Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My next career: Winemaker

My next career: Winemaker
by Madelyn Miller, the TravelLady

There is probably nowhere better to learn to be a winemaker than Chile: Wonderful climate, great grapes and an innovative state of mind that is based on tradition but open to experiment.

This innovative state of mind is best exemplified by the fact that I was given a chance to blend my own wine. Recently I explored wineries within 90 minutes of Santiago with a group of four other journalists, I was offered the opportunity to blend my own wine. Each of the other writers was definitely more knowledgeable, while I could barely spell and pronounce the varietals.

The process and procedure
Our first visit was to the amazing Undurraga Winery, one of the oldest winery in Chile that produces more than 20 million liters per year

After touring the grounds of Undurraga Wine of Chile, we went into a spacious room set with a table of beakers, funnels and four wines to create our own special blends.

First we tasted the Cabernet/Syrah Aliwen 2009 for inspiration. Actually, I did not find it very inspiring. It tasted weak and flat. I knew right away that I wanted to create something different. So perhaps it was inspirational in that it motivated me to do something different.

Then we tried out four varietal wines that would be the ingredients of our own personal blends. The 2010 Merlot was fruity, but had a leathery taste. The 2010 Carmenere was my favorite. I knew that it would be the major part of my blend. I hated the 2010 Syrah-- it had a sulphurous smell that I found very off-putting. I was certain it would not be part of my final product. The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was pleasant, so I decided to go with a half and half blend of my two favorites.

My own winemaking technique

Everyone else deliberated greatly before filling their beaker with wine. I just poured both my wines right in. I was the first one done.

Just for fun, I asked the winemaker , Carlos Concha, to taste my wine. Obviously he has a sophisticated and sensitive palate, because he had the nicest things to say about my blend. In fact, the tasting notes for my wine were the most positive of the group.

Here is what Carlos had to say,” Nice aroma. Good fruit. Well-blended, spicy, smooth, silky, not dry. His only suggestion was that it needed more complexity. (I guess when it comes to wines, I may be simple minded. But then I only blended two wines—everyone else got more complex) Carlos acknowledged that there was lots of Carmenere.

At the bottom of my wine-blotted placemat, he wrote, “Congratulations. Nice Blend.” I felt that I had gotten an A on a very important paper. (insert jpg of his notes)

I didn’t just blend. I also got to bottle my own wine and name and label it.

I brought the wine home and am waiting for the perfect opportunity to share it.

Some perfect pairings with Undurraga

If you would like to try to simulate this experience at home, you can at least get the Undurraga wines and make dishes similar to the menu we enjoyed


Goat cheese Brochettes
Undurraga Brut Royal N.V.


Avocado Mousse on a Bed of Greens

T.H. Sauvignon Blanc Leyda 2009


Patagonian Lamb Chops in Morello Cherry Sauce
Served with Caramelized Onions
Quinoa and Fine Herbs Risotto
Altazor 2007


4 Course Dessert – Chilean Delights
Quince Mille Feuilles with Murtilla Sauce
Sopaipillas with Brown Molasses
Papaya Mousse
San Juan Little Pears in a Wine Sauce
Undurraga Late Harvest

More about the Winery
Don Francisco Undurraga, an enterprising man in the 19th century, was one of the pioneers of winemaking in Chile and founder of Viña Undurraga. With plants he brought over personally from France and Germany and under the supervision of the renowned French viticulturist M. Pressac, he developed the first vineyards in the Santa Ana Estate, which was named in honor of his wife Doña Ana Fernández Iñiguez. This estate, located in Talagante, 34 kilometers from Santiago, in the heart of the Maipo Valley, received its first plantations of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer in 1885 and by 1903, the first shipments were being made to the USA.

Phone: (56-2) 372-2900 Fax: (56-2) 372-2946 Url: www.undurraga.cl

Address: Av. Vitacura 2939 piso 21, Vitacura, Santiago - Chile

Take a tour
It is easy to book a tour to Undugarra Winery. Depart from the hotel in Santiago and as you drive towards the Maipo Valley enjoy beautiful countryside landscape until you arrive at the Undurraga Winery. It was founded in 1885 and has been nurtured by five generations.

Admire the great park that this winery has with trees that are 150 years old or even more. Undurraga Winery produces more than 15 millions of litres per year in its 140 hectares, being one of the oldest and more important wineries in Chile.

It is an excellent tour for learning how the wines are produced and how the winery works, with the chance of tasting some of its final products.

Return to the hotel in Santiago.

- Entrance Fee
- Wine tasting
- Driver/guide

- Meals and drinks (unless specified)
- Tips and gratuities
- Personal expenses


For reservations, please contact the following numbers: (56-2) 372-2850 / (56-2) 372-2865. Or send an e-mail to visit@undurraga.cl.

Other wineries to visit (all within about 90 minutes of Santiago)
Casas del Bosque:



Haras de Pirque:

Concha y Toro:

Winery at the top of my list for next time is Emiliana because they have a wine and chocolate tasting.

I did a tasting of their wines at Valley Nevado.


For More Information on Wines of Chile
Wines of Chile


Wines of Chile - Main Office - Chile
Phone: (56-2) 218 0600
Address: Luis Pasteur 5280, Oficina 402,
Vitacura, Santiago, Chile

Background reading to get Ready for your Trip
Red Grapes, Hidden treasures

THE CARMENERE WINES OF CHILE from the Cachapaol Valley


333 Places and Experiences that People Love

Madelyn Miller is a travel and food and wine writer who loved Chile.

Her fantasy is to a winemaker at a gorgeous estate winery. Read her stories on www.travellady.com, www.carladynews.com, www.yogayaya.com, www.chocolateatlas.com, www.cocktailatlas.com, www.coffeeatlas.com, www.teaAtlas.com

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