(25) Colchagua Valley
Vineyards on the verge in Chile
As a country, Chile has long been saddled with a reputation for inexpensive one-note varietals. Wine makers, however, have wised up in the past decade: they'vebegun experimenting with different grapes, investing in state-of-the-art technology, and turning out vintages worthy of what many consider the world's finest grape-growing conditions. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Colchagua Valley. When in Chile, it's a sin to spend too much time in Santiago, and a day on the Ruta del Vino, 2 1/2 hours south of the capital, is your most intoxicating short-term escape.
There are 10 Colchagua Valley wineries open for tours and tastings (up from six last fall): Bisquertt, Caliterra, Casa Lapostolle, Casa Silva, La Posada, MontGras, Pueblo Antiguo, Santa Laura, Siegel, and Viu Manent. For $60 a person, Ruta del Vino (56-72/823-199; www.chilevinos.cl/rutadelvino) will take you to two wineries (any day but Sunday), with tastings and lunch. Bilingual guides and car service make the trip effortless. The best time to go is mid-February through April—during harvest, when the valley hums. And don't leave empty-handed; wine prices along the Ruta del Vino are about 30 percent below retail. A stop at the Museum of Colchagua, whose collection ranges from pre-Columbian artifacts to antique wine-making paraphernalia, is a bonus.