A Chilean Wine Tour by Bike

A Chilean Wine Tour by Bike

» Featured Columnists | By Steve Winston | November 16, 2012 10:00 AM ET

First stop - Santiago! Chile's beautiful capital is a city alive with culture, great dining, colonial buildings, and colorful street life, from markets to mimes. After you experience a day or two here - and a taste of the country's viticulture - you'll be anxious to visit the places where they make their wines. And you won't have to worry about too many calories, either; you'll be cycling off the calories!
A Fort Collins, CO company called ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours takes people on interesting cycling tours all over the world. They've come up with a great way to experience a scenic country of mountains and valleys and timeless villages, which has in recent years gained a reputation as one of the great emerging wine "capitals" of the world. And you'll experience first-hand just why these wines have won such acclaim.  
After Santiago, you'll venture into the Central Valley, where you'll mount a custom-fitted bike to tour one of the country's "new world" winemaking regions. As you pedal through this scenic region, you'll come upon a number of architectural and cultural treasures...which is why the Central Valley is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first stop is at a family-run winery called Casa Silva, one of the oldest in the valley, where you might see the privileged set playing polo. You'll sample the wines, and enjoy a homemade lunch. Then you'll move on to spend the evening in an historic village called Zuniga, at the wonderfully-rural Hacienda Santa Clara B&B, long a favorite of Chileans seeking a summer getaway
The next day brings with it a 42-mile ride...yes, 42 miles. You won't really notice the distances, though, because you'll be too busy looking at the villages and people along the way. The night is spent at one of the oldest haciendas in the Colchagua Valley, Las Majadas, where the "spa wine treatments" and tastings will go a long way toward easing the stiffness of those 42 miles.
Day Four brings cyclists through the Valle de Apalta, home to several of Chile's most important wineries, among them Montes, Casa Lapostolle, and Ventisquero, as well as an up-and-comer named Viña Neyen. The buildings in this winery are distinctive for their use of only natural adobe. And its grapes are distinctive because they're not grown here; their brought in, instead, from some of the oldest vineyards in the region.
Heading west toward the Pacific, you'll spend the night in the town of Santa Cruz, which has an outstanding cultural history museum, along with the world-famous private art collection of Carlos Cardoen, a well-known international businessman and scientist. At the Hotel Santa Cruz Plaza, you'll have the advantage of a downtown location, and the serenity of a beautiful garden and pool.
The next day, cyclists pedal through the historic village of Lolol, where the colors of the buildings are matched by the smiles of the locals. They relax for the night at Hotel Marina Vichuquén, perched on the shores of Lake Vichuquén. The following day, they reach the mighty Pacific, as they cycle south to Duao, an isolated fishing village. They'll bed down here for the evening, in an authentically-Chilean hotel called Hosteria Donde Gilberto.
Along the way, you'll sample a number of award-winning wines, from whites to reds to blends. You'll get a good idea of what's involved in producing wines - both the joys and the heartaches. And you'll bring home memories of a beautiful countryside, authentic villages, and friendly people...many of whom will be only too happy to while away the evening talking about their wines.
By the time you get on the plane to head back home (with some Chilean wines in tow), you'll know why Chile is one of the world's great new wine countries. And why one of the best ways to see it is by bike.

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