December 04

On the cover
Hidive Restaurant, It’s Only a Step Away
MTC Trip Planner Unfriendly to Alameda’s Ferries
MTC Honors Excellence in Motion at 26th Awards Ceremony
Community Calendar
No Flu Shot? Could be No Worries, Mate!
Cool Places to Shop on the Eastern Waterfront
Places to Shop for the Holidays
Bay Crossings Cuisine: Neptune’s
Let Your Light Shine on Angel Island
Vallejo Ferry Chief Fired, Resigned or What?
Help Save the Palace
Holidays at the Exploratorium
U.S. Coast Guard Honors BoatU.S. Emergency Beacon Rental Program
WTA Pages: Making Cents for Ferries
Libations: Christmas,
South American Style








Christmas, South American Style

By Dianne Boate and Robert Meyer

A very different wine adventure at Christmastime

We went to Chile in 1998 as the Iraq invasion was happening and people were demonstrating on the streets of Santiago about former leader Pinochet. We had been invited to a special wedding anniversary in Vina Del Mar, so we used this as a springboard to visit the country, check out the wine regions of Chile, and see for ourselves what South America was like. Dianne wants you to know that all of her life there was some kind of secret fear about South America. Who knows why, maybe too many newspaper stories, maybe not knowing very many people from South America; so this boils down to a dread based on lack of information, but the fear was there.
We started out our trip as artists with a blank canvas and here is how it was filled in.

About The Countryside
From my journal could say that going to Chile in December is how to get two summer vacations in one year. Such a feeling of unreality about going. I do not have a concept of Chile visually, culturally, or emotionally but I’ll bet all that changes in three weeks’ time, maybe by tomorrow. Finally airborne. O World, if you could see us now, collapsing in our seats, awaiting our first sips of champagne and orange juice. Old Silver Hair Silver Tongue has done it again. And the champagne is Grand Dame. Hold the orange juice.

.....been here nine hours and never have felt so welcome in a strange land. Smiling faces, extreme courtesy and warmth of welcome amazing. Fear begone!

.....first impression of Santiago: large boulevards lined with trees following the river that bisects the city. The surreal silent presence of the Andes, a backdrop framing the staggered rows of highrise buildings that go in the direction of the meandering river.

Some Spanish quickly learned: ahora, now; peligroso, dangerous; claro, understood; correcto, right! feliz viaje, good trip; no entiendo, don’t understand. A French winemaker at the first winery stop told us he cannot always remember the accent marks for Spanish. His solution was to always write Spanish in capital letters for which the accent marks are not required.

......buses, buses: yellow, green, blue, and now I know why they have curtains—to hide from the hot sun. The yellow buses are the most dangerous. First, they are privately owned and drivers are not paid well. Income depends on amounts of passengers so they are always racing each other down the boulevards, getting into accidents.....the only rest I got yesterday in the car lasted about 3 minutes. Big commotion on the road. Buses, lorries, taxis, cars all took a dive down a 4- degree grade to a Class Z frontage road. The minute an accident had caused a blockage, everybody bailed out, including us. Only problem was a yellow bus six times our size who wanted to be where we were. We won.

Getting to the Wine Country

A lot of arrangements were made ahead to visit wineries. We found ourselves heading south many times for the Rancagua Valley (pronounced ron-kow-wa) where major wineries are located, a 3-hour trip each way! This was hard, but the road was very entertaining.

.....bougainvillea, geraniums, roses, apricot orchards, hay fields. Weeping willow trees, mountains on mountains in the background. Donkey and cart; two donkeys pulling car; man pulling cart. Delmonte, Chiquita, Dole fruit processing plants - enormous! Apple orchards on one side, vineyards on the other. Fruit stands, many specializing in sandias - watermelons. Fields of sunflowers, prune orchards, fields of onions, corn and more weeping willows. Thick clumps of thistles, “Cheek to Cheek Motel,” “ Toi et Moi Motel.” A dead horse. Another. Avocado trees, cactus, four o’clocks. Buildings of all sorts and dimensions, including small haciendas, wedged in, in no order. It was charming to see even the poorest looking place with its little garden and veranda.

The wine hospitality in Chile is equal to the finest anywhere in the wine countries of the world. There were some private luncheons with wonderful wines, delicious foods (steamed turkey!), and interesting people. One day we were in a van with a wine importer from Finland. He was traveling with his three young adult-aged children, and told me, “When I come home after a hard day at work in Finland, and don’t feel like cooking, I boil White Rose type of potato and put good olive oil and parmesan cheese on them.”

Of the wine, Robert Meyer says, “The main reason for the popularity of Chilean wines is price vs. quality. Many California and French wineries went to Chile for joint ventures or to start wineries on their own. Some of these worked and some didn’t, mostly because of marketing strategy. In the past few years, many of the older wineries have developed premium wines in the $50-$60 range. They have been able to get their price due to their excellent quality.”

Right in Santiago are some very old wineries (oh God, not another 3-hour ride!) that started about the time of our own California Gold Rush. Some of the buildings, brick and colonial in style, are still in use, but subject to something we know well: Earthquakes. Douglas Murray, a third-generation Chilean of Scottish decent, whose wine is the award-winning Montes Alpha M (first premium $60 wine from 150-year-old vines), told us, “The sad thing is that the city of Santiago was built on the best vineyard in South America!”

Christmas Things

The Chilean National Outdoor Christmas Tree Decoration is enormous red ribbon bows edged in gold, with clusters of gold balls and gold beads......downtown Santiago on December 24: Cars rolling along, people spilling out from sidewalks onto street in great numbers with no regards to traffic or stoplights, many carrying presents and Christmas paper, everybody on the move. Eleven days to home.

We headed out that day for the coast - Valpariso and Vina Del Mar..... our Christmas dinner on December 25 was in the bright sunshine at a restaurant on the beach with the Pacific Ocean roaring away. Ordered sea bass and albacore, plates heaped with French fries. Generously poured on contents of two bottles on table - fresh lemon juice and chili pepper flavored olive oil. There was a family of a father and two grown daughters at next table. They saw us looking at their food and began passing over samples with friendly smiles and Spanish not entirely understood. Fish soup and a gratinee of crab. Robert was taken up with the Christmas Spirit and asked them if some California wine would be to their liking - he went to the car and got the wine, charming the Chileans, all of this to the amusement of a whole table of Swedish people who were getting drunk on their own, talking louder and louder in English,, but not to us. No wine for you, amigos.

Also on this trip, we drove more north on the coast to La Serena, east over the Andes on our own, to Mendosa, Argentina (a major wine region) and south for a 10-hour spin down to the volcano area where the German farmer families that settled 150 years ago are still thriving. Wearily we arrived back in California to be picked up by good friend Bill, on his trusty steed, Volvo.

Happy Holidays, Bob and Dianne, very happy to be home this year.