I sat down with Álvaro Espinoza in my office today. Espinoza is one of Chile’s most talented winemakers (he also gets most of the credit for helping to sort out the Carmenère/Merlot mix up in Chile), and after getting his career started at Viña Carmen, he went out on his own.
Espinoza’s first gigs were consultancies, and he worked with a number of wineries, including Viña Haras de Pirque, Viña Casa Rivas, Apaltagua and Viña Leyda. But in recent years those jobs disappeared. Viña Leyda and Casas Rivas were bought by bigger companies (Viña San Pedro and Viña Tarapacá, respectively), Apaltagua was also sold to new owners, and he left Haras de Pirque.
Though he still works on the Viñedos Orgánicos Emiliana wines with the Guilisasti family of Concha y Toro and a few other projects, Espinoza realized he needed some new jobs – especially to help pay off the new winery he built for his own small Antiyal wine. But rather than consult on a wine only to have a project pulled out from under him, Espinoza decided to set up his own projects, and he now has three new lines of wines coming out.
The first, called Geo Wines, produces red and white wines from Chile’s main varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling. Espinoza buys the fruit from some of Emiliana’s vineyards, and vinifies it himself in a rented winery facility. There are three brand lines – Rayun, Chono and a lone single vineyard wine called San Lorenzo estate. They range from $5 a bottle up to the mid teens. The Chono line in particular will focus on some of Chile’s emerging wine regions, such as Limarí and Bío Bío. For Geo's first releases from the 2003 and 2004 vintages, I found the wines light and soft. But if they step up to match the generally outstanding quality of the 2005 vintage, they could be super values.
The second project is called Viña Quintay. Espinoza is selecting some of the best blocks from Quintay’s large acreage in the Casablanca valley, and making the wine for them (Quintay, made up of eight growers, sells off the bulk of their production to other wineries). There are two Sauvignon Blancs, sourced from vineyards at the western end of the valley, which is very cool. As with the Geo Wines, prices are in the single digits to low teens. The first vintage for Quintay was 2005 (the 2005 was made by Ignacio Recabarren, but not released in the U.S.). The 2006s will be released here soon, after which time I'll be reviewing the wines via my formal blind tastings.
The third project, which is still in negotiations for distribution here in the U.S., is called Quinta de Viluco. The wines are sourced from some of the Guilisasti family vineyards in the Maipo Valley, which bear higher quality fruit that the Guilisasti’s don’t want to see blended into some of their larger production wines. A Cabernet and two Syrah form the lineup. Knowing Espinoza’s solid skills with these grapes, I look forward to trying the debut 2005s.
These new projects from Espinoza focus on different wines and different areas of Chile, bringing much needed diversity to the country. It's nice to see him focusing now on a few projects that he has his own stake in, which means they won't disappear on him from out of nowhere.
Trey Rolofson — Overland Park, KS — February 23, 2007 4:37pm ET
James Molesworth — February 23, 2007 4:40pm ET
David Smith — Austin, TX — February 25, 2007 6:52pm ET
James Molesworth — February 26, 2007 8:41am ET
Nestor Gonzalez — Medellin, Colombia — March 3, 2007 7:17pm ET
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