Valparaiso, Chile: a unique coastal city perched in the hills, Valparaiso is well deserving of its old nickname “Little San Francisco.” The whole city reminded us of our Bay Area home. From its steep streets with views of the sea around every corner, to the colorful hills covered with brightly painted houses, to the art galleries and coffee shops we discovered walking through the cobblestone streets, we fell in love with Valparaiso at every turn. Another commonality between San Francisco and Valparaiso: Valparaiso has its very own version of Napa Valley and Sonoma wine country! One of the main draws for travelers to Valparaiso – other than one of Pablo Neruda’s funny, whimsical homes – are the nearby wine regions, Maipo and Casablanca, which lie in a valley between Valparaiso and nearby Santiago. We were eager to go wine tasting in Valparaiso, but weren’t willing to shell out for one of the expensive tours. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find much information online about wine tasting in Valparaiso without a tour. We considered renting a car, but having to be sober would take the fun out of wine tasting! Then there’s the bike tour option, where you drunkenly exercise in the sun while wine tasting – the cheapest option by far, but honestly, it sounded miserable (and a bit unsafe – no thanks, dehydration and drunk biking)! So, we opted to do our own style of wine tasting in Valparaiso. We spent a day exploring 3 fantastic wineries in Casablanca wine region using only public transportation and taxis! It turned out to be super budget friendly, and so easy to do! Here is our guide to how to go wine tasting in Valparaiso without a tour.
Getting to Casablanca Wine Region to go Wine Tasting in Valparaiso
Casablanca Valley is the closest wine region to Valparaiso (Maipo is closest to Santiago), so that’s where we decided we wanted to spend our day wine tasting in Chile! We had our hostel help us with calling 3 wineries and making wine tasting/tour reservations for us, which we heard is necessary (although in November, when we visited, there were almost no other tourists). To be honest, we basically chose the wineries at random. I’m sure some people are particular about the wineries they go to, but we just wanted to go to wineries… that have wine. We’re fancy, I know. We chose Indomita, Bodegas RE, and Emiliana.
To get to Casablanca Wine Region, you first catch a frequent and inexpensive bus at the bus station. The bus station is on the outskirts of Valparaiso, so we hopped a bus at our hostel and the ride to get to the bus station was quick and roughly 85x cheaper than a taxi. Plus, you get a chance to peek at the other scenic hills of the city while enjoying a local commute (if you’re lucky, there may be a clown on board. This happens frequently. The clown may also poke fun at you for being the only Gringos on the bus. Fun!)
The bus station in Valparaiso is right next to the bustling mercado, where you can pick up a bushel of sweet fresh cherries for $1.50 and a bag of raw almonds for $4. Which is exactly what we did. You know, for drunk snacks. We located a ticket window with a large CASABLANCA sign displayed and bought tickets for the next bus, leaving in a few minutes. Cost: 1,000/$1.50.
The comfortable bus takes you to the central plaza in Casablanca in just under an hour. Once you reach the plaza, your next task is to locate a taxi to take you to your first winery. Luckily, this is made simple by a taxi stand at one side of the plaza, with an Information booth and everything. Tourist-proof! Love it. We had some time to kill before our first tasting, so we stopped at one of the grocery stores bordering the plaza for more drunk snacks. And to scope out the junk food wine selection, of course. If you don’t end up buying a bottle at the winery, you can always pick up insanely cheap Chilean wine at the grocery store!
After scoping out the grocery store and admiring the scenic plaza, we hopped in a taxi. To get to our first winery, Indomita, the cost was 6,000/$9. There is a set cost per kilometer in the taxis, so our advice is to know how many kilometers you are travelling to avoid being up-charged (we didn’t). Indomita was under 10 minutes away. We had given ourselves 2 full hours to get there, and it ended up taking barely over an hour. For once, we weren’t running late – we were actually early! I’m so proud of us!
Winery #1: Wine Tasting at Indomita
Indomita is a large volume winery perched up on a hill with a huge sign that reminded us a little of the Hollywood sign. Although it was not the best wine we sampled while wine tasting in Valparaiso, it’s worth a stop just to appreciate the incredible scenery! The view from the front deck is absolutely gorgeous, and there are little walking trails through the vineyards that offer the perfect spot for a mini photo shoot. Which is what we did, since we still had some time to kill! Finally, we began our tour and tasting. Cost: 10,000/$15 each.
Casablanca Valley is known for its white wines: the valley is situated in the perfect location between the mountains and the sea. As the coastal fog and sea breeze sweeps into the valley, it is stopped by the mountains and just hovers there, cooling the air and keeping everything nice and chilled. Turns out that white wines are best kept chilled both on the vine and in the bottle. Who knew? Luckily for red wine lovers, most wineries (including Indomita) have multiple vineyards, all spread out over the other wine valleys in Chile, so that you are able to taste white wines from grapes grown in the Casablanca Valley as well as reds grown elsewhere.
We tasted 4 wines at Indomita, most of them bright, fresh tasting young wines. After our tasting and tour, we were free to explore the grounds again or have lunch at their gorgeous, scenic restaurant. I’d recommend eating lunch at Indomita – the other wineries we visited didn’t have restaurants, and the outdoor seating offers gorgeous, sweeping views of the valley. Plus, the menu looked fantastic. We were trying to save as much cash as we could, so we nibbled on our almonds and cherries instead and asked the friendly staff at Indomita to call us a taxi.
Winery #2: Wine Tasting at Emiliana Organic Vineyards
Oh & also: Alpacas!
The taxi to our next winery, Emiliana Organic Vineyards, cost 6,000/$9. We were glad we had extra time to kill at Emiliana, because the gorgeous grounds are heaven for animal lovers like us! Emiliana is the largest sustainable and organic winery in the world and it’s home to many resident animals who help produce its delicious wines! We watched a family of guinea fowl scratch for bugs in the vineyard with their tiny chirping babies. Chickens relaxed in the grass next to a couple enjoying a picnic on the lawn. But the stars of Emiliana are the alpacas!
Emiliana is home to a herd of adorable alpacas who benefit the winery by providing plenty of fresh compost fodder, pest control, and soft wool which is donated to the employees for their own uses. That’s right … the alpacas work at the winery, helping to make it organic and sustainable Also, they’re the cutest animals ever. Just look at this cute little baby alpaca!
We tried to bribe the alpacas to be our friends with an apple, but they ignored us. Then we attempted our best alpaca noises (er, well, llama noises, technically, but we figured it might be similiar). After a few embarrassing attempts were met with nothing but haughty, fluffy disdain, we gave up. Here’s what we learned: alpacas, unlike cats or dogs, aren’t interested in befriending humans. They prefer to keep all of their cuddly cuteness just out of arm’s length, preferring to idly derp at you from afar.
But then … we figured out the secret. (Ok, an employee told us, but whatever.) Alpacas love grape leaves, in a way that they do not, apparently, enjoy delicious fresh juicy apples (alpacas have weird taste in food, I guess). The second we approached a sassy alpaca with a tasty leaf from a nearby vine, we made instant friends. I was even able to briefly pet my new alpaca friend while she ate from my hand! Sure, it was a fleeting bond – it lasted exactly the length of time that it takes for an alpaca to munch on a leaf – but it was all we’d ever wanted (ok, actually, we wanted to take one home with us, but it was still pretty awesome). Dear readers, now you know: you can bribe alpacas for friendship with grape leaves!
After frolicking around the grounds with the animals for a while (and picking up a coffee at the cafe…wine makes us sleepy!), we were ready for our tour and tasting (cost: 14,000/$22). Whereas our fist tour at Indomita was all about the wine-making process. Emiliana’s tour focused on what happens before the grape is even picked, and how their sustainable, organic practices affect the taste and quality of the wine. From using animal-produced compost (enriched with a spiritually-based combination of fresh organic herbs) to growing specific plants to enhance the insect population and soil quality, Emiliana is a fantastic standard for organic wineries.
Something else we loved about Emiliana was their social responsibility: in addition to providing their farmers with alpaca wool, Emiliana also gives each of their employees small plot of land for farming crops other than grapes. They can grow anything they want and keep the produce. Social responsibility is incredibly important to us, and this tour was a great glimpse into what it means for a vineyard to be ethically and environmentally sustainable.
Emiliana offers four tour options: Premium Tour (winery tour and wine tasting), Tour and Cheese Pairing, Tour and Chocolate Pairing, and the Picnic Tour where guests are given a picnic basket at the end to enjoy on the grounds (along with a few friendly resident chickens who may stop by to say hello). We opted for a cheese and wine pairing, which was a solid choice. I mean…isn’t cheese always the right option? (Cost: 17,000/$26 for one wine and cheese pairing, which was enough for us to share). We tasted 4 wine and cheese combinations. We fell in love with 2 of the wines, both delicious red blends (the Coyam 7-wine blend was particularly incredible!). We ended up buying a bottle to take home: a peppery blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chilean specialty, Carmenere.
Winery #3: Wine Tasting at Bodegas RE
After bidding goodbye to our new Alpaca friends (who am I kidding, they were totally indifferent and their sass just makes me love them more) we hopped in a taxi to our last winery, Bodegas RE. Bodegas RE was one of the most unique wineries we’ve ever visited: they invent their own blends, complete with unique blend names, such as Pinotel or Chardonnoir. I love this because then even people like us who know next to nothing about wine can nod knowingly and say, “ah, yes. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, such a classic blend,” and smirk a lot and pretend we are experts.
The winery also produces olives and olive oil, so as part of our tasting we also got a pile of delicious olives, syrupy balsamic vinegar and olive oil, bread, and cheese. One 19,000/$30 pairing was enough to share for both of us! Yay, saving money!
Our Brief Love Affair with Waygu Beef Jerky at Bodegas RE
We were actually too tired at this point to go on our 3rd vineyard tour of the day, so instead we savored our tasting and browsed the handicrafts and artisanal foods for sale. We found ourselves curiously eying a packet of paper-thin Waygu beef jerky. Here is the ode that
the world’s biggest dork my
An innocuous package sits perched on a wine barrel. Its contents: paper thin strips reminiscent of manzanita tree bark. The price tag: 4000 Chilean Pesos. “Six bucks?!” you say in disgust. “It looks like giant pencil shavings!” You continue around the shop but you hear the faintest whisper of an echo: wagyu-yu-yu-yu… Surely the wind. You busy yourself with a display of artisan sea salts. You think you’ve found your souvenir. The wind howls: dry aged-aged-aged-aged… “Back, you wench! I shall not spend spend that much on jerky. I can get two bags, each twice your size, for that amount, you ghoul!” And yet you find your tongue getting wetter. Surely this is for the jar of sun-dried tomatoes you’ve just snatched up. Oh, you are no fool. This is the wicked embrace of dried meat. You plead with the salesperson: “A sample! A sample! My kingdom for a sample!” She gives a solemn shake of her head – an answer of dissent. “Damn you, wagyu!” Your heartbeat speeds. You’ve lost control. You reach for a bag. Ashamed and bested, you lock eyes with your partner. The two of you finally fill your mouths with the smoky and peppery flakes of beef, as delicate as a butterfly wing, as bangin’ the finest bacon you’ve ever had in your whole life.
So basically, get the Waygu beef jerky. It’s really good. And I promise my husband won’t write any more terrible prose about it.
Floating on a Waygu beef jerky and wine cloud, we taxi’d back to the nearby plaza for only 1,500/$2.30. We road that high all the way back on the bus to Valparaiso (1,000/$1.50 each).
5 Ways to Make Wine Tasting in Valparaiso Without a Tour Even More Budget Friendly
All told, our day of wine tasting in Casablanca Valley cost us 95,500/$145 or 47,750/$73 each – definitely more budget-friendly than any of the guided tours we found! (Note: we included only the tours/tastings and transit, not our purchases of wine bottles and Waygu beef jerky).
Here are our tips for making a day of wine tasting in Valparaiso without a tour even more budget friendly:
- Share taxis: Taxis alone cost us 20,000/$30! The more people you can round up to go with you, the cheaper your day of wine tasting in Valparaiso without a tour will be!
- Optimize the taxi route: we recommend visiting Emiliana first, then Indomita, then Bodegas RE, so that the distance between each is shorter and thus costs less.
- Bring your own snacks. Crackers, cheese and olives are great for pairing, but do not fill you up! If you don’t want to spend money on a nice lunch at a winery, bring your own snacks or lunch and picnic at one of the wineries, like Emiliana Organic Vineyards.
- Share tastings whenever possible. We sometimes splurged for a tasting + pairing, but when we did, we shared to keep the costs down. None of the wineries minded us sharing!
- Consider skipping the tour: Some people (including us!) find winery and vineyard tours fascinating, but if you’re looking to save money, you can always opt to just enjoy a tasting and skip the tour.
Overall, we had a fantastic day exploring the Casablanca Wine Region and wine tasting in Valparaiso without a tour, and highly recommend it!
3 Wineries to Visit When Wine Tasting in Valparaiso Without a Tour
Below, you can find information for all 3 of the wineries we visited. Each is accessible by taxi from the Casablanca plaza, an inexpensive 1-hour bus ride from Valparaiso, Chile. Local taxi drives will know the location without needing an address.
Please note that you do need to reserve your tour & tasting at least 24 hours in advance. You can email or ask your hotel/hostel to call for you!
- Emiliana Organic Vineyards | Website | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: +562 2 353 9130
- Bodegas RE | Website | Email: email@example.com | Phone: +56 32 274 1234 or +56 9 934 59 114
- Indomita | Website | Contact Page | Phone:+56322153902 or +56 2 222317569
I hope you found our how-to guide to budget friendly wine tasting in Valparaiso, Chile without a tour helpful and informative! Please let us know if you have any questions in the comments, below!
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