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Published: December 6th 2018
First view of the Winery.
Thursday was a monumental day I had been looking forward to with anticipation, a day trip to Colchagua Valley and a visit to three different prominent wineries in the area; Clos Apalta, Vina Neyen, and Vina Viu Manent.
For this tour, we signed up with a company named Uncorked, recommended to us by the ilovechiletours.com people. We had wanted to do an overnight trip because we thought, with good reason, that a day trip would involve a lot of driving and a lot of wine in a short amount of time, but there were no overnight tours from Santiago offered.
Anyway, we woke up very early in the morning for the 7:30 AM pick up. On this tour there was our guide Jose who was still in training, his supervisor Vivi, and driver Ricky. There was also a couple from New Jersey. After picking them up, and with a brief stop half way, we drove the 2 ½ hours to our first vineyard tour and tasting at Clos Apalta.
The arrival at this winery, in the Apalta Valley north of Tinguiririca River, is highly dramatic. Set back from the road, the drive
View from the parking area.
through extensive vines does not prepare you for the sudden appearance of the ultra-modern main building of the winery. The architect took its inspiration from a bird’s nest and it’s set on top of a small hill, offering a beautiful view of the vineyards below from the terrace on top of the building.
Extraordinarily, the winery was built deep into the rock that had been blasted away, and the tour of the facility takes you down level by level, deep into the hill through a spiral staircase.
The tasting of the three wines takes place in what we thought to be the bottom level but, it was revealed through the glass of the massive table we were using, that even further down is the extensive private cellar of the owner, visible when the lights are turn off.
Their flagship wine is crafted based on Carmenere and has never failed to acquire a high point rating, up to 100 in at least one occasion.
I was extremely impressed by the whole visit.
One recommendation I would make to anyone thinking of taking this tour, or a
Views from the terrace.
similar one, is to make sure that they eat a good breakfast or, at least, buy something at the eatery of the place where we stopped. I had eaten some cereal that morning, but that first tasting had an impact on my system. I was definitely lightheaded when I got back on the van.
By comparison, the next stop, Vina Neyen
(spirit) was visually entirely traditional with its beautiful adobe Hacienda style building, ancient trees, and some of the oldest vines in the area, dating back to 1889. This time we didn’t tour the winery. Instead, we spent our time at the vineyards to get a lesson on the cloning method, extensively practiced by this winery. Actually, the old cellars, constructed in 1890, had been the setting for a wedding just the weekend before, and they were empty, being cleaned out, although the winemaking process takes place in the new state of the art facility next door.
We benefited from the recent large wedding, as the road had only been paved a few days before for the comfort of the wedding guests.
Again, the wines tasted here were of high value and
quality. Their Espiritu de Apalta, the 50/50 blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon was outstanding, another highly rated wine. I enjoyed this winery, and the beauty of the setting, as much as I had enjoyed the first one.
Our last stop, Vina Viu Manent
, happens to host one of the best restaurants in the area, Rayuela, where we were to have lunch. It features a beautiful patio area, with shaded, vine-covered tables offering a panoramic view of the vineyard and surrounding hills.
Our tour-included lunch offered an appetizer, main course, side dish, and dessert paired with our choice of two glasses of wine.
I chose a shrimp appetizer, the short ribs and cream of choclo (corn) as entrée, and the Chilenita with ice cream for dessert. Everything was wonderful, and more than I could eat.
As a result, the seven wine tasting afterwards was a bit of an effort. Some of the wines were their more modest wines, and the presentation fast paced. I barely had a couple of sips of each one before moving to the next.
This was the only part of the tour that
was a bit of a let down. I felt it was difficult to do it justice so quickly after the meal we had just had. We were wondering afterwards if the timing had been rushed by one of our guides, who was going on vacation the next day and was hoping to get back to town earlier than expected to. If that was the case, then it just happened to be unfortunate timing rather than a common practice of the tour itself.
It was a shame to be so rushed in this beautiful winery. The place was designed for comfort and relaxation. The square building full of beautifully decorated rooms, all overlooking the beautiful inside patio, and the tasting tables face the wonderful view of the vineyards in the background.
There was plenty of time to rest, or nap, on the drive back to town. Since it gets dark so late, there was also time to enjoy the early evening on the balcony, listening to the music from the tournament opening party at the golf course across the street.
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