On Saturday I had the pleasure to go to Viña San Esteban right outside of Los Andes, which is in the V Region, north of Santiago. Even though it was hot and sunny and I now have a sexy farmer’s tan (despite multiple applications of sunscreen), it was one of the best vineyard experiences I’ve had in Chile. I have a hunch that is because before now I’ve always gone in the off season. I first went to Concho y Toro with my mom in June 2007, and the vines were brown and empty. I remember I made the mistake of saying they looked dead and the guide was quick to correct me. They are just resting. Then I went to Cousiño Macul in late May 2009 with my mom and sister. Although the tour was very informative with beautiful old grounds right in Santiago, again, it was the beginning of winter and there was no activity at the vineyard. Recently, I went with Heather and Eileen to Santa Rita in the Maipo valley south of Santiago. Even though I had a great time (I was in good company) and the vines were green and heavy with unripe grapes, the vendimia (grape harvest) had not started yet.
Today, not only were the grapes ripe to be harvested, we actually got to participate in the process! We were given aprons and hats, gloves and scissors, and sent off two to a row to cut the grapes. It was really fun and when the guide said it was time to stop I didn’t want to! My partner and I were quite industrious and insisted on finishing the row before turning in our scissors.
Then we hiked a little ways up a small hill to enjoy the beautiful view of the Aconcagua Valley and see some pre-Incan and Incan petroglyphs.
After that, we walked quite a ways down the mountain, and just when I thought I couldn’t walk anymore, we arrived to the tasting area, which had a gorgeous view. We were served cheese, olives, dried fruit, bread with pebre and giant red grapes. And of course, we tried four different wines: a Chardonnay, a Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon ensemble, a Carmenére and the vineyard’s signature wine, In Situ Laguna del Inca, which is a mix of the best harvests of the year. The one we tried was Syrah, Carmenére and Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked all the wines, but my favorite was the Syrah-Cabernet ensemble.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find San Esteban’s wines in Chile, as more than 90% are exported to North America, Europe and Asia. But luckily I was smart enough to nab a couple of bottles from the gift shop. 🙂