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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chile: Casablanca Wine Tasting

We ventured out to the greater Valparaiso area during some of our days in Chile, we went on two different excursions arranged by Jon's dad.  Both of them were highlights of our time in Chile.

The first excursion we booked was a wine tasting tour of the Casablanca Valley.  We knew that we wanted to explore wine country, and Wine Tours Valparaiso was highly recommended on Trip Advisor, so we booked with them.  There are options to book one to four wine tours in a day, with our without a wine paring lunch included.  Considering that we had Gretchen in tow and that there was a non-drinker among us, we opted for the 2-winery tour without lunch. 

Michael picked us up right on time from the hotel in a spacious Hyundai H1 van AND he brought his own personal car seat for us to borrow.  This is the first and only time during our numerous travels in South America that anyone has thought to even suggest a car seat for the baby - and he brought his own from home voluntarily - we knew it was going to be a good day!

Michael was a wealth of information, an anthropologist from England who came to Chile 12 years ago for a research project, fell in love and has made a life for himself in the area.  As many of the supplanted souls we know have done, he has become a jack of all trades with all sorts of different side jobs, including wine tour guru.  His knowledge of the area is vast, from the history of the vineyards to the composition of the soil.  He chose the bodegas we toured, and rest assured, we were in ample hands.

We started at Casas del Bosque, a beautiful bodega with winemakers from New Zealand, Chile and the USA. Casas specializes in Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir coming from the Casablanca vineyards and the delicious Carmenére and Cabernet Sauvignon coming from their vineyards in the Maipu valley.  The greenery here is a testament to the fantastic weather in Chile, everything grows beautifully!

The wines were all outstanding, the Chardonnay especially, but the highlight for us at this vineyards was that they have an on-site playground!  Gretchen was understandably bored when the tasting started, so I took her outside to play on the swings and slide - what a great option!  Bravo, Casas del Bosque, for your family-friendly grounds!

Entryway fountain - check out those clouds!

A large group tasting set up for later in the day 
Our next stop was an organic vineyard called Emiliana, another picturesque valley location, but this time they have animals running all over the grounds.  Here is a little duck that wandered about:

 And here is Gretchen staring down one of their many chickens.  Chickens are known for eating almost anything - including all sorts of bugs and pests that pose potential damage to the vines.  Since the vineyard is organic, this is one of the more effective forms of insect control that does not involve pesticides.

The chicken's proved their garbage-disposal reputation by fighting to eat some tree bark that Gretchen threw for them.  She was in her glory with all of these animals running around at her feet. Mom and Dad were more nervous that their dead-black eyes held a look of mischief and that the day would end with a chicken bite (peck?  I'm not sure what it's called...).  Luckily, they all kept their distance and the tour continued without incident.


 Insects are not the only ones who want to sneak a taste of the delicious grapes.  We witnessed a few chickens take running jumps to grap some low hanging grapes, and our little fruit-eater was thrilled when the guide said that we could taste some off of the vine.  They were Sauvignon Blanc grapes, a bit under mature and therefore quite tart, but Gretchen didn't mind a bit. She ate about a thousand grapes.

Aside from the animals, including alpacas, sheep, horses and geese, the grounds have land designated space for each of the full time employees to have a parcel to plant whatever they would like to grow.  It especially great since everything grows like kudzu here.  


The tasting was also great, they give everyone an option of pairing the wines with either chocolate or cheese, both of which were well-pared and delicious.  Gretchen preferred the chocolate, hands down.

 The wines were fantastic, the grounds were beautiful, and we had a lovely day to top it all off.  If you are ever in the area, make the trip to the Casablanca Valley and drink some Carmenere - it's fantastic!

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