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Published: December 10th 2014
On Thursday, we signed up with a local company, Turistik, for the ride to the Coast to visit Pablo Neruda’s seashore home, Isla Negra. The tour offered the best of both worlds, the opportunity to see this Museum and, afterwards, a visit to a new organic winery in one of Chile’s youngest wine producing valleys, San Antonio.
One of their vans was picking us up at 8:15 AM in front of the W Hotel, and taking us to their main depot area in the Parque Araucano Shopping Center to meet the vehicle designated for this particular tour.
It is a well-organized enterprise that we had used in the past.
The drive to Neruda’s house was heading south on the Costanera highway. It reminds me somewhat or the Florida’s Turnpike in that it has Toll stations along the way, but it is a larger road system, and I never get tired of going under the mountains in enormous tunnels that connect the various valleys in between the mountain ranges.
Finally we arrived at Isla Negra, barely ahead of busloads of school children that would have made the tour very unpleasant. We were lucky to bypass their noisy company.
As all of Neruda’s homes, it is forbidden to take interior photographs. The shop at each house has a large variety of books containing photographs, and they would like visitors to buy the books rather than take their own pictures. It is regrettable, because each house is a trove of treasures that Neruda collected through the years. This particular home contains the most complete collections, including a room with several very old wooden ship heads that were outstanding.
Amongst other collections, there were pipes, glasses, and various other objects.
This home also contains the resting place of both Pablo Neruda and his third wife Matilde Urrutia. Set outside in a ship shaped monument, overlooking his beloved coastline. It was his wish to be buried here, although his remains were recently exhumed to investigate allegations that he was poisoned in the hospital he was staying, and did not die of cancer as previously supposed. The tests are ongoing at this time, and are not conclusive.
After a lengthy visit around the property, we met our bus driver and guide, Jacqueline, and were taken to a restaurant (Resto y Mar) along the way for lunch. I regret to
say that this was the worst meal I’ve had in Chile. The fries were soggy, the pork chops tough, and the Pisco Sour passable. It would have been alright if the prices had not been outrageous even by City standards, much more so for a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, even if the service was attentive, and the presentation of the food good. We mentioned to the guide afterwards that it would have been much more to our taste if we had been taken to the Winery, which has a restaurant with a good reputation. We suspect that the restaurant bribes the guides for business by offering the incentive of a free meal for them.
We arrived at the vineyard, Matetic, punctually.
Matetic was established by a Croatian family precedent from Punta Arenas in 1999. Although San Antonio is, as is Valle Casablanca, a “cold” valley better suited to white wines varietals, Matetic has been experimenting and succeeding in planting pinot noir and a couple of other red wine varietals.
The winery is a boutique winery, with a small production of wines. The tour in itself was shorter than usual because, although spectacularly sitting on top
of a hill with outstanding views of the vines below, we were too far to visit them and were simply given a bird’s eye view of them from above.
The setting is modern, the cellars where the wine is aged is new and less dependent of being underground than having the right systems installed.
Afterwards, we tasted two or their wines. I was disappointed that it was only two, and also that I didn’t think it was some of their best. The Riesling was dry and nice, at least.
I was pleased with visiting a valley I had not been to before, and also in seeing a vineyard that is adopting some of the same organic methods as Emiliana, using the least amount of technology possible; chickens for bug control, Alpacas to keep the grass low, etc.
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