Wine touring–generally without wine–in the Maipo Valley, Mar. 3, 2015

Jonathan assembled a list of vineyards in our part of the Maipo Valley (Altos de Jahuel) that have web pages, participate in the network of wine tourism of the region, and for which he could divine their location. We set off in the late morning. Our first stop, Portal del Alto. It had a nice open area with parking, but that was it. The vineyard makes at least four categories of wine, a broad range of products including sparkling and late harvest wines. One blend is called “Four Reds”, suggesting they export to English speaking countries. Despite web information to the contrary they do not offer tours or tasting, though they do sell wine. The two women in the office seemed far too busy to host visitors. My conclusion, the company exports most of their production and is not interested in local publicity that might be generated by visits to the winery.

Portal del Alto, Alto Jahuel
Portal del Alto, Alto Jahuel

Next stop was Concha y Toro, a large winery with vineyards in several countries and an internationally recognized name. We’d avoided the large wineries in favor of those whose products were less likely to be available in the US, but we decided to visit Concha y Toros. They run a wide variety of tours and when we arrived we were impressed by the size of the grounds, parking area, wine shop, restaurant. They can host hundreds at a time. Fortunately for us, they only had two groups of about 16 that we saw, in addition to a couple of pairs or small groups.

concha y torosm

We found that a tour was not required and that a wide variety of wines are available in 1/2 glass portions, a typical Chilean tasting size. Jonathan was looking for a good Carmenere to take back to Peru, so he tried a Carmenere and a blend without finding just the right thing. However, he was able to try just what he wanted. Often, a tasting includes 2-4 set wines and cannot be altered to let you try something that you would prefer to taste. We were seated in the restaurant, and the food looked delicious, though we decided not to stay for lunch. Too many wineries still to visit (Had we but known…). Thus, a huge wine company that we suspected would be uninterested in two casual visitors gave us a good experience in beautiful surroundings.

There’s not even a photo to share of our next stop, Vina William Fevre (corner of Hernan Prieto and Circ. Maximo Valdes, Alto Jahuel or Pirque), because it was a small structure that was shut, despite the sala de ventas sign. It was probably closed for lunch because it was 2 pm. We drove by much later and the doors were open but we did not stop, mostly because of what transpired in the interim.

We stopped in the shade for a picnic lunch¬† before continuing on to our next stop, Vina Santa Alicia. We followed large brown signs to the left and the right for several miles toward the mountainside, each sign indicating “wine tourism”, “vineyards”, and other delights. Finally we arrived at the winery, a large facility with warehouses whose exterior is made to look like old fashioned houses, and signs indicating the sala de ventas (wine store). This was down a flight of stairs–we could smell the wine.

Vina Santa Alicia
Vina Santa Alicia
Entrance to the wine shop is down the stairs past the murals.
Entrance to the wine shop is down the stairs past the murals.

What we found at the bottom of the stairs was a bit of a disappointment. A tasting room, half of it stacked with cases of wine. A staff member who could provide a list of wines (prices not printed), though she pointed out that virtually 100% of their production is exported and what was for sale in Chile was in that room. When we asked about the elaborate signage that got us out to their relatively remote location, she said that the firm is building toward having tastings and regular visitors but is not prepared for visitors yet.

We had not run out of vineyards. Next was a pair of vineyards, Haras de Pirque and El Principal (same name as a nearby community). We followed one large brown and white sign after another across the Pirque Valley. When we pulled into the Haras de Pirque entry the two guards asked whether we had appointments. When we asked about tasting, they said the winery offered no visits at all. When we protested and pointed out the signs, they mentioned new owners, and one said that the signs were installed by the municipality and had nothing to do with the vineyards. Of course, they mentioned that in the future……blah blah. Somewhat disgruntled, we continued onward.

What proved to be the last stop was Vina El Principal, where it really looked like we were going to get to the end of the road at the base of a mountain.

Vina El Principal, also known as the very far end of the Pirque Valley. From here the roads only go back.
Vina El Principal, also known as the very far end of the Pirque Valley. From here the roads only go back.

The winery is just to the left of this sentence on the edge of the photo.

The grounds are extensive and the winery is in the distance off to the right. It is a very large operation. We stopped at the gate and spoke to a man who went to the phone. He returned to tell us that visits were only by appointment and besides, they weren’t having any. When we pointed out that we had emailed (no answer) and that the phone also went unanswered, he shrugged. He also pointed out that it was harvest season. We pointed out that in other regions, harvest season is the busiest time of the year for tourism. He looked mildly surprised. The office at the vineyard that deals with appointments consists of one person.

With that, we threw in the proverbial and by now not much wine-stained towel. Someone wants wine tourism, but it doesn’t seem to be the wineries, who appear to export close to 100% of their production and don’t have much interest in people who visit Chile in hopes of seeing the vines and trying wines in their home locations. How about that? If you want to taste wine, go to Argentina, or California. I’m not sure but I think Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are into wine tourism, too. If you want Chilean wine, go to Binny’s. They do wine tastings.

Since the day had started at about 19 C (66F) and ended up at 30 C (86F), we went home, put our feet up and opened some of the wine we accumulated earlier in the week. Ahhhh.

Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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