If you like wine you must visit a vineyard during your stay in Chile. Our stay in Santiago was short since we preferred to spend more time in the Atacama Desert and on Easter Island. That is why we decided to go to a nearby vineyard and choose Santa Rita Winery, although it is one of the most popular and industrial wines of Chile.
Its location in Alto Jahuel (province of Maipo) in the lower part of the Andes Mountains. Being only 45 minutes from the capital city makes it one of the most visited in the country. If you visit the website of Santa Rita Winery you can see instructions on how to get there using public transport and / or collective taxi. Most people drive or take a tour that picks you up at your hotel in Santiago.
Walk the vineyard on a tour
You can make the visit in Spanish, English or Portuguese and the tour schedule varies according to the language. There are two to three tours per day in each language and they take 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you go on your own you must make a reservation on the website since there is a maximum of 30 people per tour.
Trip Advisor has awarded the Certificate of Excellence to Santa Rita Winery for four consecutive years from 2013 to 2016.
The Santa Rita Winery tour includes a visit to the vineyards and the garden. When we went it was autumn and the harvest season was over but there were still some grapes left in the plants.
It was very nice to see the foliage while we walked. The vineyard has 50 hectares and you only go through the area closest to the buildings.
The grapes have beautiful roses planted around them. They told us they put them to control pests in the vineyards since they are more susceptible.
Of course, they give you three wines (2 reserve and 1 grand reserve) to taste in a rather dark bar and you can take the glass home as a souvenir.
In Panama the brand is known for having very cheap and low quality wines. You can buy a bottle of Santa Rita 120 for $4 in supermarket. Fortunately, they did not give us a taste of these wines, rather the high quality reserve. If you buy the premium tour it includes a cheese board.
Santa Rita Winery is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. at 4 p.m.
After walking through the vineyards, we passed to the wineries that have French and American oak barrels. It is impressive to think that this site has the capacity to store 17 million liters of fine wines. Be sure to look for Bodega 1 that was built of masonry in 1880, being one of the oldest in Chile.
Another historic winery is that of the 120 patriots. Before it was the Santa Rita Vineyard, this estate was owned by several owners, including Paula Jaraquemada. 200 years ago, she helped Bernardo O’Higgins and 120 of his soldiers by providing shelter. The name of the popular 120 wine arises from this story that was part of the independence of Chile.
Museum, shop and boutique hotel
At the end you can go through the Andean Museum that exhibits 2,000 pieces of pre-Columbian art. If you have no chance to visit Easter Island you can see an original sample of a Moai from the Rapa Nui National Park brought to this site. Santa Rita Winery also has a wine shop and a restaurant called Doña Paula (as the famous owner).
If you want to stay, this is the only vineyard near Santiago with a boutique hotel. Hotel Casa Real has 16 rooms overlooking the pool and gardens. It was completely renovated in 2017, maintaining a country atmosphere with all modern amenities.
History of Santa Rita Winery
Domingo Fernandez Concha founded the Santa Rita Winery in 1880. The original site of the vineyard is the same as you see on the tour and is currently still the main facilities of the company. This ingenious businessman brought French strains and planted them in the fertile soils of the Maipo River valley. Winemakers came from France to Chile to help with the technique and managed to produce results superior to those used in the country.
The company remained in the family until 1980 when it was bought by the Claro group and the company Owens Illinois, the world’s leading producer of glass containers. Under new command, the company received a strong impulse and in 1982 they launched the famous line 120. Then the wine began to be exported worldwide. They also bought the “Carmen” wine brand that had great prestige in the local market.
Techniques began to change, incorporating new equipment such as stainless steel tanks and French and American oak barrels. They bought more than 1,000 hectares at the most important sites for wine production in Chile, including Maipo, Rapel, Lontué, Casablanca and Apalta.
Years later they bought 1,650 hectares in Limarí and Pumanque, in addition to 253 hectares in Mendoza, Argentina. Subsidiaries are created in different countries and currently the wine from the Santa Rita Vineyard is marketed in more than 75 countries.
Chile is a country known for its good wine. If you are a wine lover (like me) you must visit this or another vineyard on your visit.