Even though I’m a thoroughly-clueless heterosexual, it’s obvious even to me that Ignacio Casali – Viticulturist for Chile’s Viña Leyda – probably has had little trouble attracting the ladies. Ignacio possesses the kind of strong jaw and rugged, 5:00-shadow good looks that likely mean he has never had to struggle through hours of vivacious small-talk well-timed humor, and cajoling (the way that guys like me have) in an effort just to appear attractive when buying a girl a drink.
But before you eligible bachelorettes start emailing me for Ignacio’s number, you should know that if you ever do meet him it’s very unlikely that you’d be listening to Ignacio wax poetic about how your eyes resemble the nearby ocean (the Leyda Valley is located a mere 12 km east of the port area of San Antonio in central Chile). No, no, no – you are far, far more likely to hear him wax poetic about the far, far less sexy topics of rootstocks and vineyard clones from U.C. Davis.
You see, Ignacio is a wine geek, tried-and-true, and he’s clearly most at home in Leyda’s vineyards, talking about their experimental half-circle / fan-shaped plantings of vineyard rows (those look pretty odd, by the way), or providing details on which rootstocks are planted where (and why) on the property, or expounding the subtle differences of UC Davis grape variety clones and their soil suitability.
Still want that number, ladies?
To understand why there’s such a geeky focus on clones, vineyard management, and a sense of experimentation at Viña Leyda – and to really get to know the details behind some of their crazily-overachieving wines – you need to understand the lay of the Leyda Valley land, and educate yourself on some details about the Chilean wine market…
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During my most recent jaunt to Napa, I had the pleasure of visiting a few producers in the Valley to get a feel for just how the hellish 2010 vintage (remember that?) was coming along in barrel (well, for those fortunate enough to get fruit picked and crushed from 2010, that is).
So after that totally loaded intro., you’re probably already thinking “okay, spill it, WTF is going on with the 2010s,” right?
Not so fast, buck-o!
Let’s prolong the agony… and give you a little bit of (important!) context. You see, I didn’t taste every friggin’ barrel of aging 2010 red in the Valley, and to get a firm grip on a vintage, you need to taste a sh*tload more of wines from that vintage than I managed to do that week. In fact, I only hit up three high-end producers during the trip (Chimney Rock in Stag’s Leap; Hourglass’ Blueline estate, where they were aging juice from there and from their mid-Valley estate vineyard; and Cornerstone Cellars, who are aging 2010 wines made from fruit sourced all over the Valley, including St. Helena, Oakville, and Howell Mountain) – so my assessments should be taken with the proverbial grain of vinous salt. One brief assessment does not a vintage chart make.
Having said that… few elements stood out as consistent throughout all of those barrel samples, and so we can wax some preliminary geekiness about what we might expect out of the Valley’s upper-fine-wine-tier in the 2010s (once they get into bottle)…
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Travel to the province of San Juan, in the Cuyo region of the Tulúm Valley in Argentina – past the shitty old cars routinely running red lights, past the modest houses that are little more than shacks with water tanks atop, past the dogs whose limps attest to how rough life here can get, past the motor bikes unsafely carrying four people simultaneously, past the more-bucolic-but-still-trash-laden parks with statuary odes to cycling (a favorite pastime in these parts) – and you will find, nestled among the starkly gorgeous landscape of the surrounding mountains…
Yes, seriously. A whale. A life-size reproduction of a whale, that is, constructed by artist Adrian Villar Rojas as a tribute to the site upon which it sits – now upwards of 800 meters above sea level, but which used to be a submerged seabed in ancient times. If that’s not odd enough for you, you’ll also find llamas and some miniature ostrich. Along with the main attractions of the spot: olive oil, and some pretty good wine being made from Syrah. Yes, Syrah. Yes, in Argentina.
The whale (you’re probably still thinking about the whale, right?) was commissioned by Ezequiel Eskenazi, the down-to-earth, animal-loving, olive-oil-producing owner of the site and the founder of XumeK. As Ezequiel puts it, he is, in some ways, just a guy trying to find an interesting way of spending some of his father’s money (a fortune made in the caning business during the the budding days of the Napa, CA wine industry):
“I don’t have a romantic story, but I always had a dream to build a vineyard.”…
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In today’s episode, you get highlights from wine personality and social media / business guru Gary Vaynerchuk‘s keynote speech at the synthetic cork producer Nomacorc-sponsored "Marketing to the Next Generation of Wine Consumers" conference that took place in Napa last week (at the beautiful Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena). They are things the wine industry probably doesn’t want to hear – but they desperately need to hear them.
I was part of panel at the event, in which we riffed on the main themes espoused by Gary in his fantastic keynote speech (which delivered some much-needed stern messages to the Napa wine industry – for a distillation of some of those messages, check out my article later this week on the Wines.com blog). If anyone who attended still thinks that Gary isn’t the real deal after his keynote, then they have their heads shoved into a part of their anatomy that requires a belly-button-window installation for them to see what’s really going on. Most importantly, Gary also finally admits that I am a handsome man (though I refrained from asking him to sign my chest as one male attendee did – thankfully I did NOT get that on video).
In today’s vid (at the 10:10 mark) I interview Gary about his new book, The Thank You Economy (a book that, well, crushes his previous release Crush It! and is Seth-Godin-level good – and will certainly further brighten his already-nearly-blindingly-brilliant star in the social media space). I also get his take on how different wine regions of the world are performing in terms of engaging their customers (hint: not well).
Enjoy (and make sure to get Gary’s new app at DailyGrape.com while you’re at it)!
By the way… Nomacorc makes a synthetic wine bottle closure that you can actually extract pretty easily with a corkscrew, so if I were a natural cork producer I’d be worried right now(although in that case I’d already be worried, having lost gobs of market share in the last few years because my product has something like a 2% failure rate… whatever…).