READ PART 1, PART 2,PART 3, PART 4, PART 5 and PART 6.
In what was perhaps the longest day of driving in my life, after our visit to Santa Juana (about 3 hours from Chillán) we drove 5 hours South to visit the Coteaux de Trumao project.
Spend a little time examining that label, then compare it to the pictures below. It will all make sense.
Coteaux de Trumao was founded by two French brothers, Christophe and Olivier Porte, in the early 2000's.
The brothers live at the top of the gorgeous coteau that inspired the estate.
Olivier and his wife live in the house to the left of the talapa.
Christophe and his wife live to the right of it, just out of sight.
The talapa itself is absolutely gorgeous:
Check out this amazing coal rotisserie action.
Gotta spin those ducks!
Over dinner, we got to hear the Porte's Chilean origin story. Their parents had left France to raise cattle in Chile, and both brothers joined them after college in their early 20's. They both worked in the family business for about 10 years, with Christophe eventually branching out into his own project of running a gold mining operation. Pardon the shitty pun, but it was anything but a goldmine; after nearly a decade he found himself nearly dead broke.
Olivier was still working in cattle but wanted a change of pace, so the brothers decided to become partners in a new venture. They founded a wood plant in 1990, which continues to exist to this day. Parallel to their professional lives, a love of Chilean wine was developing, particularly for the Paìs of the 80's. And despite their increasing disillusionment with spoofy 90's winemaking (particularly new oak), the Porte bros eventually felt the urge to start a vinous project of their own. This was right around the time they'd settled on building their new homes on the property where the vines now grow.
"We had already decided to build the houses and talapa on this gorgeous, isolated hill off the Río Bueno. One day, while walking around, Oliver and I spotted a single, old vine that had not been torn out. This was a sign to us: clearly vines had been planted here in the past."
They hired a consultant who proceeded to plant Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
"Again, we had no idea what we were doing. But it became very clear early on that the Pinot was reacting the best to the land, as well as making the best wine."
Though the vines have always been worked organically, the first few vintages (never released commercially) were vinified conventionally and proved uninteresting. In 2007, the Porte brother's good friend Lucien (remember him from PART 4?) put them in touch with Louis-Antoine Luyt, who made the long drive down to visit.
"I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the land and the potential of the terroir. It was clear that Pinot Noir worked really well here: it's right off a river, giving the vines the coolness they need. Furthermore, the soils of compacted, volcanic ash react positively to the variety."
Here are pics of said soil:
LA agreed to help to partner up with Porte brothers. The first step involved replanting the entirety of the estate to Pinot Noir in 2005. After three years of letting the youngest vines grow, he vinified for the first time in 2008. Today, the wine is being man by a young Frenchman named Quentin Javoy, who is to the left of Louis-Antoine in the picture below:
In the dusk of the early morning, we set out to visit the vines.
But first, we had to meet the big guy whose names dotes the bottle: Cruchon!
That's right, this wine is named after a dog. So I like more now.
We started at the very top of the hill.
Planted in 2009, these are the youngest vines of the estate.
Because phylloxera never affected Chile, all the plantings are in franc de pied.
"We simply planted the canes and waited."
The 2009 vines are particularly suffering: at 7 years old and barely producing. Still, it was LA and the Porte's choice not to irrigate these young plants, something you almost never see in Chile. The positive side is that it forces them to create deep root systems, which will pay off in the long run.
For now the soils are not being worked, because they don't want grass re-growing and creating competition for the vines.
"Next year we want to start using discs to cut the grass."
You can't spot it because of the mist, but the Bueno river borders the property.
Planted in 2000, the oldest vines are at the very bottom of the hill. Many have been propagated with marcottage.
Quentin, the young Loire native who now is in charge of the Cruchon project, explained that the viticulture is organic, with only contact products touching the vineyards. Odium is the biggest problem due to the proximity to the river and big temperature dips from day to night. Other than that, Quentin makes many herbal preparations from plants surrounding the vineyards.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the Chile Chronicles!