As we drove into the city of Santiago from the airport my mouth was agape. Santiago wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I was expecting Buenos Aires or Lima, but what I saw in front of me was a modern, clean city surrounded by nearby mountain peaks. The Andes mountains were so close around the urban perimeter, it looked as if they were hugging the city.
The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Dang, Santiago puts Denver to shame.”
We had just finished our luxurious time in Chile’s Atacama Desert filled with outdoor adventures. Now it was time to enjoy more finer things in Chile – like wine! Many of the country’s best wine-producing valleys and vineyards lay within a 100-mile radius of the Chilean capital of Santiago, with some just a surprisingly short taxi ride away.
Santiago Wine Valleys
Santiago is surrounded by 6 wine producing valleys and we only had 3 days to see and taste what we could. We needed a plan. We enlisted the help of Say Hueque Tours to help us maximize our time wine tasting, as well as seeing some essential culture and sites. They specialize in Chile and Argentina travel and were able to provide us a nice variety of wine experiences to choose from, transportation to and from, as well as activities that helped us get introduced to the culture. We met with their travel ‘counselors’ and were able to put together a couple of great winery visits along with other activities during out short time in Santiago! Our wine tasting plans included a ton of diversity in locations, types of wine, and ways to experience the winery.
Over the course of 3 fast days, we were able to experience 3 very different Santiago wine tours and tastings.
3 Santiago Wine Tours and Tastings You Shouldn’t Miss
Bike in Maipo Valley on a Wine Tasting Tour in Santiago
Maipo Valley is so close to Santiago you can nearly reach it by the subway! Just a short distance from the subway and big shiny buildings of Santiago is the Cousiño Macul vineyard. One would think that’s its ‘too close’ to the city, but miraculously you feel as if you are out in the countryside with the big mountains staring down at you and green trees and vines everywhere.
This Santiago wine tour offers a way to view the entire vineyard in a different way. I’ve done my fair share of wine tasting all over the world. I often get bored with the normal winery tours/tastings; see the vats, the barrels, and storage, and then to the tasting room to open a few bottles to taste. Ho Hum. But adding the element of biking through the vineyard into this half-day tour really spiced up the excitement factor for me!
All of the biking was flat, so it wasn’t difficult. In fact if you are a serious biker looking for a workout, then I suggest you bike to the vineyard for your workout as the route through the vineyard is pretty simple, but lovely! They provide bikes and it is dirt path for most of the way. We biked through the vineyard and stopped a few times to get a close up view of the vines and roots while learning about the growing as well as the family lineage. We even stopped and had a glass of wine in the middle of the vines!
After the biking portion we went down into the old cellar to learn about the production. We finished with some delicious tastings. Maipo Valley is known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Founded in 1856, Cousiño Macul is the only winery in Chile amongst those established in the 19th century that continues in the hands of the original founding family; that’s a lot of generations of wine making!
Casablanca Valley Wine Tasting on the Way to Valparaiso
Escape the city and head for the Ocean breezes in historic Valparaiso. On the way you’ll go through the Casablanca Valley, another famous Santiago area wine region. Plan a nice long stop here to do some wine tasting. We stopped at Emiliano winery in the valley as part of our Valparaiso wine tasting tour with Say Hueque.
As soon as we got out of the car we heard them, the roosters were making their presence known. Cock-a-doodle-do! We started walking towards the winery down the little path and we were greeted by chickens walking with their heads down looking for bugs! I looked to my right and there were also fluffy white alpacas in a pen, along with cows and horses! I wondered exactly what kind of farm we were visiting; maybe wine farm got lost in translation somehow! But all of these farm animals were part of the master plan at Emiliano and they were crucial to their organic vineyard certification. Emiliano is first organic vineyard in South America and the largest organic winery in the world currently.
Emiliano offers winery tours in English where you can learn all about their organic productions methods, soil types, varieties planted, and the climate conditions of the Casablanca Valley. They were early to commit to the organic wine movement. They had to wait 3 years to ‘flush’ the pesticides out of their old growing practices and start producing wine again. That’s dedication.
Organic Winery Methods
Our wine tour guide led us all around the grounds showing us the methods they used for their organic designation. It was fascinating to hear all about the organic farming methods; things that made perfect sense, but things I hadn’t thought about before. They plant oats and mustard grass between the vineyard rows to keep away bugs. They let native flowers also grow in between rows so the insects stay on those flowers instead of the vines. They have over 100 chickens and guinea hens on the grounds that happily eat up bugs and insects. They even have a mobile chicken coop they move around the fields so the chickens always have a fresh supply of bugs and can cover the entire winery.
They rely on interaction between the animal kingdom and plant kingdom to play a very important role in the organic and biodynamic practices at Emiliana. This is why you’ll see alpacas, horses, cows, birds, chickens, sandpipers, geese, etc. living together.
One of my favorite features were the organic gardens on the property. The gardens’ benefits were intangible and had nothing to do with the wine directly. The gardens were for the staff. Emiliana trains their workers to develop and grow vegetables for their family consumption, promoting organic farming among their staff too.
I was so enamored to learn about the organic farming I nearly forgot I was there to taste wine! We did sit down and try some of their star varieties, which were delicious. They are known for their Coyam (means oak in the native language campucha) which is a delicious blend of a number of different red grapes. I walked away with a bottle of Signos, a Carmenere that I’m patiently waiting to taste!
You could easily stay in the Casablanca Valley and arrange wine tasting all day, however after Emiliana, we went onward to do a walking tour of Valparaiso!
Get a complete Chilean Wine Tasting experience at Bocanariz Restaurant
You want to taste the most variety of Chilean wine you can get in a short amount of time? In our short 3 days in Santiago we couldn’t get to all of the great wineries, however you can have the great wineries come to you. Bocanariz Restaurant and wine bar is the way to go. We discovered it on our last night in Santiago based on a tip we received from Emiliana vineyard. It’s as if the travel gods do this as a way to make you come back to a place! And after visiting Bocanariz restaurant in Santiago – it is reason enough to come back!
With one of the longest wine lists in the country, Wine Spectator Magazine awarded Bocanariz as one of the best in the world. This is a small restaurant so you may have to be prepared to wait as it’s also quite popular. The walls are lined with bottles of wine and information regarding the wine regions around Santiago. It’s not only a fun evening tasting Chilean wine and delicious food; it’s an education.
They offer a selection of nearly 400 bottles produced in Chile and have 36 wines by the glass that you can get individually or in flights. With these kind of numbers and variety it’s easy to get overwhelmed; however, the wait staff are experts, many of them are trained sommeliers and they are more than happy to help you pick out wines that pair perfectly with their dishes. Or just simply try a flight from all of the different wine regions around Santiago!
Whatever you do though, don’t skip the food at Bocanariz. It was by far our favorite meal and restaurant experience we had in Santiago!
No matter how much time you have, you can find unique Santiago wine tours to complement your time in the region. We were able to include it with other tours so it all flowed together flawlessly and Santiago turned out even better than it looked in my first impression!
Just make sure you leave a little room in your suitcase to bring some of that delicious Chilean Carmenere home with you!
How to plan your Santiago wine tours and More!
We used Say Hueque to help us arrange all of our time in Santiago. They specialize in working with independent travelers and they did a great job of curating a complete itinerary just for our needs and desires! They can include transportation, and hotels too if you’d like.
Say Hueque Website – They are experts in Argentina and Chile and we also used them in Argentina to organize a few days of our travels!
I was a guest of Say Hueque Tours for some of these experiences mentioned, however all opinions expressed here are my own.