Having found an Australian to travel with, I was by default the best at Spanish so I made the executive decision that we do a wine tour on our own instead of with a tour company. I made a reservation the night before through the Cousiño website, and by the morning had a confirmed tour at Vina Cousiño Makul. It required a metro ride and a 2km walk, but the tour itself was an hour and a half and cost $9,000 pesos (instead of the original bike tour which cost $25,000 pesos). Since I booked an English tour on a Spanish-speaking website, we got a tour all to ourselves as an added bonus.
The second oldest winery in Santiago, this was their smaller vineyard where they grew only merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes for their special Lota blend. We saw the old barrels that were used when the winery first opened in 1870, the place where they used to be filled, bottled, and corked by hand, and the new fancy machines that they use now for their premium (as we were constantly reminded) Lota blend. Most impressive was the cellar, where wines used to be kept by the hundreds. From behind metal bars we could see the Cousiño family's private wine collection, with wines as far back as the 1920's and still being used by the family today for special events.
We saw the beautiful vista the vineyards provided, with the Andes Mountains as backdrop, and I cheekily asked if we'd be trying the very special Lota wine as our sample. The tour guide just laughed. "It's much too expensive," he said, "about $130 USD per bottle." The tour did come with some wine samples, however, and we had a wonderful time sampling those, guessing the fruit flavors the grapes provided and noting the extreme smokiness the barrels provided. We thanked our tour guide and were about to head home when he came over with two full glasses of a rich, red wine. "Don't say anything. Just drink," he said. It was a pretty decent $35 glass of wine.