Wineries of Santiago

Possibly one of the satisfying aspects of living in Chile is its wine. It’s cheap*, good quality and ubiquitous. And you haven’t lived until you’ve seen geriatric Chileans down a couple of bottles of wine over lunch.

*It’s so cheap that some places don’t even sell it by the glass, only by the bottle, which are usually around $15 at a restaurant.

But you can't talk about Chilean wine without its signature - Carmenère.  This is a grape variety originating from France that was thought to be lost during the country's plague of 1857. But right before it happened, wealthy Chileans brought home and planted cuttings of these unaffected French vines, which began to flourish in the Mediterranean climate. Chilean winemakers soon adopted it as their own, becoming a boon to the local wine industry.

If you’re interested in its flavor, you should know its a deep red wine with notes of blackberries and cherries (I’m a sommelier now).

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SANTIAGO'S WINERIES

But back to the reason for this post - our winery visits! Chile is made up of several wine valleys, a delightful landscape of soil and grapevines spread across miles of rolling hills. Some of these are just outside Santiago, and others a short car ride away. In our time here, we’ve visited three famous wineries.

WINERY #1: CONCHA Y TORO

Chilean Wine Region: Maipo Valley
Distance from Santiago: 15 miles || 26km
How to get there: Metro + Uber or bus

For our first introduction to Chilean wines, we went commercial. Concha y Toro is tucked into a valley 15-20 miles south of Santiago, producing 600,000 bottles of wine a day for the United States and other countries with a thirst for Chile's inexpensive wines.

It reminded me of our Robert Mondavi visit in Napa valley - huge acreage, vines as far as the eye can see, and a beautiful space for imbibing with friends. If you drink wine at all, you’ve probably heard of this powerhouse.

While I’d love to tell you more about Concha y Toro, I can’t because we didn’t do a tour but ate and wine tasted instead.

 Love a good cheese platter

Love a good cheese platter

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My favorite? The Terrunyo brand of Carmenere. Check it out and let me know what you think.

WINERY #2: UNDURRAGA

Chilean Wine Region: Maipo Valley
Distance from Santiago: 45km || 28 miles
How to get there: Metro + Uber

Our second winery visit was with our friends visiting from San Francisco, Emily and Laura. We chose this one in particular because I had tried their Carmenère at Bocanariz in Santiago, and fell.in.love. It was, and still is, the best wine I’ve had in Chile. We even brought some back for our families when we went back to the US and it got rave reviews from everyone. It's a fresh, lively wine with balanced, lingering flavors of ripe plums, flowers and spices.

I was happy that we indulged in a tour this time; the guide pointed out several references to the indigenous Mapuche history represented by the sculptures and artifacts carefully placed throughout the property. 

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 Mapuche jewelry, my favorite

Mapuche jewelry, my favorite

But my favorite moment was an interaction during our wine tasting. Our guide asked us to describe the white wine we were having, and I immediately blurted out, "green apple!" His response was epic. He looked at me dead in the eye and exclaimed:

“THAT’S RIGHT. YOU HAVE A GREAT NOSE. TRAIN THAT NOSE.” 

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And when Mike decided to show me up by telling him he tasted mustard, he just responded with an emphatic NO, and moved on. 

Greatest moment of my life.

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WINERY #3: KINGSTON

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Chilean Wine Region: Maipo Valley
Distance from Santiago: 90km || 56 miles
How to get there: Bus to Valparaiso + car to Casablanca

My birthday this year was 2 weeks after we arrived in Chile, and my wonderful, amazing, beautiful friends (#HiPharos) gifted me with a bike + wine ride through the Casablanca wine region. 

Casablanca is next to my favorite Chilean city, Valparaiso (have you not seen my posts on it?!), so we grouped it with an overnight stay there. Our wine tour guide was great, he had a lot to say about young American tourists, and taught us about the local soil and climate.



We visited one winery during our bike ride, called Kingston Winery, run by an American couple who now resides in Chile. It’s a boutique winery that only sells its wine outside Chile, mostly in the United States. We were stoked to try their sauv blanc (ended up being my favorite), and did a mini Syrah tasting (too intenso para mi). 

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 Syrah 2015 and 2016 from Kingston Vineyards

Syrah 2015 and 2016 from Kingston Vineyards

Have you ever visited a winery in winter? I wouldn't recommend it, because all you'll see are leafless vines lying limp against a gray sky. Sad!

And that's a little taste of our winery tours outside Santiago! Until our next visit, I’ll be doing daily tastings as homework (#lifeasasommelier). 

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READ MY OTHER GUIDES TO SANTIAGO!