Welcome to the latest in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Quintay is a small, state-of-the-art winery with a modern, sleek design. It offers a personalized approach to each customer with services ranging from a lunch and cocktail menu to tours of the winery, with a tasting of their Reserva and Gran Reserva lines, to tours on horseback or even tours of the valley by helicopter.
Irina Axenova, Commercial Manager at the winery, adds:
The winery is right on Ruta 68; we always welcome people who just pop in on their way to the coast for a glass of wine. Visitors can also buy our wines at special prices, including our sparkling wine and our Sauvignon Blanc “Experience”, which are only available at our winery shop.
Viña Quintay seeks to make fresh, fruity wines that represent their terroir. They use their own grapes and produce four main varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
The winery has opted for microvinification, where each plot of grapes is vinified separately in small stainless steel tanks and then blended later, as necessary. The winemaker recently experimented with barrel-fermenting a batch of Sauvignon Blanc grapes to produce the wine”Experience”, which has earned critical acclaim.
Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Beautiful nose with herbal and asparagus notes. Fresh, acidic and long.
Clava Sauvignon Blanc Clava 2015
A more fruity and lighter-bodied Sauvignon Blanc featuring pineapple and peach notes among the classic citrus aromas. Very refreshing.
Clava Chardonnay 2014
Stone fruit and banana aromas; delicious in the mouth with fresh acidity. Long finish.
Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2014
Herbal note among the fruit. The oak influence comes through in the complex and silky mouthfeel. This is a well-balanced wine with refreshing acidity and a pleasing texture.
Clava Pinot Noir Rosé 2015
Copper-coloured with an intriguing nose of prunes and a slight floral hint. Drier than the nose suggested, fruity and light. Very refreshing.
Clava Pinot Noir Red 2014
A spicy nose with notes of forest floor, raspberry leaves and black tea. Fairly tannic in the mouth, acidic and that hint of forest floor present again.
Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2012
A different beast this; clearly older with almost orange hues. The nose is more intense, with some jammy notes and prunes. Nice mouthfeel, quite acidic and that hint of dried fruit present again.
Gran Reserva Syrah 2013
Very strong meat and smoke influence in the nose; close your eyes and you’ll think you are right by the barbecue. Big and tannic with lots of cigarbox and smoked bacon notes. Needs to be served with food.
Address: Ruta 68, KM. 62.5 La Vinilla Norte, Casablanca
Welcome to the fourth in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Kingston Family Vineyards is a boutique winery, part of a farm which has been owned and run by the American-Chilean Kingston family for over a century. The winery ranks highly on Tripadvisor and it’s easy to see why, with friendly, knowledgeable staff with impeccable English and lovely, peaceful areas to sit sipping a glass of wine while enjoying one of the best views in Casablanca.
Chile feels like a more dramatic version of California, with narrower valleys and much higher mountains. In many ways, the Casablanca Valley is analogous to California’s Central Coast, but somewhat colder. Even the plants look similar!
It’s therefore no great surprise that 70% of visitors to the winery are from the United States.
The winery organizes tours, tastings and/or lunch to suit the visitors, who should book ahead. Hattie Mills, National Marketing Manager for the winery says:
Although there are much bigger wineries in the Casablanca Valley, we believe we provide a unique experience (…). We have a blog where we like to write about places of interest around Chile, which we then share with our guests who are planning to visit us. And we are unique in offering shipping directly to the States from the vineyard. Our American guests don’t have to take heavy bottles back with them in their luggage, they simply place an order at the vineyard and the wine gets delivered to their home. For cases of 12 bottles, shipping is free.
When we arrived, a large group of American tourists on a cycling-winery tour were just leaving and they were in such great spirits, they burst into song. They had clearly had a fabulous time.
Tobiano 2009, Pinot Noir
A lovely, fragrant Pinot Noir with aromas of liquorice, blueberries, strawberry jam and plums. Smooth and fruity in the mouth, nicely achieved tannins. Quite long in the finish.
Alazan 2008, Pinot Noir
This is Kingston’s premium Pinot Noir and it is certainly a bigger wine with a more complex nose featuring notes of raspberries and spices and that touch of the farmyard so characteristic of Pinot Noir. A delicious fruity wine with nice, firm tannins and smooth acidity.
Lucero 2007, Syrah
Very smooth operator; a cool climate fruity Syrah rich in aromas of black plums, blackcurrants and cherries. The berries come through in the mouth too, together with a delicious acidity and smooth tannins.
Lovely fresh nose with aromas of tropical fruit like bananas and pineapples, together with pears and a herbal hint. Very nice example of Chardonnay, beautifully rounded with just a hint of sweetness.
Hijuela El Maiten S/N, Valle de Casablanca, Chile.
Open Monday to Sunday with tours at 10.30, 12.30, 2.30 and 4.30
Welcome to the third in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Loma Larga is the boutique winery which pioneered red wines in an area where the main focus is on whites so this is one of the best places in Casablanca to taste Chilean cool climate Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec, as well as the varieties more usual in this area, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
“Very dark crimson. Complex nose with more than a hint of mature St-Émilion about it. Very pure varietal flavours with some fresh bloodiness. Fully mature and surely much better value than any red bordeaux they are selling at the same price? Absolutely ready now and with a spine of Casablanca acidity but very worthwhile. (…) Both luscious and very digestible.”
I have been to many different wineries in Chile but I keep on coming back to Loma Larga, partly because I know Alejandra, the Tourism Manager, but also because the wine is always great and the quality of the guides is among the best I’ve encountered. They are truly passionate about wine and you can ask whatever you like, no matter how detailed, and they’ll do their best to respond.
The winery building is worth a look: you can walk over the living roof of vines, which helps keep cool the barrel room underneath.
This is a small winery in a pretty countryside setting, so it is best to book ahead. There is no restaurant, though you can organize a private lunch there, and the shop just sells their own wines. There are a range of different wine tasting options. You can also organize a helicopter ride or horseride.
Camino Lo Ovalle, km. 3, Casablanca, which is reached from Ruta 68, the main road between Santiago and Viña del Mar/Valparaíso.
Tel. +56-32 2742098 / +56 964186574
The winery is open Monday to Sunday between 9.30 a.m. and 6 p.m.
You can reserve by phone or email: email@example.com
Welcome to the second in my series of Casablanca winery visits: Bodegas RE is a relatively recent venture by Pablo Morandé and his family. This is a bold venture in every way and that is its biggest appeal to visitors: if you’ve been to a few other wineries, here you’ll see something a little different.
To begin with, instead of stainless steel tanks, Bodegas RE have clay amphoras and concrete amphora-shaped tanks, where many of the wines are made with minimal intervention. This is a winemaking team that likes to experiment with different grapes and techniques and some of their results are outstanding – check out their new orange wine Enredo made from Gewürztraminer and Riesling, for example.
One of my favourite aspects of the visit was seeing the production of balsamic vinegar made slowly in oak casks – the product is a million miles away from the balsamic vinegar you buy in the supermarket and I stocked up in the shop.
Love it or hate it, you can’t fail to notice their bold marketing campaign featuring the letters “RE” – among their wine names are Enredo and Renace, for instance – while other wines are named by mishmashing the names of the grapes that are in the blend (Pinotel, Cabergnan etc.).
The facilities are well-designed for visitors with seating areas and a pleasant area for tastings. The shop is well-stocked with wines, balsamic vinegar, liqueurs made at the winery, together with a range of Chilean gourmet foods and crafts.
Pinotel 2014 (95% Pinot Noir, 5% Muscat Rose)
Slightly orange, floral, sweet nose. Fresh in the mouth, with a slightly bitter note in the finish.
Chardonnoir 2013 (55% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir)
Light golden wine with a medium nose of apples and citrus fruit. This wine compares well with the Pinotel, having more body and acidity and being longer in the finish.
Welcome to the first in a series of Casablanca winery visits: House, Casa de Vino, part of Grupo Belén, is principally a wine tourism experience, though a limited edition, high-end Syrah named Tiraziš is made here by renowned winemaker Sven Bruchfeld.
The location has been designed with tourism in mind and is hard to fault. The single-storey building is accessible with ramps for wheelchairs. There are picnic tables in the shade of a line of trees right next to a children’s play area, making this one of the best winery options for families with children. Mum and Dad can sip a glass of wine in the shade while keeping a close eye on their kids.
The shop is well thought through, selling a range of wines, including some limited edition wines by new winemakers, gourmet food items and Chilean handicrafts and it was doing brisk trade the day we were there. The restaurant was busy too.
We opted to do a tasting rather than a tour and the Chilean guide spoke excellent English and made the tasting entertaining and enjoyable. There were a range of different tasting options, enabling us to taste the wines that we were interested in.
Mancura Gran Reserva 2012, Casablanca
80% Syrah, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot
Lovely, smooth red wine with lots of fruit and spice, pleasant acidity and a hint of bitterness on the finish.
Morandé Gran Reserva Carmenère 2012, Maipo
Classic Carménère nose of green pepper, red and black fruit, dark chocolate. Fresh, smooth mouth with big tannins.
Morandé Black Limited Edition 2012, Maule
Grenache, Syrah, Marsanne, Carignan, Roussanne,
Very classy Mediterranean blend, smooth and powerful with notes of cigarbox, leather and cherries.
Malmau Malbec 2013, Maule
Fruit forward nose with aromas of violets and tobacco intermingling with cherrries and other berries. This is a lovely mouth-filling red wine with big tannins and fresh acidity.
Ruta 68, KM. 61, Casablanca
Tel. (56) 32-2754701
Restaurant open Tuesday to Sunday 11. a.m. to 4 p.m.
Shop and Tour Tuesday to Sunday 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
You can reserve tours, tastings or a visit to the restaurant through the website. The website does not offer an email address.
For other articles about Casablanca wineries, check out:
I recently read an article by a woman who argued that starting a business beyond the age of 40 is just too tiring and risky. I was thinking about that as I met Chilean organic sparkling wine producer Daniel Raab, who has bucketloads of entrepreneurial spark despite being a silver-haired grandfather. Let’s face it: whatever your business or profession, it’s not your age that defines you, but rather your attitude.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain
Daniel Raab is the owner of Domaine Raab Ramsay, a boutique organic vineyard nestling in Chile’s Marga Marga valley, an area you’ll struggle to find on any viticultural map. It seems that this valley was once dotted with small vineyards but almost all are gone now, under the pressure of water scarcity and real estate growth. Indeed modern housing now flanks the estate.
He makes sparkling wines and cider using in-bottle fermentation, with relatively long ageing using the traditional pupitre system and his own special remouage technique to stir up the lees and add complexity to the wine.
He is always innovating in his cellar, for instance trying out new ways of cooling the must to slow down the fermentation process. He has also been experimenting with using must instead of the traditional water, sugar and yeast syrup known as liqueur de tirage. And, following disgorgement, he uses sparkling wine from the same batch to top up the bottles, rather than the sugar syrup called liqueur de dosage. If you consider that the base wine is fermented with just the natural ambient yeasts, it’s hard to imagine a more natural sparkling wine than this.
Domaine Raab Ramsay is not certified organic but operates according to organic principles. Mr Raab’s viticultural philosophy is to let nature do its work and only intervene if necessary and, for many years, he was Deputy Chairman for Chile’s former organic trade association, Agrupación de Agricultura Orgánica de Chile A.G.
He grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. He also has some plots of Gewürztraminer, but the vines are suffering from the recent years of water scarcity and he has all but written them off. Water is a serious problem and he has an intricate system of water tanks and hoses to feed the drip irrigation system. Despite the increased rainfall in Chile this winter, when I visited in early November, he was shaking his head and hoping for more rain. This valley doesn’t have a river or irrigation canal and so the rainwater stored in the tanks over the winter has to get him through the growing season.
After water, his biggest issue is rabbits: “I think they must use the trunks to sharpen their teeth or something,” he says, “as they do great damage.” To counteract them, he cuts the tops and bottoms off plastic bottles and uses them to protect the trunks of the vines. A fantastic initiative in terms of recycling but it must be tediously hard work to implement.
Mr Raab also buys in País grapes and says he was making a sparkling wine from País long before Miguel Torres came up with their prize-winning Estelado brand. He also buys in organic apples from a local producer to make cider, following the same technique as for his sparkling wine. One of his latest ideas is to try a pear and apple cider, so he recently planted a plot with 400 pear trees.
“Wine isn’t really a profitable business,” Daniel Raab says, “not unless your brand is really well-known. I keep the vines mostly because I want to maintain the native forest on the land.”
The vineyards are situated in an oasis of green, surrounded by native trees, such as lingue (Persea lingue), peumo (Cryptocarya alba) and quillay (Quillaja saponaria). The late afternoon air was filled with birdsong and the hum of bees clustered around the peumo blossom. We saw a group of enormous Chilean pigeons (Paloma araucana) in a tree and three types of native alstroemeria.
Over the years, Daniel Raab has tried several different business ventures to offset the not-so-profitable wine business he clearly loves. He farmed hens and then became a pioneer in turkey production in Chile, building up a highly successful business. Then, during Chile’s economic crisis the early 1980s, along with many other businesses in Chile, the turkey business went to the wall. His latest initiative is to rent space in his cellar and offer ancillary services for local wineries looking to add sparkling wine into their portfolio. He has recently invested a significant sum in extending his cellar and buying new equipment for this, his latest business venture and he already has a few takers. Something tells me his investment will pay off.
I asked Mr Raab to tell me about his three favourite wines:
Viña Maitia’s Aupa, a red blend of País with Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Concha y Toro’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon Don Melchor
Any Gewürztraminer wine.
An interesting mix of styles and grapes.
Tasting note for Domaine Raab Ramsay Blanc de Blancs
An intriguing sparkling wine with a complex nose, lovely in-mouth texture and just a hint of bitterness in the finish. Quite delightful.
For more information about sparkling wine, check out these posts in English or Spanish:
Access to Emiliana is directly from the Ruta 68 motorway between Santiago and Viña/Valparaíso, right after the Zapata toll if you are coming from Santiago. If you are coming from the coast, be careful to leave the motorway in good time, as otherwise you will have to pay the toll, turn back on yourself and pay the toll a second time.
Welcome on arrival
Clean and pleasant.
Café / restaurant
There is a restaurant Monday to Friday. I visited on a Saturday so was not able to see it in operation.
Nicely laid out. Stocks the full range of wines. The shop also sells honey and olive oil and hats produced by the winery’s employees; funds go into a special fund used in benefit of the employees. All prices were quite high and the wines were only slightly cheaper than the retail price in the supermarket.
English and Spanish. At least one staff member was able to speak Portuguese.
Brief description of tour
Officially 30 minutes, our tour and tasting actually lasted almost 2 hours – perhaps because we showed so much interest or perhaps because there were no later bookings. Our guide really knew her subject and was enthusiastic about it, so we came away feeling we had learned a lot about biodynamic agriculture. The tour only covers a small area of ground, but we saw some vines, a range of the animals which are part of the holistic style of agriculture practiced here (alpacas, hens, guinea fowls) and some of the workers’ organic gardens, amongst other things. The wine is not produced at this site, so we were unable to see the production facilities and barrels.
Pale lemon-green, clean. Lovely nose of passion fruit, pineapple and pink grapefruit. Good acidity, light-bodied, nice and fruity with a citrus zing and a delectable minerality in the aftertaste. This is a Sauvignon Blanc that can be enjoyed on its own but will also combine well with a range of seafood or salad.
Casa Marín Gewürztraminer 2013
A touch of petillance, this is a fresh, zippy and aromatic wine, very nice, with the acidity and sweetness very much in harmony. Great with Asian food.
Casa Marín Pinot Noir 2010
Medium intensity ruby. The nose opened with those oaky notes of coffee and leather and progressed to farmyard odours but the fruit aromas didn’t come through while we were there – I think it just needed more time. Very pleasant in the mouth with light tannins, quite fruity.
Out of interest, I am including a tasting note for a Casa Marín wine I enjoyed a few months ago.
Casa Marín Pinot Noir 2009
Liquid velvet. Shiny ruby in colour. An intriguing nose of black cherries, cedar and cinnamon and a meaty component with just a touch of farmyard. Very well rounded and velvety in the mouth with high acidity and medium tannins. High alcohol. Long in the finish.
Casa Marín is a small, family winery which produces some outstanding wines. I liked the personalized feel of the tour and the opportunity to ask questions about the grape-growing process in particular. I was a little disappointed by the tasting session.
Overall score out of 7/10.
$23,000 per person for the private tour and tasting (I was offered a discount). There is another option at $14,000.
Ease of booking
Good. The process of booking by email was quick and straightforward
Information prior to arrival
Good. The website contains information about the tours.
Welcome on arrival
OK. We arrived early and were greeted by a salesperson. Our guide was not yet there.
The toilet at the winery was not working, so arrangements were made to take us across the road to use the facilities in Casa Marin’s wine bar area. They were in need of cleaning.
Café / restaurant
There was a nice-looking wine bar area but it wasn’t in use that day.
Very basic, just stocks Casa Marin wines and also another label belonging to Felipe Marín called Lo Abarca.
English and Spanish
Brief description of tour
A good, thorough tour. I had already said in my email that I prefer lots of information and the guide was happy to take the time needed. We were able to walk right by the vines and were given good explanations of the grape growing part of the process, in particular.
Tour guide’s ability to answer questions
I felt this let the experience down a little. Of course these are premium wines which have won lots of awards, but all the same, having paid a premium for the experience, the tasting felt rather penny-pinching with small servings of just three wines. For a boutique winery to only offer 3 wines is unusual – even the big wineries with their industrial-scale tours usually offer 4 or 5.The award-winning Pinot Noir didn’t manage to open up while we were there – it was too cold and needed air.Also the bread and olive oil promised in the tour description was lacking; in fact there was nothing edible at all – no nuts or crackers, for instance.
Very pale and shiny. Apples and maracuyas. Good acidity, light-bodied, well-balanced. Refreshing and pleasant.
Novas Viognier 2013, Casablanca
Shiny, light yellow. Nose of melon, honey, white flowers, lychees, banana. Unctuous, slightly oily hint, sweet touch, chewy, high acidity and good finish. Slight pneumatic hint again in the aftertaste.
Novas Carménère-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, Colchagua
Medium purple in colour. Nice fruity nose features raspberry jam, plums, cherries, some black pepper and green peppers, a touch of cinnamon and vanilla. Medium tannins, nice and smooth, high acidity, medium + alcohol, peppery, medium finish.
Medium + intensity, reddish purple. Complex nose reveals cassis, blackberries, plums, cinnamon, vanilla and a hint of smoke. Smooth tannins, medium+ alcohol, good body, good acidity, medium finish. Nice, elegant wine.