February 5, 2010 Viñedos Emiliana
Viñedos Emiliana Coyam
Chile (Colchagua Valley)
syrah, merlot, carmenére, cabernet sauvignon, mouvèdre, malbec
Even on days when the sky pales and more snow falls (like today) and winds roar, my heart lifts, never failing to be warmed by the colour of St. John’s.
Rather like Coyam, the city straddles the Old World and the New. St. John’s has touches of Europe in some of its downtown streets and alleyways, while in other parts it couldn’t be anything but North American. It makes an ideal venue for wine-tasting.
Viñedos Emiliana Coyam 2006
Behind the inertness of the label lurks a wine dark and stout of heart. As stout as coyam or “Chilean oak” which gives it its name. (Is that what is on the label, two slabs of oak?) A wine that bolsters a belief in blends, that wins over the drinker with its structure and confidence. A wine for a never-before-prepared meal on a blustery night. There’s a ripeness, a dense black fruit juiciness here, very nicely controlled. Edging toward elegance, yet remaining a wine of the earth. $
Ah, but the winemaker at Emiliana Organico, Alvaro Espinoza, is himself brightly clad. (A touch of California, perhaps, where he apprenticed. Or the University of Bordeaux where he did his training? I think his Bordeaux experience comes through more in his wines.)
Espinoza has been called “one of the finest winemakers in South America today.” Besides his work at Emiliana, he runs his own small winery – Antiyal – in the Maipo Valley.
Recruited by José Guilisasti in 1997, when Guilisasti initiated an organic venture independent of Santa Emiliana (itself an offshoot of the Concha y Toro, the largest wine company in Chile), Espinoza helped move some vineyards into biodynamics in 2000 and it is from these that Coyam emerges.
Here llamas help keep weeds in check. Chickens are set loose for pest control. Legions of ladybugs play management roles. All compost and biodynamic preparations come from plants grown on site.
A regard for sustainability and respect for all aspects of making wine are initiatives Emiliana takes beyond the vineyards. The winery has committed itself to fair working conditions for its employees, to programs to increase their level of education, as well as providing assistance to local schools.
And from it all comes a terrific glass of wine — well priced, well liked.