On our third and final day of wine touring thru the Chilean vineyards with Jose, owner of Uncorked Wine Tours, we visited two upscale wineries and had lunch at the last and best one (next post), before heading back to Santiago in the late afternoon.
Our first vineyard was Neyen Winery. Our local winery tour guide was named Rosana, and she was very friendly and knowledgeable. Rosanna gave DOS and I an outstanding private tour of the vineyards, followed by a wonderful tasting. She drove us thru the massive acres of vineyards in a red SUV, which allowed us to fully appreciate the vastness of the winery. Rosanna gave us a great explanation of the pruning process, and actually let us prune one of the vines! This is the off season in Chile, so the vines are dormant now, but must be pruned properly from the last harvest season, so they will grow again as desired. Here she is demonstrating the proper technique, while Jose prunes the vine next to her.It’s actually somewhat of an art, as you want to prune back to two vines on each stalk, yet pull them back apart so they bloom outwards against the wiring. The remaining vine pieces are cut off. This was really interesting, and in all of the wine tours we’ve ever taken, no one has shown, let alone let us prune a vine. Now it was our turn, but fortunately they gave us some encouragement and tips as we tried pruning the vines! It’s one thing to watch someone do something so effortlessly, but another to do it yourself as a complete novice. I must say this was truly a highlight of vineyard touring; a little hands-on, just to see how it’s done. It truly gives you an appreciation in all the manual labor, expense, and art of wine making.
While touring the vineyards, we saw ‘real’ workers in the field doing pruning, ladies tying the vines with a natural insecticide strip, and a man mowing the grass with a tractor thru the narrow vineyard lanes. It was so cool being out in the middle of a working vineyard, just seeing the workers jackets, or backpacks hung up on a vine, while they worked down the rows and rows of vines from where they left their belongings.
Our guide explained there is actually a sensor on the tractor that will ‘steer’ the tractor back on course should it run into one of the vines. And almost on queue, as the tractor plowed, the white birds of the valley followed the tractor behind, looking for any food he might have dug up!
After our leisurely vineyard tour, we went inside the wine-making facilities at Neyen. We walked up the stairs of the fermenting tank scalding, and our guide opened up the huge 2nd story doors, affording us a spectacular view of the vineyards we had just toured.
We could also view the comings and going of workers, occasionally on a bicycle as they headed to or from the vineyards.
After touring the wine-making facility went walked out to the next building for our wine tasting, passing by these tall, old, and beautiful eucalyptus trees. You could smell the strong eucalyptus fragrance from several feet away – just what the doctor ordered! I love the smell of eucalyptus, and it does wonders for your sinuses or cold, just by breathing some in after adding it to very hot water. No wine eucalyptus for sale though.
Once again we had a private tasting for DOS and myself in the huge tasting room. Neyen had some fantastic wines, including Cabernets and Caremeners. While we’ve had Carmenere’s or blends at many of the Chilean wineries on this tour, I’ve haven’t written about it until now. The Carmenere grape has an interesting history, which is grown primarily in Chile, although was originally from France. Due to the phylloxera disease, Carmenere was basically eradicated in France in the mid 1800’s. Years later Carmenere was discovered in Chile, and originally thought to be Merlot, as it resembles it, but turned out to be the lost grape of Bordeaux. Fortunately Carmenere plants were imported to Chile in the 1800’s that were not succesible to the disease, and and today it is one of Chile’s best known and unique red grape wines. If interested, you can read more about it here on Wikipedia.
The tasting room at Neyen is rustic-stylish, and offers tasting in a living room like setting.
There is a long counter in the center of the room for group tastings, and several tables arranged throughout the room for more personal tastings. We were the only people here when we went, so it was quite extra-personal having the entire large tasting room to ourselves.
We were eager to try their reds, but did start out with one Sauvignon Blanc white wine first which was from a sister winery partnership in the Casablanca Valley region, which was very nice. We then tried their fantastic red wines; a 2010 and 2009 vintage, both blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. We had a friendly debate as to which we enjoyed the most. While they were produced similarly, the climates in the year 2010 and 2009 were vastly different, (one year cooler than the other) resulting in taste variations. Both were outstanding, and it was fun going back and forth between the two iconic wines, noting the differences and preferences.
Since we couldn’t make up our mind on which we liked better, we bought a bottle of each: 2009 and 2010, and our Uncorked guide, Jose told us 2011 and 2009 had similar climates (he was most partial to the 2009 red) we also bought a bottle of the 2011 red. These wines were fantastic, and compared to the Napa Valley wines, quite a good value. We looked on-line while we were there, and found U.S. distributors, but wanted a trio of different years (plus DOS saw a wooden box he had to have!).
This was quite a wonderful tour, and the hospitality we received was outstanding, not to mention the quality of their wines. We have only one more winery to go now, so I’ll end this post with the best is yet to come. For now, Muchas Gracias, Neyen,Winery, and especially Rosana for such a wonderful visit!