In the 16th century, shortly after Spanish Conquistadors landed in Peru to conquer the land and steal its riches, Spanish nobility imported and planted grapes in the fertile valleys of the Peruvian coast. Higher quality grapes were destined for the sweet red wines, while the Spanish returned inferior grapes to the farmers and peasants. Farmersk discovered how to ferment and distill these lower quality grapes into a transparent brandy that they called aguardiente.

Sailors transporting gold, silver and edibles from the colonies to Spain tried the aguardiente, referring to it as "Pisco", after the southern port near Ica. The low cost, high potency, and high availability of pisco made it a popular liquor along Peru and Chile's coastal areas. During the gold rush days in California, Peruvian miners introduced pisco to California and it enjoyed major success for several years.

Ica was the largest source of grapes in Peru, and a major center for winemaking and pisco distillation. During this 3-hour tour, we'll visit two popular wineries to learn more about pisco's history, see how it's prepared, and of course enjoy a wine tasting in both wineries! The first winery we visit is "Vista Alegre"; a large industrial winery that produces export-quality wine and pisco for consumption in South America. Then we tour a small, family-run "artisenal" winery where 400 year old techniques for producing wines and piscos are still in use. We'll observe the clay bottles called "botijas" where the grape juice was stored in order to ferment it, and see the coiled, copper "alambique" where it was distilled.

If you arrive during March, you may be able to participate in a traditional grape-stomping tradition where you will stand in a wooden pen full of grapes, and then dance around to crush them with your feet!