Out of Office: Chile Wine Tourism Beyond the Vine
Traveler staffer Giovanna Palatucci writes about her trip to Chile, where she quickly discovered there’s more to this South American country than the dry Atacama Desert to the north and the snowy peaks of Patagonia to the south.
It’s summertime in Chile, which means vineyards are gearing up for a busy harvest season. The ripe, plump grapes are ready for picking, and wineries welcome travelers to roll up their sleeves and help with the process. Although the popular and obvious choice of activity when visiting a winery is typically grape-centric, Chilean vineyards offer a host of other experiences that go beyond the vine.
Touring a vineyard by horseback is a fun and leisurely way to spend an afternoon in the Colchagua Valley, Chile’s wine-growing region 150 miles south of Santiago. At the eco-friendly Clos Apalta Winery, take in dramatic mountain views that surround the vineyard on three sides. Warning, based on my experience, riding tours don’t come with lessons. Although accompanied by professional riders, you’re expected to simply climb up and go. If riding a horse makes you nervous, wineries often offer bicycle tours as an alternative.
Astronomical tours are popular in the Colchagua Valley due to the region’s clear atmosphere devoid of artificial light. At Viña Santa Cruz, ride a cable car up to the Cerro Chamán Observatory for a spectacular nighttime show. The winery’s small astronomy museum houses an impressive collection of meteorites discovered in Chile and other parts of the world. Sit for a short lecture, then head up to the roof where two powerful telescopes zoom in on the craggy craters of the Moon.
Rodeo is the national sport of Chile and an integral part of life at the family-run Viña Casa Silva. For just $25, including a wine-paired lunch, the winery’s professional team of riders will demonstrate Chilean rodeo riding and handling skills– quick stops, figure eights, and bull wrangling.
Make Your Own Wine
Okay, so this activity is about wine but it’s more hands-on than any tasting. At the beautiful Viña Mont Gras, learn how to make your own wine. Sample three varieties– Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot– then combine the perfect percentage of each into your personal blend. Once you’ve mixed and matched, learn how to bottle, cork, seal, and label your wine. It’s the perfect souvenir to bring home and share with friends.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
A trip to Chile’s wine regions doesn’t have to be all about the wine or exclusive to wine connoisseurs. Horseback riding, astronomy, and rodeo will keep any group entertained. Of course, that’s not to say these activities can’t be enjoyed with a glass of wine before, during, or after.
Photo: Horseback tour through Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta Winery (above); Wine bottle labels and sealing tool (below) by Giovanna Palatucci