Who: Loma Larga Vineyards. Meaning "long hill" in Spanish, their name reflects the terroir-driven wines.
Where: Chile's Casablanca Valley, 45 km southeast of Valparaiso, on the way between Valpo and Santiago.
Wine: Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Cab Franc, Merlot, Syrah.
Their second label is Lomas del Valle, which are less oaked and more fruit-driven.
Why: On the way back from Valparaiso, we made a reservation at Vina Loma Larga, which is tucked away in Casablanca's countryside. The tasting room manager, Alejandra, gave us a superb tasting of their Malbecs. Known predominantly around the globe as a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir region, Loma Larga is the only vineyard to produce Malbec in Casablanca. Due to the location of the hills surrounding the vineyard, it has a special microclimate for the area. Alejandra gave us a thorough history of Valparaiso throughout the tasting. Many central and Eastern Europeans settled in the Casablanca and Valparaiso regions, including Alejandra's family, and brought their winemaking traditions with them.
As with all Chilean wine estates, make a reservation for a tasting or tour at least 24 hours in advance. Open 7 days a week from 9:30 AM - 6:00 PM.
Who: Vinas Casas del Bosque, in Spanish meaning "houses of the forest".
Where: Chile's Casablanca Valley, 30km from Valparaiso and 70km from Santiago
Wine: Casas del Bosque are premier producers of this region's signature varietals: Sauvgnon Blanc and Pinot Noir. CdB also makes Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Riesling, and Chardonnay of note. All except the Cab and Carmenere are estate grown in Casablanca.
Why: When in the USA, vineyards are happy to offer unscheduled tastings upon arrival. Only the most upscale tastings and tours require a reservation. Not in Chile. The Chilean government permits very little wine to be imported, so domestic wine is taken very seriously.
We, of course, had a very American mindset of simply stopping by for a quick tasting at a few vineyards on our way to and from Valparaiso. Time and again, we were proven wrong. (This was a few years ago, before I knew what I was doing in wine tourism.)
We finally got lucky at Vina Casas del Bosque and landed an impromptu lunch reservation. What an incredible vineyard and estate! The lunch menu was a gourmet selection of tapas with a Chilean focus. In a land of seafood, their ceviche was outstanding, with fresh mussels and prawns. They have the best caramelized onion jelly which we spread liberally on soft bread, along with brie and quince paste. Local families were just relaxing in cabanas on the lawn. drinking wine and socializing in the perfectly temperate spring (November) weather.
Tasting flights or wines by the glass are available.
CdB has grown considerably every year. The quoted production is now at around 130,000 cases, which brings them firmly out of the small boutique category, but not near the realm of Chilean mega-brands such as Concha y Toro. Their entry-level Sauvignon Blancs and Pinots can be found in fine wine shops with a respectable South American selection and are budget-friendly at under $20. However, the reserva wines are where the true quality is and may be harder to find. We brought home a few bottles of 2011 Reserva Pinot Noir that shine.