Sunday, May 13, 2012

Not much city life in Santiago, as we go for vineyard

our couch
Leaving Melipilla we went back to the same central station which had made us stuck for the whole morning. It was more busy and we passed straight into the metro station. Not realizing that one stored value card could be used by two, we bought two and now they become our souvenir. We went to meet another host, also named Diego. When we arrived his apartment he was still working. We left our backpack on his door and went to a park to meet our previous host Diego who held a couchsurfer’s activity - a picnic. We were happy for the reunion, but Diego was a little concern about when the other couchsurfer couple were leaving. In the gathering we met other couchsurfers, one of them came from Ohio who looked like a skateboarder. His backpack was stolen in gas station in Santiago and (luckily) he kept his more expensive belonging in smaller rucksack and he was hitch-hiking back to Argentina. We wandered around the park and played with the kid facilities till the evening. Then we went back to another Diego’s apartment.

He was a lawyer on his job for a few years, but he wanted to quit his job and travel around the world like we do,because he had been studying and working so hard that he did not feel having an adventurous life yet. He shared the apartment with two friends in the same university. Both did not study law but art and were film-directors; lucky to him that he mixed with more lively and humane peers in his university (which he claimed to be the most conservative and right-wing).

Having decided that we would skip Mendoza because Argentina is more expensive, we visited vineyards around Santiago as many as we can. First we visited the nearest vineyard Vina Aquitania, only subway and bus took us there already. At first we phoned to book for English speaking winery tour. Although it was a bit expensive, costing 10000 Chileno per person for tour and tasting vintage wine (the fee for tour and tasting “reserva” is 6000 Chileno peso).

One hour after leaving Diego’s home, we were still in the city but there was more green. A small patch of wine grape field was in the suburban area of the city. At first I doubted whether air-pollution of car fumes would spoil the grape skins. Having the mountain at the background, the air was fresh after walking distance from the road. When we walked in, there were still workers pouring liquid from the distillation tank. The harvest time (around March) should pass already, what was happening ?

Actually the harvest time was later for this vineyard (around April) because of lower temperature from the mountain behind, according to the guide. We were the only visitors for the tour. The guide said that this vineyard, which mostly grew Cabernet Sauvignon and a much smaller patch of merlot, produced one-third of the vineyard production and the other were grown further south, which was warmer in summer. There they grew other grape such as Carmenere, unique in Chile. In the tour we saw different sections of the wine-making process. Currently they were clearing the fermentation tanks and squeeze the grape juice harder from the residue. Then we were shown the distillation and storage tanks. The guide then showed us the bottling procedure. As a small vineyard, the bottling was done totally by women, while larger ones use machine. They were now bottling for an order from Brazil. The country with increasing wealth was buying more and more red wine from the region. Another big customer was the US. The production from the vineyard was not for retail, but that did not initiate our intention to bring a bottle back. It was because when we were brought to the wine tasting room to try their vintages, we tasted nothing too special about them. Like most new world world, it tasted good at start with fragrance and body, but did not last long and solid like French. Even vintage wine was like this, I would imagine how reserva was like. It was only one of the many vineyards in Santiago and nearby region. Chilean wine has some standing in the world; there should be good vineyards that we did not visit.

As we could drink the whole three bottles (one CS, one mixed vintage and one Chardonnay), we did not want to waste but empty them. We got drunk easily (my theory: it is not good wine) with empty stomach from lunch.

We quickly grabbed a pizza and went to another vineyard, Maria was quite drunk already. With whopping steps we went to another vineyard, Santa Carolina, a much larger one with production sold in supermarkets. We missed the tour (but it was in Spanish anyway) but we brought a bottle of Carmenere. The drunk wife walked around the grapes to collect and eat...

It was dark when we were back home. We still managed to buy a chicken and bake one full meal for six of us.

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