Winery Visits – Chile

Besides helping with the harvest at Viña Alpa, I took advantage of my time in Chile to visit several other wineries: Viña Cousiño MaculConcha y Toro, and Kingston Family Vineyards.  The first two were just outside of Santiago in the Maipo Valley, and the third was in the Casablanca Valley.   The Maipo Valley was one of the first wine regions in Chile, and it is known for Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is the specialty of Cousiño Macul, and their Cabernet Sauvignon is highly regarded throughout the world.

Both Cousiño Macul and Concha y Toro are old vineyards that were started in the 1800s and have continued to grow and expand.  Today, Concha y Toro is the largest wine producer in Chile and is actually one of the largest in the world.  I visited the original Maipo facility, but they now have vineyards throughout Chile.

The third vineyard, Kingston Family Vineyard, is a much smaller vineyard in the Casablanca Valley that has only been in the wine business since the late 1990s.  The Casablanca Valley had been established as a wine region for white grapes, especially Sauvignon Blanc, but Kingston partnered with some Californian vineyards and brought Pinot Noir to the region.

These three vineyards were all quite different and provided a nice intro to the breadth of the Chilean wine industry.  Chile has 12 wine regions, with a huge variation in climate and soil, so there is still so much more to see, and I need to plan another trip someday . . .


Grape Harvest at Viña Alpa

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Viña Alpa during the grape harvest.  Viña Alpa is a small estate producer in the Coquimbo region of Chile.  This region is mostly known for Pisco production, but Viña Alpa focuses on red grapes such as Syrah, Carménère, and also has some small plots of Grenache and Mourvèdre.


 Viña Alpa participates in the World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms program to  recruit volunteers.  For this year’s harvest, there were six of us volunteering.  It was hard work, but the scenery was gorgeous.  We worked up and down the rows to hand snip the grape bunches off of the vine.  As we collected the grapes, the full buckets were transported up to the barn, where they were destemmed and crushed.  The juice and skins were funneled directly into tanks to begin fermenting.  

Winemaker Arnaud Faupin shared his expertise with us and taught us how to monitor the fermentation by measuring the temperature and the density.  The vineyard is organic and the wine-making is done with minimal use of electricity and machinery.  The results of this artisanal process are unique and delicious small batch wines, only available in Chile.

Winery Visits – North Fork, Long Island

One wine region that is known for growing merlot grapes is Long Island, NY.  Since January was dedicated to the Merlot grape, my husband and I decided to take a weekend trip out to North Fork, Long Island.  We visited four wonderful wineries and had a lovely weekend.

First stop was Pellegrini Vineyards, a family vineyard with some of the oldest vines on Long Island (planted in 1982).  I tried the 2010 Merlot, 2010 Cabernet Franc, 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Of the 3, I liked the Cab Franc the best, but then the server had me sample the Vintner’s Pride Encore (also 2010 Merlot), and it was delicious.  It had an earthy/smokey aroma, but wonderful black cherry flavor and was very well balanced. Pellegrini Vineyards

Next up was Lieb Cellars.  Lieb produces two separate labels:  Lieb Reserve and Bridge Lane, but I decided to go with their Reserve tasting:

  • 2013 Blanc de Blancs
  • 2013 Sparkling Rose
  • 2014 Pinot Blanc
  • 2013 Meritage
  • 2013 Petit Verdot

I really enjoyed both the Meritage and the Blanc de Blancs.  However, since it was the month of Merlot, and we were getting a bit hungry, we decided to order some cheese and a bottle of the 2013 Reserve Merlot.  It was very smooth, but with enough tannin to pair well with the cheese.Lieb Cellars

The third winery we visited was Kontokasta.  Located on a bluff overlooking Long Island sound, it is a lovely spot, with some tasty wines.  I tried four reds:

  • 2008 Blum Merlot
  • 2013 Estate Merlot
  • 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Cabernet Franc

The Merlot was good, but the Cab Franc was my favorite and had some nice peppery notes to warm me from the January cold.  They also had an excellent Riesling, which was the hubby’s fave.Kontokasta Winery


Last, but certainly not least, was the Lenz Winery.  Lenz has a strong reputation for Merlot, and I was not disappointed.  Both the 2012 Merlot and the 2007 Old Vines Merlot were excellent.  I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that they had been bottling Malbec (instead of just using it for blending) since 2010, and I found the 2012 Malbec to be quite good.

Lenz Winery

Overall a very enjoyable weekend of wine exploration. Long Island is a booming wine region within New York State, and I highly recommend a visit.