Are you looking for the best Chile Wine Tour? After stumbling through Mendoza and its surrounding wine regions, we headed back to Chile to explore Santiago and some of the neighboring Chilean wine regions.
We were most excited to visit the Colchagua Valley which is known for its Mediterranean climate and production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, and Malbec, but we needed to visit Chilean wine country on a budget. The steep slopes of the Andes Mountains in the valley proved to be both scenic and the ideal location to grow the various varietals.
Maipo Valley | Best Chile Wine Tours on a Budget
The Maipo Valley is the closest wine region to the city of Santiago. Vineyards stretch eastward from Santiago to the Andes and westward to the coast. The area is most known for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon.
It’s often described as the Bordeaux of South America. We were excited to learn that we could use public transportation to take an afternoon day trip to the Cousiño Macul Winery. However, we’ve also included the best guided Chile wine tours too!
Cousiño Macul Winery
Founded in 1856, this winery is one of the oldest in Chile boasting some of the oldest vines, and is still in the hands of the original founding family. Using Santiago’s subway system, take the Tobalaba line and get off at the Quillin stop.
Although Trip Advisor reviews said the walk from the stop to the entrance takes 25 minutes, it took us closer to 40-45 minutes. Also, tasting and tour cost about USD 15 per person.
We didn’t feel like walking back to the winery and called a taxi back to the subway which costs about USD 10. The Half Day Trip to Cousiño Macul Vineyard from Santiago is one of the best Chile wine tours as it avoids the need to take public transportation.
Where to Stay
Budget: Eco-Hostal Tambo Verde (hostel) or Providencia Bed & Breakfast (buffet breakfast) or Sweet Stay Chile (apartment)
Mid-Range: Hotel Eco Boutique Bidasoa (great value) or DoubleTree – Vitacura (modern and clean)
Luxury: Hotel Casa Real (inside Santa Rita vineyard) 0r Hotel Magnolia (vintage-inspired boutique)
Looking For a Guided Tour?
Full-Day Wine Tour from Santiago with Sommelier Guide (hotel pick-up in Santiago)
Carménère is to Chile as Malbec is to Argentina, and the Colchagua Valley is probably one of the best places in the world to taste this varietal. Wine Folly even recommends Carménère for the beer drinker in your life who loves IPA. “The flavors and aftertaste of Carménère resemble the complexity of an IPA, making it the ideal wine for someone more loyal to beer, but looking to branch out into wine.”
How to Get to the Colchagua Valley
We took the subway to Santiago’s bus terminal to purchase tickets to Santa Cruz/Colchagua Valley. When we arrived at the bus terminal, we scouted out which bus company was the cheapest. Ask around because there was a variance in quoted prices. We paid about USD 6.00 per person.
Reservations for wine tours and tastings are mandatory in Colchagua Valley. We will not go through and rate each winery, because there are extensive reviews on TripAdvisor and your visits will depend on what wineries eventually get back to you to secure the reservation.
As mentioned in previous South American wine country posts, return email correspondence was poor and it was disappointing how many of my email inquiries went unanswered.
Mont Gras Winery
On our first day, we splurged on a tour and tasting with food pairing at Mont Gras. It’s the number one winery on TripAdvisor. We had a private tour of the vineyard with an in-depth lesson on the vines, leaves, and grapes.
We toured the distillery being able to taste Sauvignon Blanc right from the stainless steel vast. From the town center, a taxi costs about USD 15 to get there and back.
Afterward, our hostel owner let us borrow his rental bikes for free to taste wine by the glass at Laura Hartwig. Tasting costs range from USD 1.50-3.50 with reserve wines on the more expensive side. Or, another option is to take the Meet the Winemaker – An unforgettable bike tour.
Montes and Viu Manent
On day two, we rented two bikes from our hostel and explored the Ruta del Vino. Our first reservation took us to Montes, where we blew off our scheduled (costly) tour and opted to sit on their lovely outdoor patio to order wine by the glass.
We paid about USD 1.00 for each glass of wine. They have an outdoor restaurant on site, but we had a lunch reservation later that afternoon. Afterward, we attempted to visit Lapostolle but were turned away at the gate due to not having a reservation. Many say this is one of the most beautiful wineries in the area so it may be worth a visit.
Next, we biked to Viu Manent. We also made a reservation for a tour here as it includes a charming horse-drawn carriage tour through the vineyards, however, at the last minute, we decided to skip this tour too and use the money towards a great lunch, as we were starving and hot!
In conclusion, we saved money in this expensive region by skipping the tours, opting to order wine by the glass (or bottle), then enjoying each wineries’ beautiful surroundings. Although, many of the top wineries offer something special to make their tours unique (e.g., horse carriage ride, drinking from the vast, hiking opportunity on the grounds, skylift, etc.), after a while the tours do start getting repetitive. Especially, after how many tours we went on in Argentina.
Where to Stay in Colchagua Valley
We had a hard time finding budget accommodations in this area. We booked Hostel del Centro which was within walking distance to the bus terminal in Santa Cruz. Although the host/owner was great, the rooms and experience were very average. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this hostel, however looking back, we would recommend these accommodations:
Where to Stay
Budget: Casa Suiza (hostel with continental breakfast)
Mid-Range: Hotel y Cabañas Tierra & Vino (wine-tasting) or Casa Calfu B&B (amazing pool area)
Luxury: Hotel Boutique Vendimia Premium(love the vibes) or Clos Apalta Residence Relais & Chateaux (you can always dream)
Looking For a Guided Tour?
Unique Wines In Colchagua Valley (great option for those short on time)
Santa Cruz Budget Tips
We totally would have jumped on this experience had we known, but unfortunately, our hostel owner thought he told us about it, but didn’t. Viña Santa Cruz Winery hosts an Astrology and Wine night which sounded amazing! It is only held on certain evenings so do your research ahead of time and make a reservation!
From our hostel, we walked to Prado’s Pizza which was recommended by locals and turned out to be a very large, tasty pizza. Thick and hearty, it was a good option for an inexpensive dinner.
Getting to Chilean Wine Country
We took AndesMar from Mendoza to Santiago costing about USD 55 per person for two cama-suites on the bus. Equally important, be prepared for a very long, frustrating border crossing! It took approximately 3.5 hours to clear customs from Argentina into Chile.
The total time on the road was approximately 9 hours, including the time at the border crossing. Also, we were happy we purchased the suite that came with a light lunch, movies (in English), and comfortable seats. We were however slightly disappointed that there was no bingo for wine :).
Have you visited the area and have some helpful tips or feedback? Please leave a comment below.