Wine Tasting in Chile: San Antonio Valley – Part One
The second (and last) stop of my day tour of Chile’s San Antonio wine valley with Santiago Adventures was one of my favorite experiences in Chile:
A small gem of an independent winery named Casa Marín.
Set about 20 minutes west of Matetic in the village of Lo Abarca, Casa Marín was made internationally popular by Chile’s first female winemaker and winery owner, Maria Luz Marín, in the early 2000′s. Maria has since retired, and her winery is now overseen by her UC Davis-trained son, Felipe.
My tour guide gave me the inside scoop on Maria Luz, who had to deal with plenty of naysaying from her male colleagues. These men derided her not only for being a woman but for choosing to grow wine so close to the ocean; when her wines began winning awards in Chile, Europe and the U.S., though, they eventually came to accept that Marín was a talented vintner in possession of a great plot of land.
The sloping acres here are simply gorgeous, and Santiago Adventures can help you arrange a guided walk amongst the vines. May was a lovely time to be here, with the hills and valleys draped in green and gold, peppered with autumn-red leaves. In the morning, these views are usually shrouded in coastal fog, but they generally burn off to soft sunshine by noon.
At the very top of these spectacular hills, the winery has a two-bedroom house, the Villa Miramar, that can be booked for romantic or friend getaways. Breakfast is served up here, and I can think of few things more delightful than perching on this deck at golden hour, enjoying a glass of wine and looking out over a rolling sea of vines. (175,000 CLP/$328 US per night for both rooms)
Back down on flat land, the Casa Marín hacienda is dotted with life-size ceramic figures and a sprinkling of mosaics, and the second-story tasting porch overlooks sloping hills of vines and a small grove of squat, spiky Brazilian palm trees. It was here that I took one sip of the bright, fruity and fascinating Laurel Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, which has a complex finish that travels from chalk to shale, and I fell deeply in love.
The secret to this remarkable finish (and those of other Marín vintages, like the Lo Abarco Pinot Noir and the Cartagena Riesling) is the winery’s one-of-a-kind soil. According to soil scientists from as far away as South Africa, the terroir here is some of the most calcified, fossil-rich land that’s ever been used to grow grapes; I feel it looks more like the bottom of the ocean on a dry day than anything resembling a garden. It’s amazing to think that Maria would have attempted grape-growing here, but after tasting her wines, I’m thrilled that she did — and that Felipe continues to do so.
At the end of my long day tour in the San Antonio ($319 US per person, for transportation, lunch and two winery visits), I’d had a fair bit to drink and would have been in no shape to drive in a place I knew really well, much less the city of Valparaíso, which is renowned for its winding, narrow, hilly streets. It was a relief to not only have a ride, but a joy to be escorted by a guide who could tell fun stories about the area and answer just about all of my questions.
The only question no one could help me answer was: Why on Earth didn’t I buy any wine from the San Antonio Valley? Seriously, they’re nigh on impossible to purchase in America.
After much consideration, I’ve decided to blame my poor judgement on….too much wine.
My tour of the San Antonio Valley was provided courtesy of Santiago Adventures,
and my Casa Marín wine tasting was provided courtesy of the winery.
All opinions and observations, however, are my own.