When I write blog entries trying to summarize one of our tours, I usually try to focus on one angle that gives readers a good idea of the overall picture. I find myself struggling to do that with our Chile & Argentina Wine Adventure, which I just completed two days ago. I found this trip to be so immense that using just one angle isn’t sufficient. The wine was excellent, the activities fun, the people in our group engaging, and the local cultures enchanting.
So instead, I’d like to select one point in time during each day of the eight-day tour that together should provide you with a good picture of the tour.
Day 1: We walked through the magnificent Viña Perez Cruz, an amazing property in the Maipo Valley of Chile. The winery is not really set up for tourism but they gave us permission to walk unattended down their vineyard lanes, along the back of the property, and on to a picnic area where they set up a tasting and we guides created a picnic lunch. I think that first winery experience revealed to everyone (and certainly to me) how accommodating the Chileans and Argentinians were. This first activity also set the tone for the week: the tour would be a combination of activity, wine, fun, and relaxing.
Day 2: We had a typical Zephyr Adventures moment. Hiking to the top of Viña Las Ninas, I suggested taking a new, untried route on the way down. Now, I knew this was liable to take us slightly off course but it is these unplanned excursions that often produce the best memories – and the best stories. This one did, as we somehow got into a neighboring vineyard and then were unable to get back without crossing a barb wire fence and jumping a small canal. Everyone did fine and it certainly produced stories during the ensuing wine tasting!
Day 3: Starting at Emiliana Vineyards, we rode bikes down the country roads of the Casablanca Valley of Chile. Most foreign tourists never get to the Casablanca Valley and even fewer do so on bicycles. Forty kilometers later (for those doing the long route) our group nestled up on the deck of Catrala Vineyards for wine tasting with the winery’s knowledgeable and charming family owner and production manager, Felipe.
Day 4: I think dinner at Viña San Esteban, employer of our Chilean guide María José, was the highlight of the trip for many in our group. Located in the Aconcagua Valley of Chile, the winery has an incredible shelter situated on a hill in the midst of the vineyards. We hiked or rode horses through the vineyard to the shelter. As the sun set to the west, the remaining light shone on the Andes to the east – an absolutely magical moment that went well with the catered barbecue dinner and Carmenere wines.
Day 5: This was a long driving day as we switchbacked up, up, and over the Andes Mountains as we crossed from Chile into Argentina. The two countries are very different and it was special including both on this tour. The Mendoza area of Argentina is dry, the people are chic, and the economy is struggling. Compare that to Chile where the economy is rocking, the people are friendly and competent, and everything works as it should. It’s truly hard not to love both countries.
Day 6: We had options for all the activities and today was no exception. Everyone biked in Argentina’s Uco Valley but while half the group continued on a long route, the other half stopped at Altus Winery for a cooking class with renowned local chef Lucas Bustos. How Lucas finds the time to manage seven restaurants and give a cooking class, I’ll never know. I do know those cooking had an incredible time while the rest of us arrived to a fabulous meal with free-flowing wine.
Day 7: This was a changeup day, as we hiked in the precordillera (pre-mountains) of the Andes for 4.5 miles to our destination, the Jerome Cervezeria (brewery). The small family-run brewery produced an amazing beer called the Arch Angel, a hefty 9% alcohol beer with a delicious flavor, in part due to aging in Malbec barrels.
Day 8: Our final morning in Mendoza we took an historical walk through the city, led by our Argentinean guide Lorena. We had been together as a group just over a week but it is no exaggeration to say we had formed bonds well beyond what would be normal in that time. Ours was an excellent group of travelers and it was sad to say goodbye, to each other and to South America.