilometres away. The morning was warm, but it was nice to get out and stretch the legs. Picking up the car went smoothly enough, and I was soon let out onto the streets. Besides upsetting a bus by driving in the bus lane, it went fine.
After picking dad up, we headed out to the coast and the city of Valparaiso. I was keen to go back to Valparaiso after a wonderful day there at the end of my last visit to Chile. As we drove along the highway, I had plenty of memories flooding back, including the visit to the winery in Casablanca that began my love of wine. Although we didn’t stop there this time, I did point it out to Dad as we drove past.
The enjoyable highway drive came to an end as we reached Valparaiso. I was not driving last time, so it was a different experience this time. It wasn’t too bad though, once I got into the swing of things. Driving in South America seems a bit chaotic, but it actually feels less aggressive than back home. Nobody seemed
to get angry with me not knowing what I was doing… I guess I just fit right in to the chaos.
Driving up the hill above the city centre to the hotel was a different experience again. The roads are narrow, and the GPS did not update as quickly as I would have liked. But we reached the hotel with little problem and thankfully there were a couple of 10-minute parking spots out the front for hotel customers.
We headed inside and were greeted warmly. I was told that the hotel has a carpark a short distance away and I could either park the car there myself or, if I was willing to take responsibility, someone from the hotel could park our car for us. I didn’t hesitate to accept that offer and handed over the keys.
We were too early to check into our rooms yet, but they suggested we could head down to the hotel restaurant for lunch and they would be ready when we finished. The hotel is perched on the edge of the hill, so the restaurant was on the floor below. It had a lovely outdoor dining area, so after running back
upstairs to fetch our hats, Dad and I sat down for a lovely fish dish for lunch with a great view of Valparaiso harbour.
After lunch we checked into our rooms before heading out for a walk. I got a quick orientation from reception and we headed out to check out the painted buildings. Valparaiso, at least this part of it, is quite an artistic city. There are plenty of galleries selling works of local artists, and many buildings have murals painted on them. While I was a little disappointed to find it a bit rundown since I was here 4 years ago, it may have just been my memory.
We walked around all afternoon taking plenty of photos, eventually ending up in the Plaza Sotomayor below our hotel. Dad didn’t want to catch the funicular back up the hill, so we trudged up all the stairs. I think Dad enjoyed the town and if we’d had another day we would have headed up to the Maritime Museum in a spectacular building on another hill, visible from the hotel.
The hotel was one of the best I’ve ever stayed in, it just felt nice and there was
absolutely nothing to complain about at all. The food at the restaurant was amazing and I really did regret not spending another day there. However, it was not to be and the next day we had to head out into the Chilean countryside.
We were booked in to stay for 3 nights at a vineyard/resort called Vina Vik, which I thought was down in the Colchagua Valley. It turns out, though, that it is in the next valley over, the Cachapoal Valley. Apparently, Vina Vik is just over the hill from Colchagua, but to get there by roads is about 90 minutes!
Anyway, we left Valparaiso and the GPS wanted to take us on the motorway the whole way. Instead, we just headed off in the approximate direction once we got to Casablanca. I knew we wanted to head through a town called Melpilla and we managed to do so without getting lost. It was a much nicer drive, heading through the countryside. Although, we did get stuck behind trucks and run into some roadworks, we were not on a schedule so we just enjoyed the drive.
Eventually, we did reach Vina Vik. It didn’t start well
when the gate wouldn’t open for us but eventually a lady showed us another way into the vineyard. Checking in wasn’t your average hotel check-in, we sat down with a lady from the staff and after giving us some drinks she told us all about the vineyard and resort, the activities we could do and showed us around. There’s everything you could want from a luxury resort and it was a different world for us.
Dad and I decided to do the wine-tasting on Wednesday, with some horse-riding in the late afternoon. I had organised a tour to a couple of nearby wineries already for Thursday, so that was our stay accounted for. Besides that, it would just be about relaxing, and enjoying the food, wine and scenery.
I could go into detail about the food, but to be honest, I can’t remember what we had for most meals. It’s enough, I think, to say that the food has been excellent. But the wine is the star of the show here, and so we headed out to find out more about it on Wednesday morning with the wine-tasting tour. They only make a couple of wines here and
they are all very nice. However, the signature wine, Vik, is amazing. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. The grapes for Vik are grown in the cooler microclimates of the vineyard, which are 3 degrees cooler than the warmer parts.
We started out on our tour with a guide who was doing a bilingual tour with some Brazilian guests. Thankfully, we were soon greeted by another guide, a lovely lady from Finland, who took Dad and I for an English tour and tasting. After a quick look at the winemaker’s office and some barrels, we headed into the tasting room. We got to taste 3 of the constituent wines first – Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah – and they were delicious on their own. But it really comes into its own when it is blended. We tasted the 2014 vintage, which is currently for sale and I couldn’t help but buy one. Unfortunately, tax limits us to bringing 3 bottles each back to Australia but that may be a good thing because I could have bought too many!
In the afternoon, I was keen to go out and take some photographs
after lunch, before we had our horse ride, while Dad was keen for a nap. So, I headed down towards the lake below the hotel. As it is summer, the water level is way down at the moment, but there were still quite a few birds. I realised how spoiled I was in Antarctica because these birds flew away as soon as I thought about heading towards them and it was hard to get a good photo. I decided to take a shortcut back to the hotel on the way back and soon found a dusty path that headed up a steep hill and I was back in plenty of time for the horseride.
For the horseride with had a gaucho (cowbody) who didn’t speak English, so one of the hotel staff came with us. This time we opted not to wear helmets so we were able to keep wearing our wide-brimmed hats. This meant we kept cooler and didn’t get too much sun, but I also think we looked better riding horses with the hats! We headed out on a similar path to the one I had walked earlier, although we did walk through the vineyard first and
we had to fight to keep our horses moving rather than eating the grapes! It was quite steep walking up the final track on the horses, but they handled it just fine… and probably better than me!
On Thursday our guide picked us up at Vina Vik at 9:30 and explained to us that the tour office picks the vineyards we go to and they don’t have a clue how far apart they are. It turns out that the 2 vineyards we would be visiting were on the other side of the Cachapoal Valley, and our half-day tour would take most of the day. I had booked a massage for 4pm so I had to get the tour guide to ring up and tell them I would be late.
Anyway, we reached the first vineyard about an hour later. It was the Torreon de Paredes, which means the Tower of the Paredes, the Paredes being the family that owns the vineyard. The tower is a 300-year-old lookout tower that was used to keep the Chileans in check during the Spanish colonial period. We started with a tour of the vineyard and a look at the beautiful house (from
the outside). Apparently, they are working on turning it into a boutique hotel, but that will be a few years away yet. We then moved into the winery itself, with the customary viewing of the stored barrels.
Then it was onto the tasting. I have to admit, the wine didn’t impress me greatly. It was nice enough, and it was very reasonably priced, but as I am limited to just 3 bottles, I didn’t find any of them were worth one of the 3 places in my bag. Dad did buy a bottle of Carmenere to take back home though. We finished the tasting with a walk up to the top of the tower. It was a nice view up there, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to climb the tower after drinking the wine!
We then headed off to the second winery, Altair, which is now owned by San Pedro, a very large wine company. The winery was at the very furthest point of the valley, on the edge of the Andes. Although this meant we would have a long drive back to Vina Vik, it did give a stunning view of the vineyard.
We had the customary tour of the winery before heading into the tasting. Once again, I enjoyed the iconic (and most expensive) wine, the Altair, the best. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and, well, it’s a secret but can be Carmenere, Syrah, Petit Verdot and Merlot. We also tasted two others. The first was quite nice, but the second was a straight Cabernet Sauvignon and while I think it will be very nice, when the bottle was first opened it was too young to drink, in my opinion. We had the rest of the bottle with lunch, and it did improve somewhat.
We had lunch at an outdoor area overlooking the vineyard. They cooked lamb and vegetables and served them with salad. It was absolutely delicious, but we were so stuffed we didn’t even finish off the wine! It was delightful to be fed so well in such a beautiful surrounding. When it was over, I purchased a bottle of the Altair and we headed back to Vina Vik.
When we got back to Vina Vik, Dad wasn’t feeling well so he went to bed. I had a massage, processed some photos and ate dinner by
myself. The dinner was probably the least enjoyable we’d had here though, so Dad didn’t miss out. Except for the dessert, which was chocolate mousse and was divine.
Which brings us to Friday. It is Dad’s last day in Chile as I will be taking him to the airport tonight. We had nothing really to do today, so we’re thankful that Vina Vik said we didn’t need to check out until 5pm. As we didn’t have lunch here on the day we arrived, we will have lunch here today. So, all we are doing is catching up on our blogs and journals and generally relaxing. It has been an amazing few days indulging in luxury. Vina Vik is spectacular, although I will say that it really feels like the owner has just thrown money at it. Compared to the other two wineries we visited on Thursday, it just doesn’t have the same character and feel. But it has been an enjoyable place to relax after our earlier adventures.
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