From Pucon, we took another lengthy bus ride into wine country and Santa Cruz, where we spent $76,000 on two bottles of wine. Tall drank most of the $6,000 bottle in one night and then tipped the rest down the sink*.
Our guide book referred to Santa Cruz as an “attractive little town”, but unless we blinked and missed a some of it, we didn’t think it was anything special. The main reason you’d go there is to visit a winery or two in the Colchagua Valley. There’s a cross at the entrance to the town, which in itself is not unusual in a country where the church plays a such a huge part in everyday life – but this one is made from wine barrels. In Santa Cruz, you definitely have God’s approval to drink and be merry!
We were only in Santa Cruz for one full day, and chose to visit Casa Lapostolle, a beautiful boutique winery owned by the great-granddaughter of the guy who started making Grand Marnier. She has a larger, more “industrial” winery further down the valley, where they produce their mainstream (but still very, very good) wines, and this one, where they only produce two high-end varieties. While the vines themselves are 40-80 years old, the winery itself was built in 2003, and no expense has been spared. Every detail has been carefully planned and it is absolutely stunning.
The spiralling staircase was designed to emulate the swirling of wine in a glass; the ceiling of the tasting room is shaped like the inside of a french oak barrel; the cellar where the grapes spend the first year after fermentation has been lit to resemble and honour the Southern Cross constellation; the blasted granite rock forms a feature wall that runs the height of the building; the table in the tasting room has a glass top and you can sip your vino while looking longingly at the private wine cellar of the owner, which houses about 6000 wines and has room for 4000 more. If you pay for the US$900/night accommodation, you’re one of the lucky few who gets to enter the cellar….unfortunately, our budget didn’t quite allow us that luxury!
We tasted a delicious, crisp chardonnay (and I don’t usually like chardonnay, but this one was lovely), a smooth-but-peppery merlot, and a limited release merlot/carmenere blend which was DIVINE. The 2005 vintage was elected World’s Number One Wine by Wine Spectator Magazine in 2008, so we have high hopes for the 2007 vintage we purchased, which is “cellared” in our spare room for now.
Our sole purpose for visiting this part of Chile was for the wineries, and we weren’t disappointed. If I hadn’t been pregnant, I’m sure we would have taken the time to visit a few more, but Casa Lapostolle certainly made the trip worthwhile.
* That’s Chilean pesos, not dollars. For the entire time we were in Chile, we never tired of saying, “I’ve only got $20,000 in my wallet, do you think we should get some more cash?”