I have now been in Chile for an entire month and am just now getting my first opportunity to post!! Just reflects how busy I have been since I arrived, working vintage at Vina Mont Gras in Chile’s Colchagua Valley (where I am helping winemaker Jaime de la Cerda with Amaral Wines), learning Spanish, and basking in the warm and wonderful Chilean culture (perhaps my word choice gives the wrong impression – just trust me – I’m working).
Working with Jaime is incredibly interesting from the perspective of my Watson project, as he is committed to a very scientific approach in the winery, experimenting with different terroirs (…hmm maybe some inherent conflict in this concept since I’m not sure terroir is something we’d typically think of as well-enough defined to use as a scientific variable.. but then again, I can say with 100% confidence that I can TASTE differences when we go around every day and taste the tanks – each tank containing juice from a different vineyard block, and many having been processed in exactly the same way… like I said – interesting), different yeasts, different fermentation temperatures, different varietals (so far we have mostly received Sauvignon Blanc but have a couple of tanks of Gewürztraminer and are starting to get in some Pinot Noir, which will eventually be followed by Chardonnay and Syrah). All of this means a lot of information to keep track of (which is essentially my job), and I have found it very interesting to observe the challenges in maintaining the logistics of such precise winemaking in a winery as large as this one (Amaral is relatively small but is made here at the main Mont Gras winery, which is huge by my standards – and something like the 15th biggest winery in Chile). I am really enjoying the work, learning a ton, and having a ton of fun as well!
La Fiesta de la Vendimia (grape harvest festival) in Santa Cruz was one of the first weekends I was here, and was a fabulous weekend of wine, food, music, dancing, etc.
As an aside – here is a great article by NY Times wine critic Eric Asimov about how one vintage changed the course of winemaking in Bordeaux over the past 25 years.