Elqui Valley Tour Part Two: Pisco & Food
Cooperative Capel Pisco
When last we left you, we had stopped in an old village to enjoy the trees, nuts and grapes. Our next stop when back out on the road was to enjoy some of those grapes in the form of the national drink of Chile (and Peru), pisco. There are several distilleries in the Elqui Valley, and we visited two. Our first was one of the largest in Chile, Cooperativa Capel, which as the name implies is a cooperative formed in the 1930s during the depression to help the farmers and distillers survive. Besides being a cooperative another plus of Capel is their focus on sustainability, and also the quality. Though big, they are also considered one of the better distilleries in Chile.
The distillery is in a beautiful setting and the smell of pisco greets you as you enter the grounds. Our Capel tour focused on the history of Pisco, starting with the conquistadors and introduction of viniculture all the way up to the present day. There are historic artifacts in the tour that let you see how pisco was made as well as a collection of labels and a showcase of the awards Capel pisco has won in recent years.
Afterwards, of course, there’s the tasting room. It’s actually a very nice room, comfortable and cool, and we were able to taste several different kinds. Cristobal told us that the prices in the sales room were actually as good as anywhere, so we bought a bottle and a few accessories. And I took a picture of a t-shirt that I thought was pretty funny, but not worth buying.
Lunch at Restaurant Solar Elqui “Donde Martita”
After pisco, it was time for lunch. Cristobal took us to a restaurant located a short way from the pisco plant in Villaseca, up a hill off the main road through the valley. This restaurant is famous for using solar cooking for almost all their food. The Elqui Valley gets about 360 days of sun, so it’s rare that they have to use more traditional methods.
The food was delicious and Sarah and I had a beer to help wash down the pisco. The views were also wonderful and Cristobal gave us some more history of the region, especially the two mountains, Mamalluca, across the river where the observatory we were to visit later is located, and Papalluca, next to the restaurant.
WordPress’ newest version seems to make inserting images suck even more, so please click on the pictures to get them full size, they’re not just little squares.
After lunch we headed back up the road, deeper into the valley, heading for more historic sites, pisco and wine.