I recently spent a fantastic day at the Casas del Bosque winery, in the Casablanca Valley. I could have easily spent the whole evening there, and probably the following day too if there had been a room option. I had an hours wine tasting in the morning, where we tried four wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir) before sitting down to lunch on the terrace and then a bike ride.
Chile has a fantastic, internationally acclaimed wine scene and the Casablanca Valley is right up there for producing quality wines. The reason why the grapes grow so well there is because of the climate: the dry summers combined with the cool currents brought by the winds via the sea and the Andes mountains. In fact, the climate is so perfect for grapes that many producers can forego pesticides entirely and are organic (look at Emiliana, Bodegas RE, Attilio & Mochi – all within the Casablanca Valley). The sea and the mountains also make a kind of natural boundary, protecting the vine crops from pests such as phylloxera. This parasite feeds on vine roots, and during the 19th century it destroyed vineyards on a grand scale across the Americas, Europe and Australia. This has meant that Chile is the only place that grows grapes on its own rootstocks, rather than being grafted onto pest resistant rootstocks like the rest of the world. Chile is also the only country that produces the Carmenere grape variety, which was wiped out worldwide due to phylloxera. Vines were originally brought by the Spanish during the 16th century, although today the wine scene more closely resembles that of France due to cuttings brought here of French varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Malbec.
Of the red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere are the most noted, with a low concentration of tannins and a full spicy and fruity taste, while Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are the most important white varieties with a fullness that is often remarked upon.
The tasting was led by an exceptionally well-spoken sommelier, who encouraged us to pick out the different ingredients, aromas, and drew our attention to the colors. We started with the Sauvignon Blanc, considered Chile´s best, which contained hints of jalapeño, grapefruit, freshly cut grass, pear and apple. We were told that this wine is best paired with fish, shellfish, crustaceans and even Ceviche.
Next came the Chardonnay, my personal favorite. I could just taste the caramel, apple, lemon pie, mango, bananas, melon and pineapple. This was a very easy wine to drink and my glass was not quite enough (purchased a bottle though!). This wine is good with shellfish, full-bodied fish, salads and fresh cheese.
Probably the most lauded wine produced by Casas del Bosque – and certainly the one most enjoyed by our tasting group – is the Syrah. The Syrah grape thrives in the valley´s cool climate, and we spent a while dissecting the flavors, including lavender, raspberry, cinnamon, walnut, herbs, bay leaf and pepper. This wine goes well with smoked cheeses and red meats.
We finished with the Pinot Noir, which to me was very complex and deep, with notes of leather, almond, plum, vanilla, strawberries wild mushrooms and truffle. This variety is very well known and considered to be emblematic of the Casas del Bosque winery. It pairs very well with quail, duck, chicken, turkey, beef stews,, pasta, full-bodied fish and cheeses that are moderately ripe.
Attentive service, tranquil setting (we were on the terrace), delicious and fresh food – I was actually surprised at a) how good the restaurant was and b) how relatively inexpensive it was for the quality received. Star of the show was the Chilean Soul (Alma de Chile) dessert. The Kids Menu was very good value and included the dessert, it was big but my son (3.6) ate it all! What I also liked was that it wasn´t chips and chicken nuggets – there were meat kebabs, chips and salad.
Activities and Grounds
We rented some bikes and explored the winery by bike, which was an excellent decision because the grounds are stunning. It is also fairly flat for those of you who are like me and not very athletically inclined, but there are advanced trail options too. We also rode to the lagoon, which was nice (you can also choose the picnic option there). We didn´t see too much wildlife, which is a shame as Luis usually spots tarantulas and even snakes when taking tour groups, but we did see a lot of birds.
The grounds are well maintained. There are several toilets, lots of seating areas and even sun beds for those who need to sleep off the wine!!
Suitable for Families
We went with a toddler and a baby in a pushchair (you need good wheels to navigate outside of the winery). People were courteous and no-one blinked an eye during the tasting or lunch. There is also a children´s playground, conveniently located beside the sun beds!!
Miles and Smiles offer tailormade and carefully crafted tours for individuals up to larger groups which includes premium tours and tastings. Or you can make your own way there by car. Check out the Casas del Bosque webpage here.