Like other heartland wine areas, the Maule valley has a rapidly developing tourist circuit, with 15 wineries open to the public, from Talca  south toward San Javier and west toward Constitución. Only a few, though, are open on a drop-in basis; the rest require advance arrangements.
Like the Casablanca  and Ruta del Vino de Colchagua , the Maule has an increasing number of accommodations and restaurants. To arrange a more extensive itinerary, contact the Ruta del Vino del Maule (Villa Cultural Huiquilemu, Km 7 Camino San Clemente, Talca, tel. 073/246460, www.valledelmaule.cl ).
Acquired in 1989 by French-Tahitian interests, Casa Donoso was an over-the-hill family winery (some vines dated from 1905) that has since replanted substantially and begun to focus on fine wines, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, and carmenere for export, as well as some blends; it’s also growing cabernet franc and malbec. Completely upgraded without losing its colonial style, the winery now includes a restaurant and guesthouse.
Casa Donoso is the closest winery to downtown Talca ; directly east of the Panamericana, at the 2.4-kilometer point just past the Easy home improvement store, a gravel road leads south for 3.5 kilometers to its grounds. Tours with tasting (US$3.50) and affable attention are available 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily except Sunday; contact Casa Donoso (Fundo La Oriental, Camino a Palmira s/n, Talca, tel. 071/242506, www.casadonoso.com ).
Accommodations at Casa Donoso’s colonial-style Casa de Huéspedes (tel. 071/242506, ext. 210, US$200 s/d with breakfast) are by reservation only; nonguests may dine at the restaurant, but likewise only by reservation. Meals cost US$33–55 per person, depending on the wines chosen to accompany the food.
Likewise close to Talca , Calina is a project of the California Kendall-Jackson company, producing high-quality cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, merlot, and blends, along with chardonnay. With the Andes as a backdrop, the vineyards and winery are contemporary in style with all the latest technology.
While the wines are impressive, the tours themselves (US$7 pp with one reserve wine), if not quite perfunctory, lack Casa Donoso’s conviviality. Viñas Calina (Fundo El Maitén, Camino Las Rastras, tel. 071/263126, www.calina.com ) is about 15 kilometers east of Talca; turn left instead of right at the Casa Donoso turnoff and follow the road (which turns from paved to gravel) to the grounds.
South of Talca , where the Panamericana crosses the Río Maule canyon, the parallel Puente Ferroviario Maule (1885) is a landmark 442-meter railroad bridge that still carries trains to Chillán , Concepción , and Temuco . Another two kilometers south is San Javier’s modern Viña Balduzzi (Av. Balmaceda 1189, tel. 073/322138, www.balduzzi.cl ), a boutique winery that produces mostly Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, and carmenere. It’s open daily except Sunday 9 a.m.–6 p.m. for guided tours; there are many buses from Talca’s Rodoviario Municipal.
Southwest of San Javier, across the Río Loncomilla on the road to Constitución, Tabontinaja is a boutique winery, specializing in reds such as cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot, that produces only about 20,000 bottles per annum.
Viña Tabontinaja, formally known as Gillmore Winery & Vineyards (Km 20, Camino a Constitución, San Javier, tel. 073/1975539, www.gillmore.cl ) is open for call-ahead tours (personnel is limited). In addition to the winery, the grounds at Gillmore also include the Casa de Huéspedes El Tabonkö (tel. 073/1975539, www.tabonko.cl , US$100 pp), a modern 14-room guesthouse and spa that concentrates on multiday packages. Its restaurant, La Cava de Francisco, is open to the public. There is also a zoo of native animals.