There is a museum in Santa Cruz, no sorry, its actually a private collection housed in an old train station and open to the public, like a museum but purpose built to house the incredible collection of one Carlos Cardoen. Senor Cardoen is one of the worlds biggest arms dealers who sold cluster bombs to Sadam during the Iran - Iraq war of the 1980’s and features prominently on the US’s most wanted list with a hefty reward for his capture. Consequently visits to the US and any countries with which it has extradition treaties are off the menu for the forseeable future so he spends his time collecting and pumping his ill gotten millions into making the Colchagua Valley a force to be reckoned with in the world of wine. Unfortunately for him he ended up backing the losing side and now, the worlds biggest arms dealers by far are looking for his head on a plate. And boy can he collect. There were over 7,000 items in the collection, Model T Fords, Bernardo O”Higgins piano, I’m sure that could tell a few tales, ancient fossils, Martin Boorman’s Luger, indian mummies and on and on, really quite amazing.
Santa Cruz is about four hours south of Santiago in the Colchaqua Valley. Because this is a serious wine growning region myself and Lisa thought it would be impertinent not to go on a tour of one of the many vinyards so we got the pension we were staying in to arrange one for us. So we were picked up at the arranged time and driven to the vinyard which was about 5 minutes outside of the town. We thought it was going to be a lot further and would have been four times cheaper if we had gotten a taxi. When we arrived at Viu Manent for our tour we were shocked to find out that both the kids would be charged. Axel doesn’t drink alcohol at all and Elka only in moderation and neither of them have the slightest idea what it is they do to grapes to make wine. Elka likes to put cherries and grapes down her nickers but that hardly constitutes an interest in viniculture. I couldn’t believe it.
We did get to go about the vinyard with the kids in a horse drawn carriage with three or four other enthusiast but I could have hired one for a week for what it cost us. The tour itself was very interesting if a little chaotic, it was difficult for the host to concentrate on what it is he was trying to passionately convey regarding the merits of Chilean and more importantly to him Colchaquan wine with two maniac kids running in all directions followed by two harrassed parents in a dangerous working environment. It serves them right for charging for children, or maybe that’s exactly why they charge them.
The tasting part itself was ok. I had tasted better, much better, but I did try to get mine, Lisa’s and the childrens worth.
I was quite happy after to head back to the overpriced hostel we were staying in and head out to the local supermarcado and pick up a few 1 litre bottles of Quilmes Stout for less than a euro each.
If you are thinking about going to the vinyards of Santa Cruz with children on a budget, my advice is, don’t.