Less than an hour’s drive from the Pacific Ocean coast at Valparaiso, Chile, Loma Larga Vineyards in Casablanca Valley is the first winery that we visited in a four day exploration of the Chilean Winelands from the ship. Our small group of four couples was led by our beverage manager, who specializes in wines and worked far in advance of our trip to set up special experiences at the leading wineries of Chile, located mostly south of Santiago and Valparaiso.
Loma Larga is owned by the Diaz family, whose interest in wine dates back to the Fourth Paris International Exhibition of 1889 when Don Manuel Joaquin Diaz Escudero Alvarez de Toledo, grandfather of the current owners, personally brought French vines back to Chile from Bordeaus. Intending to keep the tradition alive, the Diaz family studied the climate and soil conditions in the Casablanca Valley and planted their first vines in 1999, naming the vineyard Loma Larga for the “long hill” on which it sits.
Loma Larga was the first winery in the valley to plant red varieties like Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, all self-rooted since there is no risk of phylloxera (it has never been found in Chile, to date). It was a risky venture, especially considering the region’s frequent frosts — 40 percent of Loma Larga’s crop was lost to frost in 2013. However, tastings show that owners Patricio and Rosita Díaz-Santelices had the right idea.