Our first winery stop on our South America wine tour was to J. Bouchon, in the Maule Valley of Chile. And it was beautiful at the winery, known as Santa Maria de Mingre, with it’s hacienda style dwelling, expansive vineyards, resident horses, inviting patios and magazine worthy interior decor.

But, it had one more thing that was unexpected. A hot tub. Not your typical 6-seater, jetted acrylic one. This one was made entirely out of a wine barrel. A ginormous wine barrel.
J. Bouchon Chile

We spent two nights indulging at the Mingre and definitely made the most out of our stay.

WE ATE…
Every meal was a special, multiple course experience at this winery. Even on the day when we thought that overflowing baskets of empanadas and a hefty cheese plate in the sitting room were our lunch, they were just appetizers. A warm up to what was to come.

And one of the reasons I gained five pounds in South America.

Everything was prepared deliciously and in-house, from the cauliflower soup with venison jerky to the tempting banana ice cake. On one evening, the tender venison entree was simply prepared yet filled with flavor, and lacked the typical gaminess. Grateful for that.

Cauliflower Soup Banana Cake

WE DRANK…
A meal at the Mingre wouldn’t be complete without wine and friends to share it with. There was no lack of either, everyone who sits at this table become friends of the winery.

Just like the several course meals, there was also a J. Bouchon wine to complement each dish. Lucky us. Though the variety was plentiful, my two favorites were the Las Mercedes Carmenere, which is one wine that we sell at my restaurant, and the Mingre itself. Truth be told, I liked the Mingre just a little better. I would have drank it straight from the bottle to get the last drop. I’m classy.
J. Bouchon Table J. Bouchon Table

WE RODE HORSES…
There were several activities to choose from at the winery, but my heart was set on horseback riding through the vineyards. Now that’s bucket list worthy. I hadn’t ridden a horse in years and apparently my guide caught on to that because he kept me tethered to his horse the entire time. I’d like to believe he just liked my company and wanted me nearby. Whatever gets me through the day.

My horse Osama slowly carried me through the vines only stopping to take a few bites of the grapes. Smart horse.
horseback riding in Chile
Horse in Chile

WE TOURED THE VINEYARD…
We didn’t get to see everything by horseback, we had to do some driving and walking too. With 370 hectares of plantations and ten different varietals there was a lot to tour.
J. Bouchon Vineyard Chile J. Bouchon Vineyard ChileJulio at J. Bouchon Vineyard in Chile

WE HAD A POOL PARTY…
One evening, the after dinner hours were spent shooting pool and drinking piscolas, a popular drink in Chile. It is made with Pisco and cola. You probably could have figured that out yourself. With all the chatting and cocktails, we were all easily distracted from the game and it became secondary to storytelling.

…AND WE SOAKED IN A WINE BARREL HOT TUB.
I am no stranger to hot tubbing, may have even done it a few times naked. That’s an entirely different story. But, I have never soaked in a wine barrel. Or any tub this large. We estimated the size to be anywhere from 15-20ft. All I know is that I could lay down flat and my feet still didn’t touch the person across from me.

The unique barrel tub is heated with a wood stove, which takes hours, so you need to plan your soaking experience ahead of time. We entered the tub one late evening, when there was no light in the vicinity, but the stars. The most stars I had ever seen in any sky.

Seven of us fit in more than comfortably, and we probably could have fit seven more.
Hot Tub at J. Bouchon Hot Tub at J. Bouchon
That evening Julio, the son of owner Julio Bouchon, said, “its not only about the wine, but it’s the experience of being here. Just making wine is easy, what is here is a style of life. We enjoy being here”. No doubt.