About two hours south of Santiago, in between the massive Andes mountains and the cool central coastline, lies one of Chile’s best wine regions: the Colchagua Valley. Most famous for robust red wines, they also produce excellent sauvignon blanc. Visiting will give you a taste of the Chilean countryside and provide you with breathtaking valley and mountain views. Out of all four wine regions I visited in Chile, the Colchagua Valley stole my heart above the rest.
There are so many wineries in the area, I’d recommend spending at least three days in the Colchagua Valley alone. I wish I had stayed longer! Here are some of my picks for the best places to eat, drink, and stay -- starting with the most important: wine!
Ventisquero was by far our favorite winery. Though the drive up the road and through the vineyards is a little steep, the view from the tasting room is absolutely breathtaking. They specialize in private tastings on their picturesque patio, and the personalized nature of our visit was exceptional. All of the wines we tasted were top notch, but my personal favorite was the Pangea Syrah. If you visit Ventisquero, plan for at least a half day visit as they have some amazing tour options that I wish we had been able to take advantage of. There is a network of trails behind the tasting room and one tour option includes a hike and picnic complete with the wine tasting. When you see how beautiful the vista is, you’ll understand why I am so sad we missed out on that hike!
Every winery in the Colchagua Valley has their own unique spin on the wine tour. At Viu Manent, it was riding in a horse-drawn carriage through the vineyards to the production area and finally, to the tasting room. I thought the ride itself might be really short and not as cool as it seemed, but it was really fun and longer than I expected. While we were in the production area, we had the opportunity to taste wine directly from the tank. We also saw the lab room with the wine-making scientists in action. In the tasting room, our guide walked through the wines with detailed explanations before leaving us alone to continue to taste and enjoy the wines. I really appreciated the way they run the tasting, allowing you to have time to talk about the wines without a professional influencing your opinion. As the tastings were quite large, we spent a while comparing and enjoying all the wines.
If you know anything about Chilean wine, chances are you have heard of Lapostalle. Due to their famous wine and the allure of the winery itself, I knew we had to take a tour there. The winery building is fairly new and was designed with the concept of gravity in mind. The tanks of wine were on the top floor, followed by the barrel rooms below. On the lowest level, is the tasting room which looks down upon the owner’s private wine cellar through a glass floor. As expected of Lapostalle, the wines were very good, especially the signature Clos Apalta wine. We appreciated that the guide told us we could actually buy the wine cheaper in the U.S. After the tasting, we went to the overlook at the very top of the winery, where you can look out over the valley and mountains. It was very pretty, especially right before sunset. I only wish they had some seating where you could enjoy a glass of wine there!
We arranged a tour at Apaltagua at the last minute, upon recommendation from our guide at Ventisquero. Compared to all the other tours, Apaltagua was the busiest in terms of production. There were trucks and workers whizzing by us and you really felt as though you were in the middle of a normal day in the production facility. We were also able to see their chemist testing an experimental wine from a concrete egg and even got to sample some just because we were in the right place at the right time. Our guide, Emanuel, was wonderful. Our tasting started with two sparkling wines followed by multiple reds. We received generous pours and were able to go back and try anything that we wanted. The tasting was informative and relaxed, and the wines were delicious. We really enjoyed chatting with the guide there and the laid-back nature of the tasting, so much so that I forgot to take pictures! You'll have to go and see for yourself!
We arrived at Montgras prepared for just a tasting, but our guide was very nice and was able to give us an abbreviated tour beforehand. He took us to the vineyards to show us the different grapes and how you could tell the difference between the varieties by the shape of the leaves. He also showed us cork trees on the property. As many vineyards as I’ve been to, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cork tree! We also saw the production area and were able to taste wine from a tank. Our tasting was in the courtyard and was accompanied by some tasty cheese pairings. The prices of the wines were very reasonable there, as the higher end wines were only $15-20. It’s definitely worth a stop!
Las Ninas was another last-minute tasting for us arranged by our guide at Ventisquero. The owner of our hotel had also recommended tasting there, so it was a no-brainer to add it in. The guide there, Marcello, was extremely friendly and lively. You could certainly tell he loves what he does! He knew we didn't have much time, so he went through the tasting very quickly with us without skipping too much information. The wines were all good. The view from the patio is also beautiful, as is walking through the vineyards. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the vineyard dog! Although he does not belong to the winery, he has made it his home, so they take care of him in exchange for him helping greet guests.
If you’re looking for an authentic experience in the Colchagua Valley, Hotel Parronales is the perfect place to stay. The city of Santa Cruz itself isn't as charming as European wine towns, so staying at a hotel a little out of town like Hotel Parronales is essential to having a good experience. It’s a quaint property in a gorgeous setting – surrounded by vineyards and with the mountains off in the distance. It's extremely peaceful. The rooms aren't super luxurious, but they are very comfortable and provide everything you need. The design of the rooms and the hotel itself makes you really feel like you are out in the countryside of Chile. My favorite part of the day was opening the window in the morning to see the golden light all over the vineyards and the mountain backdrop. There is a beautiful porch to sip wine on, fun swings, a nice pool, and the coolest hot tub! The hot tub is made from an old wine barrel and is heated by solar panels and wood fire (you can actually see the fire as you sit in it!). You have to pay a small fee and reserve the hot tub, but it's worth it! The hot tub reservation comes with wine from the owner’s personal vineyard on the property – it’s delicious. You can also see gorgeous stars if the sky is clear. One of the other perks of the hotel is the daily breakfast. Most items were local and the made-to-order eggs were amazing! Make sure to ask for the fun Chilean bread. The owner, Felipe, provides a personal touch to your whole stay that you truly can't find in most places – our stay would not have been the same without him!
Alternatively, if you’re looking for all-out luxury and don’t mind paying for it, the Relais & Chateaux Clos Apalta Residence at Lapostolle Vineyards is your best bet. It’s located right next to the winery and is perched high on the hill with an unbelievable view of the vineyards and valley. They also have an amazing restaurant and offer optional all-inclusive rates.
Vino Bello is a lovely restaurant within walking distance of Hotel Parronales. I was a little hesitant to go because, why would we eat Italian food in Chile? However, our hotel recommended it and we were glad we went. The food was delicious and though it was dark and cold when we dined, they have a beautiful patio with vineyard views if you happen to be there on a warm sunny evening.
Casa Colchagua is also within walking distance of Hotel Parronales. It serves a variety of traditional Chilean cuisine. Everything we ate there was great, especially one dish called carne mechada con papa rellena. It was similar to a short rib but had this amazing fried, cheesy, potato ball that was heaven on a fork! It's somewhat like a croquette you would find in France or Belgium, but hard to describe. Like Vino Bello, it also has a nice patio with vineyard views.
Another good winery dining option is Fuegos de Apalta located at Montes Winery. They are famous for their wood-fired grills and beautiful vineyard views. Please note that it is only open for lunch.
The Rayuela Wine & Grill is located at the Viu Manent winery and is the perfect place for a winery lunch among the vines. We walked by after our tour and tasting and decided it was too pretty not to sit down for a cheese plate and another glass of wine. Please note that it is only open for lunch.
If you’re visiting Chile or interested in Chilean wine, make sure to add the Colchagua Valley to your bucket list. With great wine, views, and food – what more could you ask for?! As with most places, the best time to visit is in the spring or fall, keeping in mind the seasons are opposite in the southern hemisphere. If you visit, note that wine tours and tastings tend to be on the pricier side, and if the wine is sold in the United States, it is often cheaper to buy it back home, so it’s worth asking your guide.