In driving through Chilean Wine Country we passed through various estates and villages, always surrounded by the vineyards and mountains. Heading from Nancagua, we took a stop at Bodega Viu Manent, which had a wonderful restaurant before the earthquake I was told, but it’s roof collapsed and was being rebuilt. We talked to a couple of the employees who seemed to know my friend Nicole, and they recommended that I buy a bottle of their Secreto Caremenere. Caremenere is a special grape that originally came from France and was brought to Chile. After a disease wiped out the grape in France, it was sort of forgotten in Chile, and people labeled it as another variety until realizing what it was.
Now it’s basically the only place in the world where it’s grown with success, and Chile is able to boast this as a claim to fame while Argentina touts the Malbec grape as their cash cow. I didn’t buy a bottle at the winery because I wasn’t sure if I’d get it through customs, but I did eventually buy this bottle at Duty Free shopping. At the very least, it will make a nice addition to my wine tasting series.
We headed off to the Apalta region, with vineyards at the base of hills with a deep green. We didn’t stop at Clos Apalta, but went for a quick look around Viña Montes, where several tourists were beginning a tour. Throughout the time in Wine Country, we didn’t actually do any wine tasting. Kind of weird, right? But there was really no need as my friend Nicole put it, because why should we pay for just a small glass when they already know what the best wines are? Instead, we can just buy whole bottles and enjoy it comfortably at home. Of course, that logic will only work if you’re a local and a seasoned wine drinker.
We took a walk through the town of Santa Cruz, where a laid back feel was mixed in with tourism driven by wine and luxury accommodations at Hotel Santa Cruz, where I found some delicious manjar (like dulce de leche, aka caramel but better) with different flavors. A quick nap upon returning to the house and another glass of wine, and soon we were headed back to Santiago as darkness fell over the peaks of the Andes. The time spent in the Colchagua Valley was slow paced and relaxing, and exactly what I needed. There’s nothing that I would change about the trip there.
I was sitting on the swing lounge chair in the backyard letting the sun slowly bake my light skin and the breeze blow little parts of tree dandruff on me. My wine glass wasn’t empty but the little particles somehow avoided the rim, as if an invisible wall was keeping the dirt out of my drink. The dogs came and went, and the dog named “Black” kept coming over to me until he jumped up on the chair with me. Instead of just sitting still he went through this process of sticking his nose into my armpit and scratching my wrist with his front paws. It was funny at first but after a while I thought of him as an annoying person who just wouldn’t go away and let me enjoy the moment. But in the small village of Nancagua, about an hour and a half southwest of Santiago, nothing could really bother me, and all I had to do was sit back and relax.
My second full day on the trip to Chile and I was already taking laid back lounge time. There was no time for rushing around. We’d arrived to my friend Nicole’s family country house the day before after waking up with hangovers from Friday night’s welcome party. But by 12 pm we were on the road to get there in time for a big Chilean asado (barbecue). The ride was beautiful and quiet, with the music blasting as the windows rolled down allowed in a rush of air. The two girls in the front seat talked the entire time about various things while I stayed silent and looked out the window with the snow-capped Andes Mountains on the left and vineyards on the right.
Immediately upon entering Nancagua we could see some of the damage from the earthquake. The smaller towns were hit hard, but my friend told me that the tsunamis were what caused the most damage, just about a half hour after the first tremors hit. Pulling into the family house I felt at home, a feeling which hasn’t been to familiar to me for a long time. A glass of wine started things off while Nicole’s dad and I talked about random things until the food was ready. Later that night her cousins showed up and we talked well into the night, going out to look at the thousands of stars, totally undisturbed by city lights.
So the next day after the cousins had left and Nicole kept snoozing, I sat on the chair in the sun thinking about lots of things. I thought about how long it’s been since I was able to sit in a backyard and listen to the wind rustling through the trees, or feel grass under my feet and hear someone cooking from within the house. Tucked among vineyards, this house seemed nearly secluded, and the silence helped me clear my head. Things haven’t been totally easy for me over the last year, and it was important to take stock of things. I didn’t necessarily come to a perfect solution, but a better understanding and acceptance of things.
Aside from other things, I realized that at some point in life, I’m going to need a little country estate of my own where I can just chill out and get away from it all. For the time being though, this little break in the Colchagua Valley seems to have given me a bit more steam to get through this rat race in Buenos Aires.
Though serious damage was minimal to Santiago, the suburbs and smaller cities outside of the capital were hard hit in many ways. Because the buildings weren’t constructed as well or older, many buildings lost roofs, walls, or fell apart completely. A theme that we kept talking about over the weekend was the tremendous earthquake which struck in the summer. In the countryside of the Colchagua Valley I was able to see some of the damage left. Here are a couple of photos of a destroyed church in Santa Cruz, in the Colchagua Valley.