This week’s twitter topic for #girlstravel was wine. Answering all of the questions, I realized that lately my travels have included wine tastings and/or tours of vineyards. For my Santiago visit, I would be touring the local wine region by bike. Drinking and biking…could get interesting, thankfully La Bicicleta Verde had it all sorted perfectly.
I’m still embarrassed to this day that I was super late due to Santiago’s no daylight savings time and my tech issues with this, resulting in the guide having the hotel staff find me at breakfast because I was an hour late! I had no clue, my phone said I had time (I didn’t realize when I pulled the battery, it reset, and then I manually reset it) and here I was at breakfast taking my time figuring out how to casually talk to Richard Branson of Virgin Group (a travel, business and charity rock star!) as he navigated the breakfast buffet. I had previously seen him at a travel conference and was in line to meet him and his handlers took him away – so this was my second chance. It was foiled by Anabel, the tour guide, who should have left me behind for being so late (I would have left me behind) but the company called the others on the tour to tell them we were running late. I’m never late and here with the bike tour I was 2 for 2!
With the group all together – we had a young couple from Australia, sisters from the US, another couple and me. A nice small group and a sunny, cool day to explore. We drove for about 40 minutes outside of Santiago to start our tour. We started our tour on the country road after sorting bikes, helmets and getting situated. We each had mountain bikes for our tour and would stay behind Anabel in a single row. The terrain was flat paved road, dirt and rocks. The van and driver would follow behind the group.
Our first stop was to get up close and personal with the grapes and to hear the history of the vineyard.
Riding along the road, we then made a right to enter the vineyard. The road was long and lined with trees on both sides, it was my Falcon Crest moment (I watched the re-runs!), riding toward the main building for our tour of the production facilities.
Riding out of the main building we rode through the vineyards to learn about the Carmenere grape – an extinct Bordeaux grape that was rediscovered and brought back to life in Chile. With the Andes in the background, the sun shining and the cool air – this was the perfect place to be.
The ride so far had covered a lot of ground and you don’t realize you are going uphill at the vineyards. So what goes up must dirt bike down over rocks and have a fun, albeit scary for this city girl, downhill speed ride (ok, its not that steep but again city girl here – I walk everywhere). At the top of the hill, this is when you are happy we hadn’t had wine yet – this was where I was playing out all of the scenarios – I hadn’t signed a legal waiver, do I know any Spanish hospital words?, would I really fly over the handlebars or just fall sideways? Of course, I am absurd – I instead went last and played with the brakes and rather than feel the breeze through my hair, I was eyeing every rock hoping it wouldn’t be the last one I saw. I kept up for the most part with the group but still was last, which was fine.
We left the vineyard and rode to our next stop where we put our bikes back on the van – the rest of the day would include wine so no more biking for us. We met the owner of this winery – he was so animated and thoroughly enjoyed having fun flirting with the girls in the group. After tasting the various wines from the production vats, we would go by van to his house on the property, to learn more about wine as he learned more about us. The owner poured generously as he chatted in a mix of Spanish, English and Italian – following the conversation was interesting as I know a bit of Italian. He continued to pour, opening new bottles every so often and not taking no when refilling your glass – this was a relaxing way to enjoy wine with friends – he wasn’t trying to sell us just enjoying our visit.
A few people did buy a bottle or two to drink later that night. We said our goodbyes and loaded into the van on our way to a late lunch – we had worked up an appetite with the biking and were now full of wine and crackers so food was definitely welcome. Stopping at a local café, Anabel explained the menu options (included in our tour price) and we all enjoyed our Chilean entrees and dessert. The café accommodated food allergies/preferences, just let the guide know.
Despite the many wine tours that operate everyday from Santiago, we did not see any buses, vans or cars of tourists at the wineries we visited. Anabel was a great guide, he loves what he does and you can see the great rapport he has with the vineyard owners and staff. They are happy to welcome new faces from around the world each day as they share their love of Chilean wine. A small, private group was a perfect way to see the wineries. I would drink Carmenere for the rest of my trip, each time smiling remembering this wonderful tour with La Bicicleta Verde.
Details: This was a full day tour with early pick-up time at your hotel and return before 5 pm, depending on traffic. There is a van and a trailer with the bikes and equipment. As fx rates change, the cost was about $200 US for the small private tour which includes the guide, transportation, equipment, lunch and of course wine! It was a wonderful day and I didn’t think twice about the cost.