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Published: October 28th 2014
Concha y Toro
After so many boutique wineries, this is not so exotic!
I’m sitting in the departure lounge with half-a-dozen people from our tour – an unusual experience for me as I usually travel on my own. Road Scholar booked a bunch of us on the same flight to Dallas (overnight), whence we go our separate ways. The airport is completely modern with shops selling at extraordinarily high prices. A bar of chocolate I bought in the grocery store for 790 pesos here costs 5900 pesos ($12)! A bottle of water costs 1800 pesos ($3.50) or $4 in US currency.
This morning we left the hotel at 9:30, eventually to arrive home in Calgary at 1:45 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, about 40 hours. I’m happy that our last day has had activities and was not just a travel day.
We drove out of the main part of Santiago, seeing the big modern buildings evolve into medium-rise offices and apartments, and finally into smaller houses and less salubrious yards. (The southern part of Santiago doesn’t look as impoverished as the glimpse we had of quite poor housing when we entered a few days ago from the north.) We turned off the highway onto a gravel road, along which were new condo and house
Founder's Summer House
Might as well enjoy it!
developments. All the houses were very similar, two rooms on the main floor and two on the second floor. Pablo explained that houses are priced in so many “units”, and the value of the “unit” fluctuates like a currency, so the effective price of the house changes constantly, although the posted “cost” does not. Seems complicated but works in a country without a hard currency.
Our destination was Chile’s most famous and largest winemaker, Conch y Toro
. Pablo warned us that this would not be a warm, personal visit as the others have been, which was made very evident by the large parking lot and the many cars. He purchased tickets for the 11:30 tour in English, giving us half-an-hour to wander in the gift shop and the courtyard. The tour started exactly on time, and interestingly included quite a few Danes and some English people. The young man giving the tour was cheerful and seemed to love winemaking; we found out later that he is working towards a pilot’s license.
The most surprising information on the relatively predictable tour was that Concha y Toro does not stand for anything – it is the founder’s actual surname. After seeing the
Drained for cultivating vineyards
colonial style summer house, visiting the “school” (demonstration) section of the vineyard, and passing by the oak barrels, we went underground into the “Devil’s Cave”, a reference to their highest quality red wine. The guide left us in the cave and a voice-over told the story of how the cave became haunted, while a light show played on the “wall” of wine barrels and bottles – a comic-book version of wine history!
Back up in the beautifully warm day, we tasted their Chardonnay blend. They contradicted the advice of previous wineries by decanting the wine “to open up the flavour”. Same process for the red blend, which was a Cabernet Sauvignon ruined by Shiraz, in my opinion. Not as good as other wines we have tasted, but an enjoyable time spent in the sunshine.
We drove through the Maipo River
Valley, the end of this central part of Chile which is cut off by a spur of the Andes. (The Pan American Highway
continues south via tunnels through the mountains.) Almost all the water is taken from the river for irrigation. It was startling to see the rushing water in the irrigation canal only a few feet away from the almost
Making a hammock during a lull in customers
Lunch was at a small country resort, Los Cuernos del Toro
, in a holiday location - a sort of green oasis. We were greeted in a friendly manner, the only guests for lunch. On the table were salad, olive oil and “pobre” (a fresh salsa). We were served Pisco Sours, seviche on mussel shells, cheese empanadas, and small warm buns (delicious with pobre). We chose our entree, served with boiled potatoes – I chose fish, but it was disappointingly overcooked. The white wine was deliciously fresh. Dessert was a mild apple-pear fruit for which none of the Chileans knew the name in English.
To “kill some time” (Pablo’s phrase), we drove back to Santiago to the “Dominicas
”, a very large (simulated) village of artisans working and selling their artwork: leatherwork, stone carving, fabric arts and clothes, herbs, toys, jewelry. Great end to our visit!
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