Tomorrow night (early Saturday morning, actually), I’ll be on a plane from Santiago to Lima en route to California, and will reach my Oakland home sometime Saturday afternoon. Yesterday, though, I got a preview of home as I rode from Santiago to Valparaíso via the Casablanca valley.
It’s only a couple hours from Santiago to Valparaíso, but the camanchaca that penetrates the coast range here is virtually identical to the coastal fog that often covers San Francisco and usually invades the East Bay throughout the summer (and occasionally at other seasons). I arrived at Casablanca with a lift from Courtney Kingston, a Portola Valley resident whose family has long owned property here and, over the past two decades, has created Viña Kingston (pictured above), an innovative winery that was among the first to plant red wine grapes – most notably Pinot Noir and Syrah – in this cool coastal climate. Courtney (pictured below) had also purchased a copy of my Moon Handbooks Chile and, she says, looks forward to using it as a guide to the rest of the calendar year she’ll be spending here with her husband Andy Pflaum and their three children.
California winemaker Byron Kosuge, a contributor to the project (not here at present), compares the area to the Southern California wine district around Santa María. After a quick tour and tasting, which included a visiting writer from Outside magazine, Andy dropped me off at a bus shelter along the highway, where I caught a shared taxi to Valpo and another taxi to the Hotel Palacio Astoreca, where I am spending two nights.
The Astoreca (pictured above) is a renovated Cerro Alegre mansion that, most recently, served as an arts school before becoming a luxury hotel acknowledged by Relais & Chateaux. It’s almost adjacent to Valparaíso’s recently reopened Museo de Bellas Artes de Valparaíso, in the landmark Palacio Baburizza (pictured below).
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be writing more about Kingston, the Astoreca and the Baburizza but, given my limited time here, I just want to get out and see more of Chile’s most distinctive city, even if the fog never lifts on Cerro Alegre (pictured below).