POSH wine ....not worth it for us, and the perils of hiring a car

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South America » Chile » O Higgins » Santa Cruz
March 8th 2018
Published: March 15th 2018
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Santa Cruz.

We moved on to stay in a very congenial Californian’s apartment for a couple of days in Santa Cruz. He advised us on what to do and how to get there. We booked into Clos Apalta winery for starters (www.closapalta.com) for a tour of the very impressive winery then lunch. Turned out we were the only English speaking tourists so we had a personalised tour guide. Twenty years ago the winery was bought by the French family who invented Grand Marnier about a hundred years previously. They invested a lot in dynamiting out granite hills to build a beautiful structure reflecting the shape of a wine barrel. All of the processes used gravity to transfer the liquids from one stage to the next. To achieve this, the building was 70 meters tall but buried mostly into the ground amply demonstrated by a spiral staircase winding around a pendulum hanging from top to bottom. The most enduring memory is the smell of the fermenting room. A winy oaky lovely smell. French viticulture is clearly cherished by the owners who continue with the tradition of not mentioning the grape variety on the bottle, just where it came from. The owners have since sold all their wineries and drinks businesses except this one.

So we came to the cellar and the tasting of three wines. The posh bottle was the best but not worth it’s price tag of £150 in our miserly and ignorant opinion.

We moved to the restaurant. The architectural splendour continued, but the best bit was suddenly coming to the view of the vineyard extending for miles below us and framed by surrounding hills.

We had a posh menu and the standard menu, the only difference being one glass of wine for an extra £25. Good food but not outstanding.

The Hire Car

We were off to a remote beauty spot a couple of hours away which wasn't served by buses, our usual mode of transport, so we decided to hire a car for the first time. The rental car people spoke no english and we speak poor spanish so this was a challenge, especially the 5 sheets of rental agreement which included reference to an unknown currency as a deposit. However we muddled along and eventually bowled out into the road and waved cheerio. Next turning I (Pete) found people driving right at me. It turned out I was going the wrong way down a major one way street... Turned round and started to pay close attention to the signs. I worked out what they meant and soon found another road where people were again driving crazily towards me. Had a slight difference of opinion with Jan about whether I was driving the wrong way up another one way street as I had by now sussed out how the signs worked, so knew I was right.. but gradually had to bow to Jan’s wisdom as people started getting increasingly annoyed with me. (Jan's note: SADLY THERE ARE NO PHOTOS OF PETE BOWING TO JAN'S WISDOM, A CHANCE MISSED...). It was a small car with small wheels, which turned out to be a disadvantage when halfway to the beauty spot the paved road ran out. We then drove for an hour and a half to travel 30 km whilst feeling as if we were in a cocktail mixer as our little car lurched over the dreadful surface. Occasionally when a car came the other way the road would disappear in a cloud of dust. We saw some great views at the end of the marathon, but it made us wary of doing much more driving on tracks, or driving in general come to that, as the buses are great and we usually make a few friends in the bus stations.

The views we sought were the Brides Veil waterfall and the Falls of the Seven Tea Cups. The latter was a spectacular series of seven waterfalls at the bottom of a deep lush valley. Each fall had each worn away a bowl beneath it which looked a bit like a cup. It was a memorable view and almost worth the driving endurance test but we will be back on the busses from now on.


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