Chile's wine industry has come a long way during the past decade, and no other travel segment here has seen more growth than wine travel. In just 5 years, wineries have built hotels and B&Bs; opened gourmet restaurants, spas, and tasting facilities with normalized operating hours; and created such complementary activities as horse-and-buggy rides through vineyards, bicycling, and hiking. Prices are only slightly less than in comparable wine regions such as Napa Valley; however, in Chile the wine region has not yet been overtaken by the masses, and you can still enjoy wine tasting without the crowds, and savor the antique charm and slow pace of the colonial towns for which the Central Valley is known. The following 10-day itinerary covers the top wine-growing regions, concentrating on wineries that currently produce the best varieties today in Chile.
Day 1: Santiago
Arrive and get settled in Santiago -- Chances are your flight arrived early in the morning; once you've rested and freshened up, head to Cerro San Cristobal and its Metropolitan Park for sweeping views of the city and to get your bearings. Afterward, take a stroll around the bohemian Barrio Bellavista and pay a visit to La Chascona, the former home of Pablo Neruda and now a museum. Head to the Mercado Central for a typical Chilean seafood lunch and watch fishmongers shuck and fillet. Once refueled, walk to the Plaza de Armas to visit the city's best museum, the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino. Take a peek at the Palacio de la Moneda, at Plaza de la Constitución, before heading over to the streets of Bellavista, where you can peruse the artists' galleries and shops before enjoying an afternoon cocktail at one of the area's bars. Later that evening, order a frosty pisco sour and dine on traditional Chilean bistro food at Bar Liguria. Before heading back to your hotel, take a stroll through picturesque Parque Forestal. Enjoy a fine Italian meal and excellent service on the terrace of the chic Nolita, a favorite haunt of Las Condes' gilded denizens.
Day 2: Maipo Valley
Begin where it all started, at the Maipo Valley, where Chile's first vines were planted in the mid-1500s. Drive or hire a cab to visit Concha y Toro, Chile's largest and best-known winery, now offering tastings of its full range of wines, including the top Almaviva. Tours take visitors through the lovely hacienda and gardens of the Concha y Toro family, and you can order appetizers in their wine bar. Later, head to Chile's oldest winery, Cousiño-Macul, where you can appreciate one of the Maipo Valley's most characteristic wines while you lord amid a stunning estate with French-style gardens. In the evening, continue the old-world theme and dine at Europeo, in Vitacura, one of Santiago's most elegant restaurants.
Day 3: San Antonio Valley
This full-day journey visits Chile's hottest new wine-growing valley, San Antonio, home to top boutique wineries located near the coastal city of the same name. Plan to visit Matetic Vineyards first, producer of highly rated syrahs and an architectural gem to boot. After your tour, have a gourmet lunch at their restaurant. Continue west to Viña Casa Marin, the winery closest to the coast and producer of the country's top rated sauvignon blanc. Head back to Santiago for your final night there and dine at Opera, followed by cocktails upstairs at the hip Catedral.
Day 4: Cachapoal Valley
Arrange a tour or, even better, rent a vehicle and journey south to the Cachapoal Valley, spread at the foot of the Andes. Bring along a picnic lunch. Arrive for your 10:30am wine-tasting tour at Altaïr, a unique winery launched to craft a distinctively Chilean grand cru. Enjoy your picnic (let them know you're bringing one when you book), and then carry on to Chateau Los Boldos, a century-old vineyard with French owners and makers of fine wines and specialty liquors; book a tour or just stop off at their Boutique de Vino just off the highway. Your accommodations this evening are at Hacienda Los Lingues, one of the oldest and best-preserved haciendas in Chile, and gilded in antique splendor. If you arrive early enough, you can take a short horse ride atop one of their Arabian steeds.
Days 5 & 6: Colchagua Valley
Eulogized as the "Wine Valley of the Year" by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2005, the Colchagua Valley is known as the Napa Valley of Chile, with a well-designed tourism infrastructure. Before you arrive at Santa Cruz, stop outside San Fernando for a wine tasting at the magnificent Casa Silva. Carry on to just before Santa Cruz and stop next at Viña Viu Manent for a gourmet lunch, followed by a wine tasting and a horse-and-buggy ride through their vineyards. If you have kids in tow, you may prefer to spend a few hours touring Viña Santa Cruz, the Disneyland of the Chilean wine world, with its mock indigenous village and astronomical facilities. Check into your room at the Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza, and spend the late afternoon strolling around the typical rural town of Santa Cruz or lounging by the pool; dine that night in the hotel.
The following day, tour the state-of-the-art winery Clos Alpalta, soak in the pastoral scenery, and taste their award-winning blends. Visit the Montes winery for a tour and tasting of this well-known producer of fine varietals; if you are traveling in a group, Montes will arrange a delicious lunch for you; otherwise, eat at the rustic Pan Pan Vino Vino, which is steeped in historical ambience.
Days 7 & 8: Aconcagua Valley
Leave early in the morning for the 4-hour drive to the Aconcagua Valley, with its stunning Andean views and tiny colonial villages. Lodge at the old-fashioned Casa St. Regis or the luxury spa Termas de Jahuel Hotel & Spa, and spend the afternoon visiting Von Siebenthal winery. Dine at your hotel, and the next morning visit the venerable Errazuriz winery, with its pretty trellised terraces and historic winery. Later, drive to Valparaíso to spend the night at the chic and central Zerohotel, or alternatively, stay in Viña del Mar; spend the afternoon exploring one of the two towns.
Day 9: Casablanca Valley
The following morning, pick up your exploration of either Viña or Valparaíso, pack your bags for the last time, and head back toward Santiago, stopping in the Casablanca Valley on the way. Here, you'll enjoy a lengthy tasting at Viñedos Orgánicos Emiliana, an organic winery with excellent guides and winemakers who serve cheese and nuts while walking you through a relaxing tasting. Follow this visit with lunch at Restaurante Viña Indomita, then make a final stop at the slick Veramonte winery to taste their specialty white wines. Then it's on to the airport, where you'll catch your flight back home. Stop in the La Vinoteca store at the airport to pick up a 6- or 12-bottle case of wine if you haven't bought any yet.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.