The Millers spent 16 days in Chile, devoting part of their time to seeing the lake country of Patagonia and driving a portion of the Pacific Coast and the rest of their days visiting wineries. They visited 16 or 17 wineries in six wine regions from northwest of Santiago to the Bio Bio Valley, which is considered to be the wine district farthest south that produces fine wines.
They began with the wine regions west of Santiago: Aconcagua, Casablanca and the San Antonio Valley. Because of the vineyards’ proximity to the cool Pacific Coast, the wines from these regions differ from those of Argentina and the eastern regions of Chile. They tend to be light, fresh, fruity dry whites like Sauvignon Blancs and dry Rieslings. The wineries also are beginning to experiment successfully with Pinot Noirs, Eric says. Standout wineries include Errazuriz, Matetic and Casa Mari. This last is a small winery, which is rare in Chile, but well worth visiting, Eric says. “I had the most impressive Riesling there,” he adds, “and their Pinot Noir is also quite good.”
Farther south, they visited the valleys of Colchagua and Bio Bio as well as the Maule Valley, an area that Eric says “has preserved its Wild West look by its rodeos and the flat-topped brimmed hats worn by cowboys, farmers and brief-cased executives alike.” J. Bouchon in the Maule Valley, established by a French family, is “a winery to watch,” Eric says.
The Colchagua Valley is the most famous of Chile’s wine regions, and the super premium site for wineries there is Apalta, a mountainside shared by 10 vineyards. They produce Carménère, known as Chile’s signature grape. The Web site winesofchile.org describes Carménère as “a very pleasing and easy to drink varietal” that is “rich in berry fruits and spice … with smooth, well-rounded tannins.” Among the wineries the Millers recommend in Apalta are Vik and Lapostolle, both of which also have small, high-end lodgings on site.
One of the Millers’ favorite wineries was Viu Manent, where they took a carriage ride through the vineyards and then enjoyed a meal outdoors on a vine-covered patio while being serenaded by a band of Spanish musicians.