Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas (on Lago Llanquihue), Patagonia, Chile

The main town square, Plaza de Armas, in Puerto Varas, Chile, about one block from beautiful Lago Llanquihue

The main town square, Plaza de Armas, in Puerto Varas, Chile, about one block from beautiful Lago Llanquihue

At the culmination of our four days of traveling through the Chilean winelands south of Santiago (see previous blog posts), we drove back to Santiago and flew south to the ship’s first port of call in Patagonia – Puerto Montt.

Puerto Montt is a port city with a population of 175,000 in southern Chile, located at the northern end of the Reloncaví Sound in the Llanquihue Province, Los Lagos Region, 655 miles (1,055 km) south of the capital, Santiago.  It is at the northern end of the Patagonia region of Chile on the Pacific Coast and serves as a gateway to Western Patagonia. 

The city was founded on February 12, 1853, after government-sponsored immigration from Germany that began in 1848 populated the region and integrated it politically to the rest of the country.  It was named after Manuel Montt, President of Chile between 1851 and 1861, who set in motion the German immigration.  The government’s goal was to begin populating the southern region of the country (Patagonia) in order to maintain sovereignty, as Argentina and other foreign countries set their sights on taking over the unpopulated and undeveloped region.

Today the region is well known for its salmon farming – Chile is the second largest producer of salmon in the world, not withstanding the aquaculture crisis in the late 2000s that nearly wiped out the Chilean salmon farming industry. Hatcheries, fisheries and packing plants are mostly located south of Puerto Montt in Patagonia.

Modern hotels overlooking Lago Llanquihue, including the Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur, Puerto Varas, Chile

Modern hotels overlooking Lago Llanquihue, including the Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur, Puerto Varas, Chile

We decided to spend our day there exploring a smaller town, Puerto Varas, on the southern end of Lago Llanquihue, about 12 miles (20 km) north of Puerto Montt.  The tourism gem of Puerto Varas is graced with superb views (obscured on the day of our visit by the low rain clouds) of the Osorno volcano and Mt. Calbuco, just across the beautiful and serene Lago Llanquihue (Chile’s second largest lake).  It is home to a casino, many restaurants, and several cultural heritage sites.  Puerto Varas is probably best known as an outdoor adventure sports destination, great for kayaking, climbing, fishing, hiking, and skiing (on the slopes of the nearby Osorno volcano).  The town, like Puerto Montt, reflects a heavy German cultural influence, with approximately 80% of the school children coming from families with a German heritage.

The view to the northeast from town of Lago Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Chile

The view to the northeast from town of Lago Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Chile

A retired sailor now well known as the town's leading model ship maker, Puerto Varas, Chile

A retired sailor now well known as the town’s leading model ship maker, Puerto Varas, Chile

Recommended by a local guide, Casa Valdes served outstanding fresh seafood for a great lunch overlooking Lago Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Chile

Recommended by a local guide, Casa Valdes served outstanding fresh seafood for a great lunch overlooking Lago Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Chile

Beautiful hand woven blankets at the Fundacion Artesanías de Chile crafts store, Puerto Varas, Chile

Beautiful hand woven blankets at the Fundacion Artesanías de Chile crafts store, Puerto Varas, Chile

Fundacion Artesanías de Chile commercializes handcrafted pieces on a non-profit basis. Purchases at their shops support Chilean craftsmen to improve their living conditions and to preserve Chilean cultural heritage. (see: http://www.artesaniasdechile.cl)

A small classical female guitar player pottery figurine from the artisans of Quinchamalí at the Fundacion Artesanías de Chile crafts store, Puerto Varas, Chile

A small classical female guitar player pottery figurine from the artisans of Quinchamalí at the Fundacion Artesanías de Chile crafts store, Puerto Varas, Chile

Quinchamalí is a southern town in Chile where the indigenous past blends in with a peasant tradition of long standing.  In its beginnings, the pottery of Quinchamalí was mostly utilitarian – jugs, vases, pots and plates that were bartered for farm products in surrounding areas. With time, these gave way to more sophisticated items, such as the now classical female guitar player, horsemen and animal figurines and ornaments, all highly polished and profusely decorated with patterns of local flowers, leaves and spikes of wheat.  The pottery of Puerto varas, chiulke bears the personal stamp of its artisans and mirrors both their ancient traditions and daily life.

Locally crafted "dolls" at the Fundacion Artesanías de Chile crafts store, Puerto Varas, Chile

Locally crafted “dolls” at the Fundacion Artesanías de Chile crafts store, Puerto Varas, Chile

Puerto Varas is characterized by traditional German architecture, with houses built from local alerce wood using tools brought over from Europe by the 19th century colonial inhabitants.  It was designated a Zona Típica (heritage zone) in 1992 and has a number of protected buildings.  The alerce tree is the majestic giant conifer of the southern hemisphere and inspires as much awe as its North American relative, the giant sequoia.  The reddish-brown trunk of the alerce can tower up to 200 feet (60 meters) tall.

Puerto Varas is characterized by traditional German architecture, with houses built from local alerce wood, Chile

Puerto Varas is characterized by traditional German architecture, with houses built from local alerce wood, Chile

 

Lapostelle’s Clos Apalta winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Lapostelle's winery (on the left inside the "barrel staves") and the Apalta vineyard which was planted with Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah from 1920 to 2006, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Lapostelle’s winery (on the left, inside the “barrel staves”) and the Apalta vineyard, which was planted with Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Syrah from 1920 to 2006, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Founded in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier Lapostelle and her husband Cyril de Bournet, of Grand Marnier fame, the architecturally striking winery on the hillside above the Apalta vineyards near Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley, Chile, utilizes age-old French techniques and superb Chilean terroirs to produce world-class wines. The winery is 100% gravity fed spanning six levels, four of which lie beneath the granite Apalta hillside, providing a naturally cool environment for cellaring and aging their wines. Grapes are hand-harvested at night and brought to the highest level of the winery where they will be de-stemmed by hand. Fermentation takes place in small French wooden vats, allowing the winemakers an opportunity to enhance the personality of the various terroir plots. After two years of ageing in two different barrel cellars, the wine is bottled for shipping or joins the underground library in the heart of the winery.

Lapostelle is owned by France's Marnier-Lapostolle group; note that the Marnier Lapostolle family were founders and are owners of the world-renowned liqueur Grand Marnier; Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Lapostelle is owned by France’s Marnier-Lapostolle group; note that the Marnier Lapostolle family were founders and are owners of the world-renowned liqueur Grand Marnier; Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

In the annual review story about Chilean wines in the Wine Spectator, Kim Marcus wrote in the May 31, 2015 issue, “As a source of value-priced reds and whites, Chile is a wine-making juggernaut. It’s a testament to Chile’s development over the past two to three decades that the country can offer dozens of bottlings, including international varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, that rival counterparts from California, Australia and elsewhere in the New World. For example, it’s hard to beat the quality-to-price ratio of… a white wine such as Lapostelle’s Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Cuvee Alexandre Atalayas Vineyard 2012 (91 points, US$24), which offers lusciously spiced tropical and white fruit flavors.”

Lapostelle’s Apalta Vineyard is located in the wine-producing region of Colchagua Valley, 42 miles (68 km) away from the Pacific Ocean, between the Andes mountain range and the coastal cordillera, Santa Cruz, Chile

Lapostelle’s Apalta Vineyard is located in the wine-producing region of Colchagua Valley, 42 miles (68 km) away from the Pacific Ocean, between the Andes mountain range and the coastal cordillera, Santa Cruz, Chile

In creating Casa Lapostolle, the Marnier-Lapostolle family has pursued the same uncompromising approach to quality that made Grand Marnier a world-wide success.  Their objective is simple as it is ambitious: to create world-class wines using French expertise and the superb terroir of Chile.  The whole venture started when Alexandra and Cyril had a “coup de Coeur” for the Apalta vineyard in Colchagua. 

Today 100% of the Lapostelle Apalta vineyard is certified organic; it is also certified biodynamic.  In addition to its vineyards, Lapostelle is protecting more than 700 acres of native Chilean vegetation in the hills surrounding the Apalta vineyard.

The visitor's entrance to the Lapostelle winery building, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The visitor’s entrance to the Lapostelle winery building, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Lapostolle winery is located in the town of Cunaco, right next to Santa Cruz. It is the original winery, where Lapostolle was founded in 1994 and today it is here where their Casa and Cuvée Alexandre wines are produced. With a traditional Chilean old hacienda style, it has a production capacity of 870,000 gallons (3,300,000 liters) in stainless steel and French oak tanks, and more than 3,500 French Oak Barrels

Gravity fed fermentation barrels with internal stainless steel cooling coils at the Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Gravity fed fermentation tanks with internal stainless steel cooling coils at the Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

“The architecture of the fermentation room as well as the two-barrel cellars is an ellipse included in a gold rectangle. The harmony of the proportions of this elliptic plan seems to be registered in a perfect circle, like the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome.” — http://www.en.lapostelle.com

The barrel aging cellar is on the fifth level, down, at the gravity fed Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The barrel aging cellar is on the fifth level, down, at the gravity fed Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

The circular stairway connects five of the six levels at the gravity fed Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The circular stairway connects five of the six levels at the gravity fed Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

 

The rear of the tasting "bar" in the barrel aging room lifts up to reveal a stairwell down to the bottle aging cellar at the bottom level of the Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The rear of the tasting “bar” in the barrel aging room lifts up to reveal a stairwell down to the bottle aging cellar at the bottom level of the Lapostelle winery, Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

“In the southern hemisphere we can’t see the Pole Star but we have the constellation of the Southern Cross.  So we liked the symbol of having our winery oriented in the same direction as this extremely important constellation of stars in the southern sky.  The vertical way between the arrival of the grapes and the bottling has a fluidity course close to the natural slopes.  The hill has been dug according to the same invisible and underground lines followed by water during thousands of years. 

“This is why it was decided to let the entire wall in the wine library be the natural granite rocks with the existing cascade.  The decision to return the rocks which we found when we had to dig, into the form of floor slabs is another example of the will to have a continuous relationship with nature.” — http://www.en.lapostelle.com

Carved out of the local granite, the bottle aging room is on the lowest level of Lapostelle winery, below the barrel aging room (pictured above), Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Carved out of the local granite, the bottle aging room is on the lowest level of Lapostelle winery, below the barrel aging room (pictured above), Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our favorite wine in the tasting which followed our extensive tour of the winery was the 2012 Clos Apalta.  Of course, it is the top estate wine produced by Lapostelle and priced accordingly.  It is an outstanding example of great Chilean Carmenère.  The 2012 Clos Aalta is comprised of:  66% Carmenère, 19% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the Colchagua Valley.  At our tasting we were informed that the 2005 Clos Apalta was the number one wine in the Wine Spectator‘s “Top 100” for 2008.  It was easy to see how.  Wow — our tasting notes said “beautiful!”  And it should age nicely and be magnificent a decade down the road…

 

Our wine tasting at Lapostelle winery featured five superb red wines, several of which we got to enjoy in the afternoon with our on-site luncheon (see the next blog post), Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our wine tasting at Lapostelle winery featured five superb red wines, several of which we got to enjoy in the afternoon with our on-site luncheon (see the next blog post), Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Eat local: Casa Silva Polo, Rodeo & Riding Club House at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Ceviche appetizers before watching the Chilean rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Ceviche appetizers before watching the Chilean rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

“Viña Casa Silva is a 100% family-owned company that seeks to transfer the pride of its roots and its respect for nature and their people to the world and its future generations. Its wines reflect its commitment and the passion each member of the family has to and for the earth.” – www.casasilva.cl

One of the local Huaso cowboys demonstrating his skills before the rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

One of the local Huaso cowboys demonstrating his skills before the rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The family’s love of traditional life is evident from the extensive equestrian facilities they have developed at their Angostura estate. After our winery tour and tasting, we had the opportunity to savor appetizers and Casa Silva wine in the stands at the rodeo stadium, adjacent to the polo field and restaurant

Home made dried horse meat empanadas enjoyed while watching the Chilean rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Home made dried horse meat empanadas enjoyed while watching the Chilean rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Two of the local Huaso cowboys demonstrating their skills in herding a bull in the rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Two of the local Huaso cowboys demonstrating their skills in herding a bull in the rodeo at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile.jpg

Local Chilean Huaso cowboys gave a great demonstration of their skills in the rodeo stadium. Note that Chilean rodeos are very different from American rodeos. In Chile, two horsemen, one riding a horse behind the bull and a second horseman, riding perpendicular to the bull, try to corral the bull and “guide” him to a fixed spot on the edge of the rodeo stadium’s ring wall (see photograph, above).

The polo field, adjacent to the rodeo stadium (behind the photographer) and the restaurant at the Polo, Rodeo & Riding Club House at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The polo field, adjacent to the rodeo stadium (behind the photographer) and the restaurant at the Polo, Rodeo & Riding Club House at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The restaurant on the property, where we had an excellent late luncheon, is located in the Casa Silva Polo, Rodeo & Riding Club House on the Angostura estate.  Surrounded by vineyards, it has a spectacular view of the Andes Mountains and the polo fiel.

Our first course of ceviche at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our first course of ceviche at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

 

Grilling meats -- chicken and filet mignons --  at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Grilling meats — chicken and filet mignons — at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Our main course of perfectly grilled filet mignons and quinoa risotto at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our main course of perfectly grilled filet mignons and quinoa risotto at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile.jpg

Our luncheon, organized by Casa Silva’s celebrated chef, Soledad Correa, included a delicious selection of fine fish and meats associated with the fresh vegetables and fruits from the estate. It featured delicious and flavorful country-style Chilean cuisine, meticulously planned to pair perfectly with the finest Casa Silva wine.

A beautiful and delicious cheesecake capped off a wonderful birthday celebration at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

A beautiful and delicious cheesecake capped off a wonderful birthday celebration at the restaurant at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile.jpg

 

Sports memorabilia on the wall of the Casa Silva Polo, Rodeo & Riding Club House at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Sports memorabilia on the wall of the Casa Silva Polo, Rodeo & Riding Club House at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Sauvignon Gris vineyard planted in 1912; Viña Casa Silva is recognized as the oldest winery in the Colchagua Valley, Chile

Sauvignon Gris vineyard planted in 1912; Viña Casa Silva is recognized as the oldest winery in the Colchagua Valley, Chile

Viña Casa Silva is recognized as the oldest winery in the Colchagua Valley, Chile.  Founded in 1892 by French pioneer and ancestor Emilio Bouchon, Casa Silva is owned and operated by Mario Silva, the fifth generation of winemakers.  Many of the vines were planted over 100 years ago, brought over from pre-phylloxera Bordeaux vineyards.  Prior to 1997, the Silvas sold their grapes to larger wineries.  One of just three pioneering wineries to achieve 100% certification under the Wines of Chile Sustainability Code, Casa SIlva was deemed “Winery of the Year” by the WInes of Chile organization in 2013 and “Most Awarded Winery of the 21st Century” by VITIS Magazine (Chile’s only specialized wine magazine published in both English and Spanish and distributed locally and overseas).

Viña Casa Silva's vineyards were planted from pre-phylloxera cuttings from Bordeaux; Colchagua Valley, Chile

Viña Casa Silva’s vineyards were planted from pre-phylloxera cuttings from Bordeaux; Colchagua Valley, Chile

Facing the Andes Mountains, the property containing the Angostura vineyards is the origin of the Silva family in Chile and includes plantations dating back to 1912 with original varieties brought from France by the first generation of the family. The property also houses the family pride, the old wine cellar that is a pioneer in technology despite its years. The soils are of fine sand over old alluvial substrates composed of small and medium-sized stones and a large among of decomposing rock. Low to medium depth allows for good drainage, and the organic content is low-medium as well. The climate is temperate Mediterranean. Summers are dry with moderate maximum temperatures, and winters are cold and moderately rainy. The average summer temperature ranges from 54º to 81º F (12º to 27ºC), and the average annual rainfall is 27.5 inches (700 mm).

A conrete fermentation tank dating back to 1939 at the cellars of Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

A concrete fermentation tank dating back to 1939 at the cellars of Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Cabernet Sauvignon (2014) aging in barrels in the barrel aging room in the cellar of Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Cabernet Sauvignon (2014) aging in barrels in the barrel aging room in the cellar of Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our visit to Viña Casa Silva began in the vineyards where we had a carriage ride around the property (see the second photograph in this blog post, above).  The cellar tour featured both historic equipment and concrete fermentation tanks from 1939 and very modern winemaking equipment.  A highlight was seeing the family’s library room (see photograph, below), located at the end of a long underground tunnel, beneath the winery.

 

The private library of old vintages in the oldest wine cellar in the Colchagua Valley at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Chile

The private library of old vintages in the oldest wine cellar in the Colchagua Valley at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Chile

“Viña Casa Silva has the oldest wine cellar in the Colchagua Valley. Beneath its traditional and historic facade, however, it is one of Chile’s most modern wine facilities. Located on a century-old estate in Angostura, it is equipped with the latest technology, barrel rooms with the perfect conditions for aging wines, and a specially outfitted sector for small vinifications. It also has historic tunnels below ground and a beautiful collection of antique cars.” – http://www.casasilva.cl

The reception hall (often rented out for private parties) in the century-old estate at Viña Casa Silva in Angostura, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The reception hall (often rented out for private parties) in the century-old estate at Viña Casa Silva in Angostura, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Old wine makiing equipment outside the historic winery and the Angostura vineyards at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Old wine making equipment outside the historic winery and the Angostura vineyards at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Verandah at the historic winery at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Verandah at the historic winery at Viña Casa Silva, San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

One of our favorite wines in the tasting (and on the four-day trip through the winelands of Chile) was the Viña Casa Silva Microterroir de Los Lingues Carménère.  The Silvas explain: “As part of [our] ongoing search for the maximum expression of quality, [we have] been a pioneer in the production of excellent Carménères from the Los Lingues Vineyard at the foot of the Andes Mountains.  Small sectors of this vineyard have been selected to produce this Carménère, the result of the first micro-terroir study conducted in Chile.”

Our private tasting in the winery at Viña Casa Silva included their top three red wines -- all outstanding; San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our private tasting in the winery at Viña Casa Silva included their top three red wines — all outstanding; San Fernando, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Eat local: Chilean barbeque at the Marchigüe Estate of Viña Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Following our tour and tasting at the Viña Montes winery overlooking the Apalta Vineyards, Colchagua Valley, Chile [see our previous blog post], we drove west to another major Montes vineyard, the Marchigüe Estate, also in the Colchagua Valley

Our Chilean barbeque luncheon table overlooked the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our Chilean barbecue luncheon table overlooked the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Closer to the coast, this vineyard enjoys a cooler climate, allowing slower ripening of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Syrah grapes planted there. We had a chance to briefly tour the property and then convened by the open pit fireplace, bread-baking oven and outdoor grills for a spectacular Chilean barbeque. Of course, with all the appetizers and the proteins and salads, we enjoyed a wide range of Montes wines, including our favorite, Montes Folly (100% Syrah). Another favorite of our group was the Carménère, a varietal that is now only grown in Chile (having originated in Bordeaux, before their vines were destroyed by phylloxera) and closely resembles Merlot.

Local ham and relish on crostini as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Local ham and relish on crostini as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Chilean shrimp ceviche as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Chilean shrimp ceviche as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Delectable meat-filled empanadas as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Delectable meat-filled empanadas as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Marinated prawns as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Marinated prawns as an appetizer for our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Outdoor wood oven-baked soda bread and salads to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Outdoor wood oven-baked soda bread and salads to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The freshest of fresh asparagus salad to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The freshest of fresh asparagus salad to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The spit-roasted baby lamb over the outdoor fire was the main course at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The spit-roasted baby lamb over the outdoor fire was the main course at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

As it was a new grape variety for most of us, a little introduction to Carménère is probably in order here…

Carménère is a dark skinned grape variety which has found a particularly suitable home in Chile. The red varietal disappeared from European vineyards in the late 19th century when a sap-sucking insect (phylloxera) decimated ancient root stock and Carménère was presumed to have died off. Chilean winemakers had long been intrigued by what they thought was a unique clone of the Merlot grape growing in many of their vineyards. But in the 1990s French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot determined that the mystery fruit was, in fact, the long-lost grape variety from Bordeaux. It is believed that vine cuttings from Bordeaux were brought to Chile in the late 1860s and that Carménère found a safe haven from phylloxera due to its geographical isolation. In the years since Carménère was forgotten about and when its true identity was revealed, Chileans began to embrace it as if it were a native son and they have ramped up its production dramatically. Chile has capitalized on its status as the savior of Carménère and has incorporated the vine’s memorable story into its famously efficient wine marketing. Montes Purple Angel, Concha y Toro Carmin de Peumo, and the Vina Errazuriz Kai are examples of prestige wines, all competing for the status of Chile’s best Carménère and “Chile’s Signature Wine”.

Delicious ripe tomatoes with a touch of local olive oil to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Delicious ripe tomatoes with a touch of local olive oil to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Of course the lamb wasn't the only protein -- we also had marvelous grilled Chilean chateaubriand at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Of course the lamb wasn’t the only protein — we also had marvelous grilled Chilean chateaubriand at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Beautiful, ripe local avocado slices with home made dressing to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Beautiful, ripe local avocado slices with home made dressing to accompany the meats and fish at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

In addition to the roast lamb and grilled fillets, we enjoyed frsh grilled local salmon at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

In addition to the roast lamb and grilled fillets, we enjoyed fresh grilled local salmon at our Chilean barbeque luncheon at the Marchigüe vineyards of Viña Montes winery, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

Viña Montes (winery), Apalta (near Santa Cruz), Colchagua Valley, Chile

Located on the lower slopes of the vineyards and blending in with the gentle slope of the vineyards and the surrounding beautiful natural area, the Viña Montes winery and cellar in Apalta (near Santa Cruz), Colchagua Valley, Chile, opened in 2004

Located on the lower slopes of the vineyards and blending in with the gentle slope of the vineyards and the surrounding beautiful natural area, the Viña Montes winery and cellar in Apalta (near Santa Cruz), Colchagua Valley, Chile, opened in 2004

Founded in 1987 by four friends – originally by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, with Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand joining the team in 1988 — Viña Montes produces some of Chile’s finest wines. Among the award-winning bottlings is the Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, considered by many to be Chile’s first truly premium wine. Acquired in 2007, the lofty Apalta vineyards are comprised of rocky, granite soil blessed with abundant sun and cool nights. Interestingly, all of the Montes grapes are harvested at night, a practice believed to maintain a lower brix (sugar) level overal.

The winery design incorporates the principles of feng shui so that all the prime elements – water, metal and wood – are part of the design in accordance with the principles of the Chinese system, ensuring harmony in a positive atmosphere

The winery design incorporates the principles of feng shui so that all the prime elements – water, metal and wood – are part of the design in accordance with the principles of the Chinese system, ensuring harmony in a positive atmosphere

“From the first drawing board ideas, we were insistent that its design incorporated the principles of feng shui. With the help of Chilean expert Silvia Galleguillos, all the prime elements – water, metal and wood – were incorporated into the design in accordance with the principles of the Chinese system, ensuring harmony in a positive atmosphere. At the entrance of the winery, a wooden access bridge crosses a small lagoon, whose water flows towards the building in accordance with the fundamental principle of feng shui, that prosperity will only come if the water, representing energy, flows towards the center of the building, not away from it. At the center of the winery a fountain lies directly under a lily-shaped skylight, representing the sun and moon: the point from which energy is distributed, connecting the building to the outside universe.” – www.monteswines.com

Dry farming the vineyards produces better grapes (and wines) while saving considerable quantities of water

Dry farming the vineyards produces better grapes (and wines) while saving considerable quantities of water

 

Winemaker Aurelio Montes has always maintained that “80% of good wine comes from the vineyards and only 20% from the cellar”, so vineyard care is paramount

Winemaker Aurelio Montes has always maintained that “80% of good wine comes from the vineyards and only 20% from the cellar”, so vineyard care is paramount

Our visit started in the morning at the Apalta Vineyards and the winery and then we drove to the Marchigue Estate for a vineyard Chilean barbecue luncheon, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Our visit started in the morning at the Apalta Vineyards and the winery and then we drove to the Marchigüe Estate for a vineyard Chilean barbecue luncheon, Colchagua Valley, Chile

A view of the Apalta Vineyards from the roof of the Viña Montes winery, looking across a portable grape sorting table, Colchagua Valley, Chile

A view of the Apalta Vineyards from the roof of the Viña Montes winery, looking across a portable grape sorting table, Colchagua Valley, Chile

 

 

The wooden and stainless steel fermenting tanks at the Viña Montes winery receive grape juice by gravity, through the black-striped red hose (center)

The wooden and stainless steel fermenting tanks at the Viña Montes winery receive grape juice by gravity, through the black-striped red hose (center)

The Viña Montes winery tasting room overlooks the Apalta Vineyards, Colchagua Valley, Chile

The Viña Montes winery tasting room overlooks the Apalta Vineyards, Colchagua Valley, Chile.jpg

Our small group’s private tasting included three Viña Montes iconic wines -- Montes Alpha M, Montes Folly and Purple Angel by Montes

Our small group’s private tasting included three Viña Montes iconic wines — Montes Alpha M, Montes Folly and Purple Angel by Montes

Our small group’s private tasting included three Viña Montes iconic wines — Montes Alpha M (a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot), Montes Folly (the winery’s premier, 100% Syrah wine) and Purple Angel by Montes (regarded as one of Chile’s top wines, comprised of 92% Carmenere (which, until 20 years ago, was thought to be Merlot!) and 8% Petit Verdot).

Like the rest of the Viña Montes winery, the underground barrel aging room was beautifully designed and takes into consideration the principles of feng shui

Like the rest of the Viña Montes winery, the underground barrel aging room was beautifully designed and takes into consideration the principles of feng shui

We each got a taste of young wine, aging in the barrels at the Viña Montes winery_

We each got a taste of young wine, aging in the barrels at the Viña Montes winery

 

Eat local: Viña Casa Marin, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

Vina Casa Marin, in the San Antonio Valley, was founded in 2000 by owner-winemaker Maria Luz Marin, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile-

Viña Casa Marin, in the San Antonio Valley, was founded in 2000 by owner-winemaker Maria Luz Marin, Lo Abarca, Chile

Our second winery visit was Viña Casa Marin, in the neighboring San Antonio Vally (just south of Santiago), founded in 2000 by owner/winemaker Maria Luz Marin.  Against the advice of her colleagues and friends, Ms. Marin chose Lo Abarca, surrounded by steep hills in the coastal valley, as the site for her winery.  With a degree in agronomy and winemaking from the University of Chile, María Luz is the first female Chilean winemaker and winery owner. Cutting edge, she successfully created the first cool-climate winery in all of the South America and the Pacific Coast. Currently the closest to the ocean of all Chile’s vineyards, Casa Marin is planted with Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Gewurtztraminer, and Riesling.  Known for her “daring and innovative” techniques, Ms. Marin’s Cipreses Sauvignon Blanc 2014 took the gold medal for the fourth year in a row at Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2015.

The vineyards of Vina Casa Marin are the closest to the Pacific Ocean in Chile, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

The vineyards of Viña Casa Marin are the closest to the Pacific Ocean in Chile, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

“Viña Casa Marín is located in a privileged and unique terroir but one that can seem adverse. The town of Lo Abarca is just 4 kms. from the Pacific Ocean and is covered by a constant fog during the summer and winter months. It’s also a very windy area with cold temperatures during the grape growth and ripening period. However, these conditions make the vines produced a superior quality fruit than other valleys with higher temperatures and with massive production. The harvests are not abundant, but the plants that grow here are strong with healthy grapes and greater flavor and mineral concentration that add unique qualities and character to the wines.

“According to geologists, this area was once part of the ocean which is why there have been high levels of calcium and minerals (each adds to the grapes) found in excavations the winery has done. In fact this is where the new plant name “tierras blancas” (white soil) came from because of its color and the abundant presence of calcium carbonate. Casa Marín’s terroir is made up of 50 hectares of hills and valleys, of which 10 newly planted.” — http://www.casamarin.cl

After our tour of Vina Casa Marin and a wine tasting, we were joined by winemaker Ms. Marin for a delicious luncheon with her wines at the winery's "Cipreses" vino bar, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

After our tour of Viña Casa Marin and a wine tasting, we were joined by winemaker Ms. Marin for a delicious luncheon with her wines at the winery’s “Cipreses” vino bar, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

Our appetizer was shrimp, scallop and salmon crudo with Cartagena (Vina Casa Marin's second label) Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our appetizer was shrimp, scallop and razor clam crudo with Cartagena (Viña Casa Marin’s second label) Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

After our tour of Viña Casa Marin and a wine tasting, we were joined by winemaker Ms. Marin for a delicious luncheon with her wines at the winery’s “Cipreses” vino bar.

Our first course was avocado cream and sweet salmon tartare with poppy seeds with Vina Casa Marin Sauvignon Gris 2015, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our first course was avocado cream and sweet salmon tartar with poppy seeds with Viña Casa Marin Sauvignon Gris 2015, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

The salmon tartar was excellent and well paired with the Sauvignon Gris, a varietal that we had not previously tasted in the USA.  The winemaker described the wine: “Round and robust, not a delicate wine but a very complex one. Elegant touches of French oak offset by green pepper and cantaloupe flavors. Fabulously long, clean and fresh to the end.”

“Sauvignon Gris is pink color wine grape that is a clonal mutation of Sauvignon Blanc. The grape is primarily found in Bordeaux and Chile, where it was imported with Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert cuttings. The grape produces less aromatic wines and is often use for blending.” — Wikipoedia

Our main course was Conger eel fillet with black olives over vegetable lasagna, yellow pepper and shrimps with Vina Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2010, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our main course was Conger eel fillet with black olives over vegetable lasagna, yellow pepper and shrimps with Viña Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2010, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

Our desset was warm brownie with chocolate ice cream with a shot of tea milk with Vina Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2009, Las Condes, San Antonio Valley, Chile-

Our dessert was warm brownie with chocolate ice cream with a shot of tea milk with Viña Casa Marin Pinot Noir Lo Abarca Hills 2009, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile

 

Loma Larga Vineyards, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga is the leader in coastal cool climate Chilean wines, located in Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga is the leader in coastal cool climate Chilean wines, located in Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

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. 

Just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Loma Larga was the first winery in the Casablanca Valley to plant red varieties, Lo Ovalle, Chile

Just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Loma Larga was the first winery in the Casablanca Valley to plant red varieties, Lo Ovalle, Chile

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.

We toured the vineyards, planted in 1999, on the horse-drawn carriage at Loma Larga, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

We toured the vineyards, planted in 1999, on the horse-drawn carriage at Loma Larga, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

Loma Larga's winery is very modern with the latest equipment, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga’s winery is very modern with the latest equipment, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

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.

Walking through Loma Larga's winery facility, I was struck by the besuty of the pallet of new wime bottles awaiting filling, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Walking through Loma Larga’s winery facility, I was struck by the beauty of the pallet of new wine bottles awaiting filling, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

 

Loma Larga's cask aging room at the winery, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Loma Larga’s cask aging room at the winery, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

 

Cédric Nicolle, from France’s Loire Valley joined as winemaker in 2009; he put the focus on making pure and fresh wines that express fruit and are easy to drink, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Cédric Nicolle, from France’s Loire Valley joined as winemaker in 2009; he put the focus on making pure and fresh wines that express fruit and are easy to drink, Lo Ovalle, Casablanca Valley, Chile