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Published: December 5th 2018
Tuesday, my fourth day in Chile, was one of the most beautiful days I have ever spent.
We had signed up with ilovechiletours.com
, for their Andes Mountains Gem Route tour, which included a visit to the Concha y Toro Vineyard, and then a visit to Embalse El Yeso in Cajon del Maipo.
Once again, it was a very nice experience with only my friend and I, our guide Fran, and our driver Gabriel, on this trip. Both Fran and Gabriel were young and fun, and very enthusiastic. We immediately developed a rapport with both of them. I guess the advantage of being the only guests on the trip, plus the fact that it's a new and small company and their services are very personal, and their interest in our enjoyment very genuine.
I had already been to Concha y Toro before, but I did not mind visiting again, since I remembered it was quite an enterprise and the park was beautiful. I was not disappointed, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the tour itself had improved. We tasted three wines at three different locations, and the first two were open-air
Concha y Toro
The old Concha y Toro family summer house.
locations with beautiful views.
The tour started early because of the distance we had to cover that day, so the tasting at Concha y Toro was earlier than I’m used to and with only breakfast, but since it was only three wines, with breaks in between, I did not have any problems.
The drive to Pirque is very picturesque, with what most people expect from a Latin American country. Small cute houses and modest businesses line the colorful narrow streets as we drove away from the commercial center of Santiago, and I watched with delight the many flowers filling with small gardens. From the van, the low roofs make them look so small that it seems like people can hardly fit in them, although I know it's deceptive.
The Concha y Toro vineyard is large, with magnificent grounds and the original summer residence of the family still there, although now is used for private events only. It was there that the narrative of the tour starts.
Then, walking around the manmade lagoon that provides water the grounds we arrived at the spot of our first tasting of Savignon
Blanc, under the shade of beautiful trees.
We then moved on to visit the Grape Variety Garden, a place with 26 varieties of wine grapes and a beautiful back drop of the mountains, before proceeding to the Old Pirque vineyard terrace for our second tasting, Carmenere.
Lastly, we visited the old wine cellars, including the centenarian Casillero del Diablo. Then, in a nearby hall we had our last tasting, Cabernet Sauvignon.
In very high spirits we departed Concha y Toro to start the drive to Cajon del Maipo, and the much anticipated visit to Embalse El Yeso.
Our first stop was San Jose de Maipo, a charming little town where we stopped for a walk around the Plaza and for lunch at a cute Chilean restaurant where I tried my first traditional Cazuela de Vacuno. Think of a soup with beef, potato, carrots, corn on the cob, rice, and a few other vegetables. It was tasty, but large, and I only made it through about half of it. We were on the early side of lunch, right when they opened, but the small restaurant was filing up by
the time we left.
The remainder of the road to Embalse El Yeso could be a little stressful for anyone with fear of heights. The road becomes a narrow dirt road without a rail that zig zags up and up the canyon to an elevation of 8,425 feet. Some of the turns are quite sharp, and it’s so narrow in parts that only one vehicle can pass at a time, and it can be quite dusty if another vehicle is in front.
The scenery is breathtaking, and some of the views across the canyon were exquisite, with small communities dotting the landscape, and beautiful waterfalls.
However, I also found myself staring at the mountains on the other side of the road, to distract myself from the sheer drop next to us, although some of the glacier-topped mountains demanded attention also.
But, in spite of the knee weakening drive, it is absolutely one of the places I am most happy to have visited in Chile.
Although we went when there was not much snow on the surrounding mountains, the turquoise color of the water and the
Concha y Toro
The beautiful lagoon.
setting was incredible. The large reservoir was formed by the damming of the Yeso River, one of the mayor tributaries of the Rio Maipo. The Dam took ten years to build, and was finished in 1964. It is private property, operated by the Aguas Andinas company and is a major source of drinking water for Santiago.
Our guide, Fran, set up a little table and stools for us to enjoy the view and the wine and snacks they provided, and we let our eyes feast on the amazing views that surrounded us.
We amused ourselves with the little birds that surrounded us hoping for a meal, and even more by the little mouse that kept popping up and then going back to his rocky hide away.
Alas, we did not get to see a condor, but that would only have been lagniappe. Just being there was a treat.
Eventually, all that goes up must come down, so there was the same dizzying precarious road on the way down, with just as much white knuckled moments to experience.
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