As I sit in the airport writing to all of you, I am in awe of the gratitude I feel for this opportunity I’ve had the last two months. Grateful to an employer who encourages evolving creativity & was as excited about this opportunity as I was. Grateful to our amazing team of production guys back home that volunteered to pick up my slack while I was away. & Grateful to the incredible group of people here that have so quickly turned Chile into a new home for me, that I’m already eager to return to one day. Words cannot begin to express the generosity & love I have been offered while here. My final days have been spent wrapped in the warm embrace of all those that have made my time Heading South so special. We laughed, danced, ate, drank & shared memories that I’m confident will last a lifetime. There’s a few things I’ve learned while I’ve been here…
You know that kind of excitement deep inside that scares you? That’s the good stuff. The type of thing that you know will change your life and no matter what, you can walk away with a story. That’s how I felt about moving to Chile for 2 months. By myself. Not knowing a single person. Luckily I had 10 years of winemaking experience with the best team in California and I was finishing my final UC Davis winemaking class. I remember being given the opportunity and thinking: “Wow, this is something special. Let’s GO!” I’ve never lived abroad, but I have also never been afraid of an adventure. Especially at this time in my life… So I took it. Little did I know, it would change more than how I saw Chile. It changed the way I saw the world and all the people in my life!
No amount of words could sum up the friendships I’ve made here, but in total, it has been the most welcoming stay away from home I have ever had. Pilar opened her home to me and has become my Chilean mom. I will never forget the bromas (jokes) we have shared. The respect and friendship shown by Rafa, Fernando, Javier, Gabriel and everyone at my job, made me feel like I was back at Wiens. Emil and Matheu are now my brothers from opposite sides of the world. I have laughed and broken bread with so many great people, it’s truly difficult to summarize. They have made my experience here unforgettable.
Of course, work life happened to be a big portion of my time here in Chile! I’ve always found purpose in my craft and I was lucky enough to land an internship at an ultra premium wine producer out here similar to Wiens, but in the Almahue Valley. Being the longest country in the world, Chile gives opportunity for an incredible amount of soil and climate diversity. Couple that with the Cordillera de los Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean flanking each side, and you have a recipe for an extraordinary country capable of great wines. If you’re thinking this sounds similar to California, you’re right! I have gained so much winemaking insight from working here. Everything from native yeast fermentations and Carmenere cap management, to harvesting Grenache earlier to retain freshness, all the way down to aging Chardonnay in amphora clay for added minerality. All of these amazing techniques were bartered for my California winemaking knowledge, and I have to say: I am proud to have shared as much as I have gained. I look forward to enhancing our wine even more once I return!
Sometimes, a series of events happen in life that lead you to a place you never knew you needed. You find yourself somewhere new, unsure of the experiences you will have there. More times than not, when I find myself in such a place, I have received far more than I thought I could, would or even should. Chile has been one of those places. It’s all over too fast and that’s the beauty of it. Appreciate what’s in front of you, while you’re there. I knew it would go by quickly, but it feels as though I landed here last week. What a trip. It’s been more than I could have imagined in so many ways.
Chile siempre será especial para mí, pero California tiene mi corazón. ¡Tocando tierra pronto!
Signing off— Blake