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Chile by Air (and coolest job in the world)

I love my job. I write about wine and food (in that order) in a gorgeous country squooshed between two—yes TWO—mountain ranges (the Andes and the Coastal Range),  double-lined by the Pacific Ocean on one side and Argentine pampa on the other, then capped top and bottom by the Atacama Desert, a sparkly volcano-studded Lake Region, and the wilds of Patagonia, but why stop there? Let’s throw in a slice of Antarctica and a couple Pacific Islands to boot (Juan Fernández, of Robinson Crusoe fame, and Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island in gringo speak).

I love my job—it bears repeating. Sure, there are days when I sit at my desk for 16 hours and move nothing but my fingers over the keyboard (that’s why they call it work), but then there are days like today, when this work takes me to places that even my Chilean husband doesn’t know.

Colchagua based Viña Casa Silva decided to launch its latest wine—Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc—by inviting a small group of wine writers to visit their young vineyards near the coast of Colchagua. This is a big deal. They literally broke new ground—new terroir—with this project by daring to plant this close to the so-cold-it’s-cool coast in a region where no one has ever grown wine grapes before. As pioneers, they’ve earned their bragging rights… and this was no time to slouch.

So they ordered up an absolutely gorgeous day and put a dozen of us on a little 12-seater and flew us to the Colchagua coast… Here, let me show you… Come on along for the ride:

Central Chilean Andes to the left

Central Chilean Andes to the left (Photo © MSnook 2009)

We left the Santiago airport and headed south, with the Andes to the left and the Coastal Mountains to the right. August is still winter in the southern hemisphere, and last week’s heavy rains dusted the Coastal Mountains with snow for a special treat.

Snow-topped Coastal Mountains to the right

Snow-topped Coastal Mountains to the right (Photo © MSnook 2009)

The layers of fog that accumulate between the irregular Coastal Mountains moderate temperatures and provide moisture for an area that is otherwise quite dry. The greenery is the result of winter rains; at other times of the year, the hills are dry and brown.

Coastal Mountains--Andes in the distant right

The Coastal Mountains, with the snow-topped Andes just visible in the distant right. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

When we reached Colchagua 110 miles south of Santiago, we turned west toward the coast, following the tongue-tangling Tinguiririca (Ting-geer-ee-REE-ka) River to the sea for a better-than-birds’-eye view of the valley from the Andes to the Pacific.

Colchagua Valley: Tinguiririca River and Coastal Mountains

Colchagua Valley: Tinguiririca River and Coastal Mountains. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

Colcagua Valley: Tinguiririca River and Coastal Mountains

Colchagua Valley: Tinguiririca River and Coastal Mountains. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

The mountains start to smooth out and the land flattens near the coast.

Colchagua Valley approaching the sea

Flying west over Colchagua Valley approaching the sea. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

It’s hard to imagine a more breathtaking coastline. Just a few miles north is Pichilemu, one of the surfing capitals of the southern hemisphere.

The Colchagua Valley meets the Pacific Ocean

The Colchagua Valley meets the Pacific Ocean. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

Landing at the Vichuquén Airport (that’s it with the orange roof).

Arriving at the Vichuquén Airport

Arriving at the Vichuquén Airport. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

Casa Silva’s 4-year-old vineyard near Paredones, just 5.5 mi (9 km) from the sea. 40 hectares (99 acres)–half Sauvignon Blanc and half Pinot Noir–have been planted on the sandy-clay hillsides that ring the reservoir and on the lower-lying lands that surround it. The Sauvignon made its debut today; the Pinot–ever the diva–will hold out another year to make its grand entrance.

Casa Silva's vineyard in the Colchagua Valley's cold coastal region near Paredones

Casa Silva's vineyard in the Colchagua Valley's cool coastal region near Paredones. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

Westward (and lunchward) bound, we headed straight to the coast to Bucalemu, with a dramatic weather change just a couple of miles up the road from the sea. This fishing village had been clear all morning and the cloud cover rolled in just before we got there.  Though the coastal air was still thick and soupy when we left a few hours later, the sun was still shining just a couple miles away from the coast itself.

Colchagua coast: fishing village of Buculemo

The Colchagua coast: Saint Peter and the seagulls in the fishing village of Bucalemu. (Photo © MSnook 2009)

So… what’s not to love about a job that let’s me spend the day doing this and calling it work?

To find out more about the wine, go see: Casa Silva puts Colchagua’s Cool Coast on the Map

20 responses to “Chile by Air (and coolest job in the world)

  1. Yes, you are so right; you do have great job. The pics make me long for Chile. You weren’t gloating and just enough humble pie to make this piece very nice. We have some beautiful scenery here in Japan too, but my heart’s in Chile (wifey too!) Maybe when we get back to Chile (a few more short years!) we’ll buy you a good stiff drink to say thanks for the cool pics.
    John

  2. Pingback: Casa Silva puts Colchagua’s Cool Coast on the Map « Tasting Chile

  3. Wow John, that was a quick response! Glad you liked the pictures! And no… I’m not bragging, just saying how lucky I feel to have a job that let’s me see just how incredibly cool this country really is!
    And I’ve just updated this to include a link to Tasting Chile where I’ve included a description of the wine (which is a new favorite, by the way!)

  4. Beautiful pics & writing Peg. How’d a lucky North American girl get this job? Oh, right – you’re lucky.

  5. That does sound like the coolest job. I love the photos. Between your site and Liz’s, I have a new list of wines to try.

  6. And there are more on the way! I’ve tried a number of new wines lately that I still have to write up! There’s definitely some very cool stuff going on in the Chilean wine industry these days!!

  7. Ah, that’s so cool…and lucky…

  8. Hi Matt- flying over your new neck of the woods!
    And it IS pretty cool, isn’t it! And now to figure out how to do the same thing over the REST of Chile!!

  9. Margaret may be lucky, but she’s worked (and continues to work) crazy long hours on a million and one project to make sure she gets to do this cool stuff.

    As I mentioned, that picture of the waves crashing onto shore is tremendous. Love it. And love Chile, but you knew that already.

  10. Ahh! Eileen, you’re telling my secrets… but I DID say it was work!! But I figure that anyone who gets paid to do something they really love is pretty damned lucky!

  11. Stunning, you really are lucky to have been able to experience that!

  12. Thanks! I’m trying to figure out how to get into the cockpit so I have the FULL view next time! My friend photographer Matt Wilson actually does shoots hanging out of a helicopter with a special harness… now THAT would REALLY be cool!

  13. You’re making me think I need a new job! Very nice.

  14. As someone who was there for everything BUT the plane ride I can vouch for most of what Peg says.

    The wine was great, even the food was ok for Chilean standards.

    Yes I am known for the occasional hanging out of helicopters, sounds very cool when talking about it, however when actually doing it, it does scare the cazuela out of me!

  15. Oh c’mon! The food was great! Some of the tenderest locos (Chilean abalone) I’ve ever had and the octopus was delicious! I even liked the caldillo de congrio (which has never been one of my favorites).
    And about that helicopter business… so, when you were studying photography, did you have any idea you would wind up discovering another X-treme sport? Let me know if you need an assistant on one of those shoots! Get me a harness and I’m THERE!!

  16. Ask Paul Evans from Rumpus Communications how cool it is to be my assistant and lens changer in a helicopter at 500 meters over LFE vineyards. Above the noise of the copter blades all I could hear was his quavering voice on the radio saying ¨Have you got the shot yet, please get the shot soon¨

  17. Seriously Matt- I’m IN! The better the view, the happier I am!

  18. Followed your link from the Weekly Photo Challenge – Enjoyed the article and the photos. I see that Waitrose are a stockist so I think I track a bottle down🙂

  19. @2e0mca: Thanks! And definitely look for Cool Coast. If you love good, fresh, minerally Sauvignon Blanc, you won’t be disappointed–and please report back! Would love to know what you think!

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