The Casablanca Valley

27 Feb

DSC05963We visited the Matetic Vineyards in the Casablanca Valley, a protected vale between Valparaiso and Santiago. Chileans love their wine. Unlike books, which are astronomically expensive in Chile, wine is cheap and good. DSC06014This valley and the neighboring region, San Antonio, are known for their white wines. Cooled by the nearby ocean with its cold Humboldt Current, the sheltered valley has the perfect growing conditions for whites. Soils are filled with minerals imparting a distinctive flavor to the grapes. DSC06015Matetic is a new winery founded by a Croatian family. This winery is all organic, fertilized by llamas, alpacas, chickens and horses and protected from disease by ladybugs. The birds are scared off by a regularly triggered shot sound effect. And the cold nights are moderated by wind turbines. What is even more unusual about this winery is that planting and harvest are chosen by the phases of the moon. DSC05983The fermentation process for red wines uses the natural yeast found in each grape variety. The resultant wine has a clarity that reflects that natural fermentation. We tasted a Syrah, their signature “Corralillo” red. The taste was particularly bright with hints of grapefruit and peach unusual for a red wine.

The white wine goes through a different process with a finishing in French oak barrels. The aging cellar is underground, with walls of river rock gavillons cooled by a misting process from a pond on the roof of the cellar. Though Chile is known for its red wines, the cooler climate of the Casablanca and San Antonio DSC05986Valleys make them known for their whites, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer primarily.

DSC05989 The winery is now experimenting with a concrete egg to replace oak barrels in the aging process. The concept comes from France. Supposedly the flavorless concrete allows the natural flavor of the wine to develop without the oaky flavor inherent in the barrel process. The architecture of their entire winery reflects this same progressive attitude.

The buildings are a long low design of natural materials that sit lightly on the land. The walls of the winery tasting room are adobe or hand stacked stone with a portola of natural poles much like the ones we have in the indigenous architecture of New Mexico.DSC05982

Our guide was a beautiful young Chilean woman with perfect English.  She studied language at the Catholic University in Valparaiso and has lived all of her life in the region.

English speakers are not that common in Chile. We manage to make ourselves understood with my rudimentary Spanish and a lot of pantomime. The response from Chileans is welcoming and helpful. If you even try to speak Spanish, they are delighted.

The Chilean people are a mixture of the many immigrants that have come to the country. Irish, Italian, Croatian, German, and more are mixed with the native Mapuche people who were the first inhabitants of South-Central Chile. Today, due to the Spanish conquest of Chile, only about 4 percent of the people are considered to be Mapuche. DSC06012

We finished our day with lunch at another winery, Casas de Bosque. Dana ordered the seafood curry and I had lamb risotto.DSC06006

We started with a salad of rocket and goat cheese with pesto. Delicious.

As we looked around the restaurant we realized  that many of the other visitors to Chile we meet are predominantly American and German. There is a smattering of Canadians and British, occasionally French but many Americans.

We finished the day driving back to Valparaiso at sunset, a satisfying day.

4 Responses to “The Casablanca Valley”

  1. Ursula Freer February 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    What a perfect day finished with another beautiful meal! How will you adjust to the quite relatively uneventful life in Eldorado?

    • Jill February 27, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

      Is life in Eldorado uneventful? We’ll have to go to La Placha for dinner.

  2. Neil Freer February 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Nice word, “conquest” ……..better to understand the small percent of the population of Mapuche by using the word “slaughter”.
    How do the people there view the Church scandals, the Pope’s resignation, Cardinals resigning, lawsuits being brought, etc.?
    You can take a tourist train from Cusco to Machu Picchu………
    What Chilean wine should I buy at the Eldo Supermart to drink what you are drinking?

    • Jill February 27, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

      Not sure what to tell you on the wine. I do know that you want your reds from the north of Chile. Search for a label for whites from the Casablanca Valley or the San Antonio Valley. You can’t go wrong. Interesting to note that Matetic, the winery I talked about in the post exports most of their wine. You may see their label in the U.S., maybe Eldorado. Cheers, J & D

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