Travel to Chile: Pisco Adventures, Part III
After a few days of being in Chile, I was starting to get my bearings. We had traveled to Santiago and briefly saw the city before heading to La Sirena which was our homebase as we passed through the desert of Atacama. Now we were to go to Coquimbo, the other region where Chilean pisco is made. I admired our always smiling, happy van driver who knew every back road and how to zoom past traffic. We were in a different part of the country (and different hotel) every day so it’s pretty amazing.
While Pisco Capel was the largest distillery we saw, Bauza is also a wildly successful and large distillery. We saw its many vineyards and despite the vast amount of grapes we saw, they still needed to buy more from local farmers.
Standing on the plateau, I saw the beautiful mountains and loved the landscape. We were about 40 kilometers from Argentina.
Besides tasting through what was available on the market, we had some special juice that has yet to be bottled. That’s what I love about visiting distilleries. You might not get this experimental pisco otherwise. It’s like why you go to live music concerts. There could be a version of a song that will never be recorded for sale. It’s that perfect moment to be savored. (Let’s not talk about social media ruining concerts.)
We hopped back in the van and headed to a hacienda (ranch). I was immediately struck by how much this looked like LA or possibly more like Palm Springs. A few months ago, I attended the launch of Pisco El Gobernador in Hollywood. This is one of the few piscos available in the US.
They are currently building their distillery and so we had a presentation at their hacienda I met their global brand ambassador Cristobal Cofre who graciously made us his takes on the popular piscola (it doesn’t involve actual cola soda!).
El Gobernador is also part of the family of spirits including the famed Spanish brandy, Miguel Torres. The 15 is fantastic!
The lunch at Pisco Gobernador was my favorite of the week. The pork reminded me how much I loved pork and oddly made me think of my grandparents’ pork chops. Although this dish was not like either my grandfather’s or grandmother’s pork chops, it brought back some happy memories. I was sad to leave but hope we can come again after the distillery has been built and stay in the magnificent hacienda.
On my first night in Santiago, I saw the Chanarel de Caren piscos and wondered about the degrees on the label. We in the US are used to seeing the proof as a percentage of ABV. In Chile, the proof is the “degree” so here you see pisco that is 46, 42, 40 and 35 proofs.
I loved that Malpaso brought a huge batch of a milky cocktail that was perfect with its pisco. I had learned that pisco wasn’t generally labeled as “silver” (or blanco, plata), reposado or anejo like tequila. But some producers were starting to use such terms so people understood. But you know it’s real Chilean pisco when you see terms like traditional, especial, reservado and gran pisco. These terms are related to their proofs as demonstrated by Chanaral de Caren and Malpaso.
Pisco Wuluf has been a round for a bit and they just launched a new one called Julia, the last name of the owner. Wiluf means resplendence in Mapuche, a native people of Chile. Its made with both pink and Alexandria muscat grapes. These are usually more aromatic than the Pedro Jimenez grapes — which grow well and fast but aren’t as aromatic.
Waqar is another pisco I’ve seen in the US. The bottles are imported from France and the artwork is handpainted in Chile. Try to find the hummingbird on the label! Later our guide told us these four producers were all the old pisco families in the valley. For instance, the fifth generation of the family runs Waqar.
In the evening, we had spotted the llama or alpaca on the hotel property. Our guide said we’ll be able to see it more clearly in the morning. So after breakfast, I approached one after a housekeeper saw me trying to zoom in for a picture. She motioned it was okay to go near it. It did stand rather still for photos. I still don’t know if this particular one has the banana shaped ears of the llama or short spear ones of an alpaca. I suppose it’s closer to an alpaca but I really wanted it to be a llama. This one was the only such creature I saw during my time in Chile. I heard most of them have been exported to zoos and other private farms all over the world. And the savage “northerners” eat them… I couldn’t tell if this was a subtle dig at Peru or not but… no, don’t try to ask to eat the cute things in Chile. This also includes the penguins and puffins they have. They have plenty of beef and pork.
… to be continued
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