This week was special, I did something unique each day & fell even more in love with this beautiful country… If that’s possible! Besides the weekend with my family, this was hands down my favorite week in Chile. Starting on Thursday, I got into work & heard word from the owner that we were going to check out some other vineyards. I hurried up what I had to do for the day & we headed out around 2 pm. It was nice to spend a little more time with Gabriel on the car ride & talk about his journey into the wine world. He has a lot of experience that I’m privileged to learn from during my time out here. Our conversation gave me a lot of confidence in what I’m doing, which was a great start to an incredible day!
Once we stepped out of the car at our first stop, I was in awe from beginning to end. We had arrived at Vina Marquis and it was the most beautiful production site I had ever seen. Vines cascaded the sides of a massive concrete building as we walked into their eclectic collection of barrels & tanks, surrounded by horizontal iron bars intricately woven with fresh greenery from top to bottom. We walked along their elevated catwalk to see their several tons of wine from up above & talked with the production crew as they guided us through their winemaking techniques, equipment & current vintage. I got to try some tasty wine, too! After our tour, we got lunch at an amazing restaurant & moved on to check out some of our own vineyards including 100-year-old organic Pais! It was amazing to see all the land that’s creating the wine we make every day. After a long, wonderful day, Gabriel surprised me by offering his car for the long weekend. The generosity here is unmatched, I will never get over it. Of course, I said yes & I headed home for a much-needed rest.
Friday was a great day, too! I woke up enjoying the sun & ended up joining Pilar for some wine tasting at Vina Koyle where they practice biodynamic farming. We visited a few nearby places with some beautiful cellars & amazing wine, then finished off the day with some of her delicious empanadas. Saturday, we spent the day at a nearby beach village called Pichilemu, with Pilar’s friends & picked up Emil on the way! I guess that goodbye was a little more short-lived than I realized. We enjoyed the day eating great food, drinking incredible wine & enjoying some amazing views. In between all the fun, we got closer to the water & walked along the shore of the black sand beach. I’ve never seen anything like it. The marine layer eventually took over & it felt like we were on another planet, surrounded by a thick layer of fog. Luckily, the cloud burned off & we were able to enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. We drove home & I met up with Emil again on Sunday for a beautiful waterfall hike about an hour outside of town.
On top of that, Monday I got to work a half-day & join Pilar for some more wine tasting. This time, we enjoyed her friends’ winery & explored the vineyards by golf cart. We were introduced to their 100-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon & discussed propagation techniques for the ageing vines. All the traveling to local vineyards this week reminded me of how much wine is an expression of one’s self & the influences around us. Wine is comprised of thousands of important decisions, or as I like to call them “brush strokes,” making up the life inside the bottle. I have begun to notice how essential fermentation cap management is in directing that vision for style. The formation of a “cap” happens when the yeasts begin to produce CO2 (along with the good stuff: alcohol) & the skins are carried to the top of the juice/wine. During this time, the cap needs to be rehydrated for many reasons; The main ones being temperature control, tannin structure & color extraction. Overall, the amount of extraction needed is subjective & this is where we as winemakers have to decide the future we see for our wine. As we taste every morning during our sugar & temperature checks, we make decisions about how much extraction feels right for the wine. I have noticed they like to approach this with a less is more attitude. Most of the wines here are focused on a sense of place & purpose. To over extract would mask their beauty. It’s been refreshing to gain Felipe and Rafa’s perspectives, especially regarding their award winning Carmenere. I’m so excited to return home with techniques to make our winemaking program better than ever!
To say I had a great week is an understatement. Of course, this rushed version doesn’t do it justice, but I’ll just say the time spent between the days was enough to make me already miss my time out here. I can’t believe it’s going by so fast, and to think I only have 2 more weeks left in this beautiful place is bittersweet. Chile will always hold a place in my heart, but California & the people there are my forever home. Won’t be long until I’m back!