Day 9: Saturday, Santiago / Los Vascos

Time to leave Santiago and the lovely San Cristobal hotel. It was a tight schedule so we were up and ready for breakfast on time. When we returned to our room, room service came with a bottle of bubbly and cake to celebrate Mike’s birthday – these hotel folks are on top of things! So after our second breakfast containing sugar and alcohol, we decided to see some of Santiago before we headed down to Los Vascos. I was quite determined, particularly after our fiasco in Valpariso, to see the San Cristobal. Shockingly, we were able to find the entrance to the funicular on our own. The funicular, which is like a multi-level cable car, drags you slowly up the hill to the top, where you can see the enormous statue of the Virgin Mary and overlook the entire city of Santiago. Sadly, this was the only touristy thing we did in Santiago – the rest of our time was spent on wine tours or driving to wine tours. But this was definitely the perfect way to end out time in the city. The view was fantastic although the city quite smoggy. Finally we’re on our way down to Los Vascos, at least an hour and a half late. This increased to 2 hours trying to get out of the city again. The interesting thing about Chile, all highways are privately owned, so there is no rhyme or reason to the numbers or the signs to get on or off of a highway. We stop at Pronto, the only fast food restaurant we can find – also doubles as a gas station. Finally, we arrive at the Los Vascos home. The home is nestled near the small town of Santa Cruz in the Rapel Valley of Chile. It is an enormous home, built young but decorated to look old. Baron Eric Rothschild, owner of the winery, sends new decorations as he finds them to go in particular places in the house. He does a good job - the decorations are spectacular and the views breathtaking. Upon arrival, even after running two hours late, we were asked by our hosts if we would like to rest or freshen up. After being two hours late we found that to be bad form, so we jumped in the car to go taste. We first went to the Los Vascos winery tasting room, which was very French in it’s stark white walls. The wines were delicious, with a particular note on the 2001 wines being quite different from those before it – the ’01 vintage was the first to be made by Marcello, the new winemaker. Marcello also took us around the vineyards, which were beautiful and extensive. The weather was spectacular. Warm, sunny and just perfect. We went to our rooms to freshen up and then went to sit on the porch and wait for dinner. There we watched the sunset over the hills and the lake while sipping rose and eating fresh garden tomatoes with mozzarella. Sigh… Marcello & Alfredo joined us, and to our delight, brought their wives, both of whom are pregnant. One was 5 months along, the other 6 months. We had most delicious dinner that was French based but with the freshest Chilean ingredients. It was light, but not too much food or too much wine, which was a relief. It was Michael’s birthday so Alfredo arranged a cake and singing, which was so lovely. We then retired to the living room for more singing and playing. Alfredo’s wife is a classical pianist so took to the keyboard, while Marcello and Alfredo took turns with the guitar. Soon the Chilean winemaker was playing Bon Jovi and Poinson on the guitar while I tried to sing. It was time for bed shortly after. Obviously.