Thursday, April 2, 2015

Casablanca Valley, Viña del Mar, and Valparaiso

Grab this related post Widget!
Santiago is ideally positioned within easy driving distance of numerous valleys where excellent Chilean wine is produced. Our guide Carola Neubauer picked us up early for a day in the Casablanca Valley en route to our next stop in Viña del Mar on the coast. I can't say enough good things about Carola, by the way. She met us at the airport, took us on a private city tour, and was now showing us around the wine country. She became a good friend and I highly recommend her ( if you are in Santiago.

Casablanca Valley is Chile's newest wine region and, because of the cool coastal breezes, specializes in whites (although Pinot Noir has recently been introduced). You perhaps have visited or seen photos of the rolling hills of the vineyards in California and Oregon. We were surprised to find the terrain in Casablanca quite flat and dry.

Our first stop was Veramonte, a modern winery that has been open for almost 20 years.

We were fortunate to arrive just as a large group was leaving, so we enjoyed a private tour of the facilities.

And a private tasting.

Next we were off to lunch at Indomita winery, perched high on a hill and better known for its restaurant than its wines.

The reviews I had read didn't disappoint. We enjoyed a fab meal with lovely views of the valley.

Our final stop in Casablanca was Viña Mar, a boutique winery with no distribution in the US. The main building was gorgeous,

and after another private tasting we were in a great mood.

On to our oceanfront apartment in Viña del Mar, a resort area that borders the bay at Valparaiso where we would board the cruise ship. What a find this place was--killer views and perfect hosts. Carolina sure knew how to get the day off to a great start!

And each evening we were treated to spectacular Pacific sunsets.

We were doubly fortunate to discover that Carolina's husband Michael was a highly-regarded tour guide known as The German Pirate. With a moniker like that how could you go wrong, so the next morning we joined him and two other couples to explore Valparaiso.

Michael explained how the economy of Valparaiso, once an important port for ships to and from Europe, was devastated when the Panama Canal opened and the South American coast was immediately abandoned as a shipping route. It was so interesting to gain an understanding of this event from a totally different perspective.

Although Valparaiso shares with Cuenca the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage site, I found the city to be gritty and dodgy. While renowned for its high quality street art,

a lot of the streets were filled with graffiti and looked like this.

Valparaiso is built into the sides of hills surrounding the bay. Cable cars sit in strategic locations to get folks up and down.

Building exteriors were often constructed from corrugated sheet metal. To me it was an odd look even though lots of them are colorfully painted.

It's always enriching to visit and learn about other places, and one day in Valpariaso was just enough. On the way back to our apartment I discovered a startling treasure that put a big grin on my face!

Next up: cruising around the horn of South America!

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