After stumbling through Mendoza and its surrounding wine regions, we headed back to Chile to explore Santiago and some of the neighboring Chilean wine regions. We were most excited to visit the Colchagua valley which is known for its Mediterranean climate and production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, and Malbec. The steep slopes of the Andes Mountains in the valley prove to be both scenic and the ideal location to grow the various varietals.
🚍 We took AndesMar from Mendoza to Santiago costing $595 pesos per person, or ($54 USD per person) for two suites on the bus. Be prepared for a very long, frustrating border crossing! It took approximately 3.5 hours to clear customs from Argentina into Chile. The total time on the road was approximately 9 hours, including the time at the border crossing. In the end, we were happy we purchased the suite that came with a light lunch, movies (in English), and comfortable seats. We were however slightly disappointed that there was no bingo for wine.
🏬 Santiago Accommodations
In Santiago, we stayed in a modern, super clean apartment which we enjoyed as there was a nice rooftop pool, laundry (~$2.00 USD per wash or dry). It was located in the Provendencia which is a friendly, safe neighborhood. It was close to the subway Metro and in walking distance to some of the nicer restaurants, grocery stores, and shops in the area. The only downside was no air conditioning. So even in our modern apartment, it was sometimes stuffy in the mornings and late afternoons. Cost per night was $67 USD.
Another apartment we stayed in Santiago cost a very budget friendly $45 USD per night. It was super clean, modern, had access to washer/dryer (for a few pesos per load), and was fully stocked. It was located in the downtown and within walking distance to many of the popular attractions. The only negative was that the busy daytime streets turned a little questionable at night, with a “ladies of the night” club only one block away.
Maipo is the closest wine region to the city of Santiago. Vineyards stretch eastward from Santiago to the Andes and westward to the coast. The area is most known for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s often described as the Bordeaux of South America. We were excited to learn that we could use public transportation to take an afternoon day trip to the Cousiño Macul Winery.
Founded in 1856, this winery is one of the oldest in Chile boasting some of the oldest vines and is still in the hands of the original founding family. Using Santiago’s subway system, take the Tobalaba line and get off at the Quilin stop. Although Trip Advisor reviews said the walk from the stop to the entrance takes 25 minutes, it took us closer to 40-45 minutes. Tasting and tour cost 9,000 pesos ($14 USD) per person. We didn’t feel like walking back so the winery called us a taxi back to the subway which cost 6,000 pesos ($10 USD).
Carménère is to Chile as Malbec is to Argentina, and the Colchagua Valley is probably one of the best places in the world to taste this varietal. Wine Folly even recommends Carménère for the beer drinker in your life who loves IPA. “The flavors and aftertaste of Carménère resemble the complexity of an IPA, making it the ideal wine for someone more loyal to beer, but looking to branch out into wine.”
🚍 We took the subway to Santiago’s bus terminal to purchase tickets to Santa Cruz/Colchagua Valley. When we arrived at the bus terminal, we scouted out which bus company was the cheapest. Ask around because there was a variance in quoted prices. We paid 4,000 pesos per person, or $6.00 USD each.
Reservations for wine tours and tastings are mandatory in Colchagua Valley. We will not go through and rate each winery, because there are extensive reviews on TripAdvisor and your visits will really depend on what wineries eventually get back to you to secure the reservation. As mentioned in previous South American wine country posts, return email correspondence was poor and it was disappointing how many of my emails inquiries went unanswered.
On our first day, we splurged on a tour and tasting with food pairing at Mont Gras. It’s the number one winery on TripAdvisor. We had a private tour of the vineyard with an in depth lesson on the vines, leaves, and grapes. We toured the distillery being able to taste Sauvignon Blanc right from the stainless steel vast. From the town center, a taxi cost 10,000 pesos, $16 USD to get there and back.
Afterwards, our hostel owner let us borrow his rental bikes for free to taste wine by the glass at Laura Hartwig. Tasting costs range from $1.50-$3.50 USD with reserve wines on the more expensive side.
On day two, we rented two bikes from our hostel and explored the Ruta del Vino. Our first reservation took us to Montes, where we blew off our scheduled (costly) tour and opted to sit on their lovely outdoor patio to order wine by the glass. We paid $7,50 pesos for each glass of wine, or ~$1.00 USD per glass. They have an outdoor restaurant onsite, but we had a lunch reservation later that afternoon. Afterwards, we attempted to visit Lapostolle but we’re turned away at the gate due to not having a reservation. Many say this is one of the most beautiful wineries in the area so it may be worth a visit.
Next, we biked to Viu Manent. We also made a reservation for a tour here as it includes a charming horse drawn carriage tour through the vineyards, however at the last minute, we decided to skip this tour too and use the money towards a really great lunch, as we were starving and hot!
In conclusion, we saved money in this expensive region by skipping the tours, opting to order wine by the glass (or bottle), then enjoying each wineries’ beautiful surroundings. Although, many of the top wineries offer something special to make their tours unique (e.g., horse carriage ride, drinking from the vast, hiking opportunity on the grounds, skylift, etc.), after a while the tours do start getting repetitive.
We had a hard time finding budget accommodations in this area. We booked Hostel del Centro which was in walking distance to the bus terminal in Santa Cruz. Although the host/owner was great, the rooms and experience was very average. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this hostel. Our full review is <here> on TripAdvisor.
We totally would have jumped on this experience had we known, but unfortunately our hostel owner thought he told us about it. Viña Santa Cruz winery hosts an Astrology and Wine night which sounded amazing! It is only held on certain evenings so do your research ahead of time and make a reservation!
From our hostel, we walked to Prado’s Pizza which was recommended by locals and actually turned out to be a very large, tasty pizza. Thick and hearty, it was a good option for an inexpensive dinner.