Sunday, July 20, 2008

Santa Cruz

On Monday, Mom, Kirsi, Aidan and I headed south to Santa Cruz, a little town a couple hours south of Santiago, for a little getaway. Mom has been to Santiago twice but we haven't really gone to many places so I figured we needed to get her somewhere. When she was here in December and January, we did a day trip to Pomaire and to Vina del Mar, both of which were great. So, this time, I decided to take her to the famous Colchagua Valley with all of its world-class vineyards.

The drive down went pretty well - Aidan slept the whole time and Kirsi was in a great mood. I did OK but didn't enjoy it - I absolutely hate highway driving. Thank goodness Der and I have the agreement that he does the driving (unless he's not there!) and I do the childbirth. I thought we had taken the wrong turnoff because we couldn't see signs anywhere for Santa Cruz but in the end, we were on the right path and we got to the town. We had never been to the B&B before but we had the address and a map so we thought we were good to go. We would have been but there were hardly any street signs!! So we ended up driving past the Plaza de Armas in big circles 5 TIMES because we couldn't find the street!!!! After 45 minutes and a lot of frustration, we found it, completely by chance.

Our room was really nice but freezing cold! They had a heater in the room but it really didn't do much except to cut the chill. We spent some time there at first, unpacking and such. We went out to see the town - not much to see really - and book our tours for the next day. We found one place that was open at 5:30 for gringo-hour dinner and then headed back to the B&B. Kirsi discovered The Backyardigans in Santa Cruz (we had satellite TV in the room and don't have it at home) and she liked them.

After a cold night, we were ready to go the next morning and headed out for our first tour at 10:30. We drove through fog and mist to get to the vineyard. So much for the weather forecast that I checked out before coming!!! We were all bundled up for our visit. Aidan was in the Moby wrap and had two blankets over him, so he was snug as a bug in a rug. I only brought one fleece for Kirsi and it wasn't really enough so once we got inside the building, our guide found a little blanket to bundle her up in. Mom and I wore layers and were OK. Vina Santa Cruz is about half an hour west of the town of Santa Cruz and it's a new vineyard, only 4 years old. It's in a beautiful location and the main centre is beautifully done. Our tour started by taking a cable car up to a hill above to look at the three exhibits of Indigenous groups in Chile - Mapuche from the south, Aymara from the north and Rapanui from Easter Island. It was really cool and the view would have been amazing had the valley not been covered with mist! Then it was on t0 the wine-making area and then some testings! I had a couple sips of each wine and really liked a rose that they had.

After a leisurely lunch, we headed to our next tour at the Vina Viu Manent. This is a much older vineyard and is a huge business. They export 98% of their wines, mainly to Europe, the U.S. and Brazil. The guide showed us some old equipment that had been used throughout their 110 years of operation. They had to use machinery made of iron up until the 1990's when the Pinochet government fell because the cost to have stainless steel machinery was so incredibly high that most places couldn't afford it. Machinery made of iron wasn't the best for winemaking as there was residue that could be passed on to the wine. So, that's why Chilean wines weren't exported until the 1990's. It's only been 20 years or so that Chile has been on the world market for wines.

The highlight of the tour for Kirsi (and for me too) was the ride in the horse-drawn carriage through the vineyards. The owners of the vineyards are very involved in equestrian and they have a ring and jumps set up on the property and actually have lessons available to the public. Unfortunately, it was too cold a day for any horses and riders to be out. But the carriage ride through the vineyard was still very neat. Our guide told us all about the different grape varieties and the process of growing the grapes. Then we made our way to the wine-making area and then on to the tasting. We tasted the "house specialty", a Malbec, but it was not a favourite of mine, that's for sure. I did really like a late harvest wine, a Semillon, which I normally don't particularly like. It wasn't too sweet or syrupy - it was very tasty, light and fresh. So, of course, I had to buy a couple bottles. ;)

After another early dinner, we went back to the room. Kirsi had been absolutely fantastic the whole time we'd been here but she had hit the wall. After two days with no naps and a cold coming on, she was exhausted. At bedtime, she fought sleep tooth and nail and did not want to cooperate at all. Mom and I made the decision then and there that we'd be heading back home early the next morning. Forget about the museum or another way home...we needed to get Kirsi Bear home and back into a routine.
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