Wine, Speculation, and the Gift of Not Listening
When my friend Ellen Brittan, of Brittan Vineyards, talks with my students about business and marketing, she suggests that vineyards and wineries need a story to tell, or they will just be any other winery. Kingston Vineyards, in the Casablanca region of Chile is one of those places that truly has a unique story. Its founder. Carl John Kingston, came to Chile from Michigan in 1906 looking for gold, and when that failed, worked on finding places that were good for copper and then trying to sell the mining rights to those places to mining companies. As a result of one of these failed transactions, he ended up with several thousand acres in the Casablanca region of Chile, which lies between the coastal town of Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile.
The Kingston property was not a vineyard right away, and in fact, the bodega is a relatively recent development. As one staff member said, the family is willing to try new things, and willing to fail – a characteristic of the willingness to speculate that seems present even today with the fifth generation of the Kingston family. Among the most successful ventures was, and is, a dairy, that even now supplies around twenty percent of the milk consumed in Santiago, Chile. In 1998 they planted wine grape vines, and about five years later released their first wines, which were Pinot Noir and Syrah. (Source: https://www.kingstonvineyards.cl/pages/historia).
The Kingston varietals were red, which is notable, because of the fact that up until then all of the grapes that had been planted in Casablanca were either table grapes or white wines. To some the degree, the Kingston family had to become winemakers of their grapes, because most people did not believe that it was possible to make good red wines from black grapes. Today, the family makes a few thousand
cases, and sells the rest to other bodegas in the area for their wine. But they have most definitely proven that the terroir, just a few kilometers from the coast of Chile, supports red wine making, as well as some great whites, including the Sauvignon Blanc that was being harvested when we arrived.
History is littered in both good and bad ways with reasons why people never did things, or reasons why they have always done another. As we drove down the dusty road through the vineyards, the coastal fog began to lift, and showed us the beauty of the Casablanca Valley and the sounds of the harvest echoed through the vineyard – all of which made the wines smell and taste even better. A toast to speculation, even in the form of grapes, and to asking why it something that is not usually done, can and should be.