Santiago is the perfect place for wine lovers to visit due to the proximity of so many wine regions to the city. Just an hour and a half west of Santiago toward the coast lie the Casablanca and San Antonio Valley wine regions. In October, I had the chance to visit both regions. Two wineries stood out not only with the quality of their wine and their idyllic settings but also because they proved convention wrong when it comes to cool climate wines.
Since the wineries are only 40 minutes apart, you can experience the best of both the Casablanca and San Antonio valleys in one day by visiting Kingston Family Vineyards in Casablanca and Casa Marin Winery in Lo Abarca.
Kingston Family Vineyards
With towering palm trees lining the long road through the vineyards, you can't miss the entrance to Kingston Family Vineyards. The winery is set in a gorgeous area with sweeping valley views. The Casablanca Valley has a cool Mediterranean climate and is well known for crisp Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays. However, Kingston took a gamble and decided to plant red varietals here, resulting in spectacular Pinot Noir and Syrah wines that defy the region’s convention.
My husband and I toured the vineyards with Aubree, an American who was part of Kingston’s fellowship program for students from Princeton. We started the tour with a glass of sparkling wine as Aubree told us about the owners and history. The property has been in the Kingston family since the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s when Courtney Kingston pioneered the first grape vines on the land.
We walked out into the vineyards to learn what grapes were planted, where, and why. We also toured the production area and barrel rooms. One interesting thing we found out was that Kingston started growing grapes to sell to other vineyards, and only started making their own wine from a small portion of those grapes in recent years.
We finished the tour with a tasting beneath a covered patio. Look at that view! Our tasting was professionally presented and was accompanied by a wonderful pairing of cheese and chocolates. Though the white wines were top notch, my favorites were the Pinot Noir and Syrah, more proof that cool climate red varietals from the Casablanca Valley were a wise choice made by Courtney Kingston two decades ago. We left the winery wanting more and decided to sign up for their wine club so that we could keep enjoying the wine back in the U.S. If you’re in the area, Kingston is a must-visit winery to see what the Casablanca Valley is all about.
Casa Marin Winery
Located in the tiny Chilean town of Lo Abarca, just miles from the Pacific Ocean, lies the unique Casa Marin Winery. Our tour at Casa Marin focused heavily on the history of the wine and terroir. We learned that María Luz Marin founded the winery in 2000 against the advice of her peers. The vineyards are located in a cool area with significant influence from the Pacific ocean and the soil is comprised of limestone and granite soils. When María Luz Marin told others of her plan for the winery, many thought she was crazy to believe that she could be successful planting grape vines there. She proved everyone wrong and is now internationally known for her wines.
We tasted wines from the Casa Marin line (the higher quality line) and loved them all. We went home with the Syrah and Pinot Noir. We were also surprised to find Gewurtztraminer as it is not a common grape in Chile, so we had to buy a bottle of that too! If you decide to visit, Casa Marin also has a couple of wonderful guesthouses on the property surrounded by the vineyards and gorgeous views of the valley. Casa Marin remains the only winery in the Lo Abarca region – more reason to experience this unique gem in the San Antonio Valley!
Both wine regions can be reached in one day by renting a car from Santiago – plan for one winery in the morning followed by lunch and the other winery in the afternoon. Of course, if you have longer, there are many other wineries to visit in both areas and a spectacular coastline to explore!