Friends visited Chile on a wine tour. They told us about the great time they had and the guide who made the trip special for them. We nodded and took the card of the guide, but gave it no more thought. We were thinking of a return to Italy, our favorite place to visit when my spouse ‘discovered’ inexpensive flights to Santiago, Chile, direct from DFW where we live. We took a chance, bought the tickets and contacted the guide by email. He remembered our friends and guaranteed we would have a great time. We were already committed with tickets, but we didn’t tell him that.
Mauricio Rodriguez Masserano is our guide. He owns a tour company by the name of Chilean Wine Lovers. Mauricio owns his own van and drives us to the various wineries we negotiate by email prior to our arrival. Once we settle on what we want to see, what kinds of wine we are looking for, and where we want to stay, Mauricio sets it all up for us. He has an impressive resume as a trained Sommelier, wine maker and chef. He speaks excellent English as he trained in California to be a Sommelier.
On our first trip we really didn’t know for sure what we wanted to do or see. Mauricio recommended his standard three-and-a-half day tour. The only starting point we gave him is we wanted to see several wineries and wanted to try a Malbec if possible. At that point I didn’t realize Malbec only comes from Argentina on the other side of the Andes, but there was one winery that was producing Malbec so he started us out there.
When Mauricio met us at the airport he took us to his van (at 7:30 in the morning) and served us cheeses, cold deli meats and opened a bottle of a Carmenere, a wine native to Chile that we’d never tried. My spouse instantly fell in love with Carmenere and it remains her favorite wine of all. He took us on a short tour of the city of Santiago and a visit to the family home of the Macul family that owns the largest winery in the Santiago area. The home was first built in the 1840s. The family first made money in railroads and then integrated all of their major partners to become one of the wealthiest families in Chile. The home is now owned by the City of Santiago and used as a venue for special events. Fascinating look into the life of a wealthy family. We then went on to lunch where he introduced us to razor clams and Pisco sours. Razor clams consist of two large clams baked on a half-shell with parmesan cheese and a little milk. You just slide them off the shell into your mouth and they are delicious. We went back to the hotel after lunch as we were going to go south to the Colchagua Valley, about a two hour drive the next day to start our tastings and tour.
On the next day we visited Viu Manent where we did a carriage ride into the vineyards and a tour of their production methods, which included old concrete vats, and bought a couple bottles of wine. That afternoon we went to Montes which is a Feng Shui structure, situated in a valley surrounded by grape vineyards, with water running through the barrel room and around the outside. They also play Gregorian chants to help the harmonization of the wine with the universe. It must work because the wine is excellent. In the lobby is a wooden angel. We learned the story that Aurelio Montes, the owner, learned it was the only thing that survived a lightning strike and fire at a local cathedral. He made a deal with the church that if they would give him the wooden angel that survived, he would build them a new cathedral. The church agreed and the angel is now the primary motif of the winery. While there we met a couple from Rio who traveled to the winery because their favorite wine is the Montes Purple Angel, which is hard to find in Brazil. The winery had sold out of that particular kind, so we sent Mauricio on a mission to find us a bottle before we left. He called all over and could not find any. So I gave him $75 and told him to buy us a bottle and hold it until we returned when we would share it with him.
He rearranged the schedule on the third day to go north and visit Errazuriz and Von Siebenthal who both produce excellent Carmeneres. We are able to buy Errazuriz Carmenere in the US but not Von Siebenthal, so bought a case of the latter wines to bring back. We suggested to Mauricio that his might be a problem to bring back on the plane, but he said not to worry and he would take care of it. On the last day (the outbound flight goes out late afternoon) we went to the sea port of Valparaiso where he took us to a wine store and helped us pick out a case of assorted excellent wines to bring home. We also stopped at the coastal community north of it called Vina del Mar for lunch where we were introduced to razor clams. On the way there we stopped at Veramonte, and on the way back, Indomita to sample their award winning wines.
Mauricio took us to the airport where he repackaged all of our wine in bubble wrap sleeves and bound the cases in plastic wrap. When we checked in he told the agent that we were buyers from a well-known member’s club retailer in the US and that millions of cases of wine purchases depended on those cases getting back intact.
When we arrived back in Dallas, we declared the wine and value which was under the $1600 limit for two people and we did not have to pay import duties since the wine was for our personal consumption. This is a key theme of the trip. You can bring back more than two bottles and you won’t be hit by a huge duty, unless it is for sale to others.
All in all, a phenomenal trip and we resolved to collect our Purple Angel the next time.