One of our reasons for coming to Chile was to visit wineries, so we set off to visit the two that do not require advance reservations. Our first stop, Balduzzi vineyards, was easy. The visitor center and tasting room is not far off the main north south highway (Ruta 5). We had a tour with two young men from Montreal who spoke English and French, and ended with a tasting of four wines. We bought a bottle of the sauvignon blanc that we tasted, and a bottle of a very good red that were not offered as part of the tasting.

Not every vineyard was as easy to find:

Even getting out of the car and peering into the bushes, I had trouble seeing which way  to the vineyard.

Even getting out of the car and peering into the bushes, I had trouble seeing which way the arrow pointed.

After picnic lunch by the side of the road–it was so hot by now (1 pm) that we ate in the car with the A/C running. Rested and refreshed, we set off for the Gilmore vineyard. We had a dot on a large map and a sketch map on the Gilmore brochure. Once we found the turnoff for Concepcion, the rest was easy, follow the road to km marker 20 and there it is. We did not tour or taste, because Gilmore has a very nice shop with local crafts, yarn, and wine from the winery, but they do not offer tasting. We bought a very intriguing mermaid created from colored and twined horsehair–creative and a good Christmas tree ornament. Most horsehair work in Chile consists of geometric patterned items such as earrings or hair clips.

Mermaid of woven horsehair.

Mermaid of woven horsehair.

Jonathan did purchase a bottle of wine and we asked whether there were any other wineries along the road toward Concepcion. The young woman in the shop told us that the J. Bouchon winery was 10 km further down the road and very well marked. Since we spent relatively little time at Gilmore we decided to visit Bouchon.

“Well marked” seems to be a relative term. We drove along expecting a sign “J. Bouchon”, or maybe even more than one sign, after all, it was “well marked”. When we had gone another 20 km without sighting anything, we noticed that we had entered an area of pine plantations, and there were no vineyards visible along the road.

Not much room for grape vines.

Not much room for grape vines.

Wondering where we’d gone wrong, we turned back. At the 10 km marker we looked at an intersection, but there was no sign.

When we first drove past, I didn't  think this could be a sign for a "well-marked" vineyard.

When we first drove past, I didn’t think this could be a sign for a “well-marked” vineyard.

When Jonathan started laughing, I knew this was the vineyard sign.

When Jonathan started laughing, I knew this was the vineyard sign.

Note that the last words are “J. Bouchon y Cia.” And that wasn’t the end of the road by any means. It wound around and up and down with little evidence of vines.

I still don't see any vines.

I still don’t see any vines.

Do you see vines in the distance?

Do you see vines in the distance?

Finally,

Here's the first vines you see. Is this place abandoned?

Here’s the first vines you see. Is this place abandoned?

Not at all. J. Bouchon has rental rooms/villas and a large facility, but we didn’t see any people. We found a gardener who directed us toward the back of the corrugated metal building off to one side of the residential zone. Emerging from it we met a young man who was beginning a tour with a pair of young Canadians and their 3 month-old. We joined them. Though J. Bouchon doesn’t offer tours, he was giving us one anyway. We would not be able to taste anything, but could purchase wine at a 20% discount. Though we’ve now been through the winery tour several times, this one was distinguished by the fact that a truckload of machine-harvested chardonnay grapes had just come from the field and we could see it unloaded and sent through the sorter.

Fire hose of chardonnay grapes, machine harvested.

Fire hose of chardonnay grapes, machine harvested.

Another load, or several, had already come in, because there was already a dump truck full of the material that was strained out of the grapes: stems, seeds, skins.

Sorter in action, carrying grapes up to the strainer.

Sorter in action, carrying grapes up to the strainer.

This brown mass is used as animal feed (put in a silo first) rather than composted or sold.

Grape detritus.

Grape detritus.

Quail in lower right corner, in the yard of the J. Bouchon winery.

Quail in lower right corner, in the yard of the J. Bouchon winery.

We had a wonderful tour at a place that claimed not to give tours, and our Canadian companions were delightful, including 3 month old Quinn.

Our purchase from J. Bouchon:

Mingre, a premium wine from Gilmore, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 30% syrah, 30% carmenere

Mingre, a premium wine from Gilmore, 40% carmenere, 30% syrah, 30% cabernet sauvignon

 

 

 

 

 

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