Chile & Argentina…Wines & Other Wonders
by Donna Rombough
Chile says their wines are better than Argentina’s. In Argentina, they say they prefer quality to quantity. The rivalry between the two countries is openly evident, but the truth is that both countries have high quality wines and affordable options. You may have heard of brands such as Santa Cruz, Santa Rita, Cono Sur and Fuzion as they have expanded their fame to North America. The things both countries have in common are their stunningly beautiful vineyards, the unique wineries that accompany them and the myriad of touristic sites both countries have to offer. It is the vineyards, wineries and wines that leave a magical imprint in your mind and which are very likely to make a great tour, even greater.
From captivating Santiago, Chile it isn’t long before you arrive in the Casablanca Valley. An excellent choice for a first winery visit was Casas del Bosque, a vineyard specializing in Sauvignon Blanc. Here, charming guides lead tours through the modern cellar. Gleaming stainless steel tanks and over 1,000 barrels are a sight to see at this family-owned winery. They are one of the oldest winemakers in the valley, the vines some thirty years old.
In Santa Cruz, a must-stop was Santa Cruz Winery, a vineyard owned by weapons manufacturer, Carlos Cardoen. Mr. Cardoen was an arms dealer and while it is said he has done many wrongs, he certainly has done many things right in and around the Santa Cruz area. His Colchagua Museum is the best museum, bar none, that I have ever visited, anywhere in the world.
The Santa Cruz winery produces the highly awarded wine, Chamán, among others. If you arrange a winery tour late in the day, after the sun has set, you may board a gondola for a ride to the vineyard’s Star Observation Tower, where expert guides show you the amazing night sky through monstrous telescopes.
For a completely different experience, Montes Winery has a lovely low-rise building that is nestled between the vineyard and the mountains. Soft, Gregorian music plays in the cellars. The Winemaster believes the music improves the wine as it ages. This notion is somewhat scoffed at, however, Montes does produce excellent, high quality wines, so perhaps they are onto something!
At Viu Manent, guests are taken through the vineyard in vintage horse-drawn carriages, followed by a tour of the cellars and a lesson on wine-making; this, of course, is followed by a tasting of several excellent varieties.
It’s time to cross the majestic Andes into Argentina following miles of switchback roads with awe-inspiring views of the incredible mountains. Catena Zapata Winery is a stunningly beautiful pyramid-shaped structure, built to resemble the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Guatemala….very impressive! A glass and brass staircase dominates the centre of the large foyer and the views of the mountains and vineyards from the second floor balcony are spectacular.
One of the best features of vineyard visits is surely the fine cuisine prepared by expert chefs and of course, the pairings of wine with each course. To the average tourist, winery visits might take on a sameness in some parts of the world, but not in Chile and Argentina. Each visit is delightfully different from the one before. Bodega Norton is a perfect example. Here, visitors are divided into teams given the task of creating their own blended wine. What fun to create and taste your own creation! Each team leader presents their wine and a winner is announced. Are you up to the challenge?
Leaving vineyards behind, another magical highlight awaits on arrival at spectacular Iguassu Falls National Park! This UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a natural spectacle of might and wonder in a semi-tropical eco system. Excellent trails and wood walkways allow you to wander the jungle viewing one spectacular site after another. Awe-inspiring is the only way to describe it!
Visiting Argentina in March, offers the opportunity to attend the Mendoza Vendimia Wine Festival, where a spectacular show of up to 1,000 singers and dancers are unveiled before your eyes! Their city fountains run red to mimic red wine. What an incredible cultural immersion to end your trip with!
If you have a travel bucket list, Chile and Argentina should be on it. Join Craig Travel’s next journey to South America and save $200pp when you book and deposit by September 30, 2019*. Contact Craig Travel for more information and to book 1-800-387-8890.
Photos courtesy of Dennis Bristow (Vineyard) and Janet Williams (Tango show)