Winemaking

At Kingston Family Vineyards, we blend the best of the Old and New World winemaking as we handcraft small-production lots of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc from our cool climate, hillside vineyards in Casablanca Valley, Chile. While coastal Casablanca is mostly known for its whites, we are pioneering the introduction of cool-climate reds.

We are one of a handful of Chilean vineyards leveraging artisan winemaking and organic viticultural techniques to uncover the potential of coastal Chile. Highly regarded winemakers Amael Orrego and Byron Kosuge lead our Chilean-American winemaking team. Byron brings 30 years of experience in cool-climate winemaking with exceptional California vineyards, including Hirsch, Pisoni and Talley. Amael’s passion for organic farming and hands-on winemaking took form early in his career while with Flowers Vineyard and Quintessa Winery in Sonoma and Napa Valley.

 

Vineyards

The Kingston vineyards, first planted in 1998 and gradually expanded over the past dozen years, now consists of ~350 acres nestled within the century-old Kingston family farm in Chile's Casablanca Valley.

Chile feels like a more dramatic version of California, with narrower valleys and much higher mountains. In many ways, the Casablanca Valley is analogous to California's Central Coast, but somewhat colder. Even the plants look similar! Our vineyard lies about 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by rolling forested hills.

All of our vines are planted on their own roots. The Pinot Noir and Syrah are planted in the hills, where the sun exposure and drainage is more favorable to red grapes, while the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grows in the lower, cooler sections of the vineyard. The soil in the hills contains a lot of decomposed granite; lower down it is sandy clay. We farm at very low yields: typically 2 to 3 tons per acre—a necessity just to ripen our crop. In 2016 we began our transition to certified organic vineyards.

Like the great vineyards of Europe, we are well into cold nights and short days by the time our grapes are ready to be picked. The payoff is in the intensity and vibrancy of the fruit. We harvest our last lot of Syrah in May--the equivalent of November in California or France.

Pinot Noir

Kingston Family makes two Pinot Noirs: our flagship Alazan, and the more affordable Tobiano. The wines are made from blends of different blocks and different lots that are barrel-selected in the winery, just prior to bottling. Our winemaker selects the finest lots to make Alazan, and the next tier is used to make the Tobiano.

Our pinot noirs come from several different blocks in our vineyard. We work with several clones—777, which traces its origins back to Morey St. Denis, Valdivieso (a shot berry clone that is similar to Swan in the U.S.), Kingston "Grande" and Kingston "Chico", which are our own selections of Valdivieso and Concha y Toro (a small-clustered clone with a lot of color and tannin but less charm than the Valdivieso or 777).

Once we harvest our Pinot Noir grapes, we give them a long (5+ day) cold soak to extract more color and flavor while moderating the tannins. Using mostly native yeast, we ferment the grapes in a combination of 1-ton bins and 3- to 5-ton open top tanks, with pump overs and punch downs as needed.

After the alcoholic fermentation, the wine goes directly to barrel off the skins, keeping the press wine separated. The wines then go through malolactic fermentation in the barrel, using indigenous bacteria.

We only use French oak for our barrels from a combination of coopers including Ermitage, Dargaud Jaegle, and Taransaud, with mostly medium (not heavy) toast. While it varies from year to year, Tobiano gets 15% new oak, while Alazan uses about 30%. We don’t rack the wines until we assemble the blends just prior to bottling. This is done right before the next harvest.

Acres
80
Soil
Red clay loam with decomposed granite
Clones
777
Field Selections
Valdivieso
Concha y Toro
Kingston Grande
Kingston Chico
Roots
95% own-rooted, 5% root stock
Production
Alazan (200 cases per year)
Tobiano (2,000 cases per year)
Varietal Composition
100% Pinot Noir
Alcohol
13.5%-14.5%
Type of oak
French
Months in oak
10 months
Alazan
95pts James Suckling, 2015 Alazan
92pts Vinous, 2015 Alazan
91pts Wine Spectator, 2015 Alazan
93pts PinotReport, 2013 Alazan
92pts PinotFile, 2013 Alazan
93pts Descorchados, 2013 Alazan
94pts James Suckling, 2013 Alazan
91pts Wine Spectator, 2011 Alazan
91pts Stephen Tanzer, 2011 Alazan
Tobiano
92pts James Suckling, 2015 Tobiano
91pts Wine Spectator, 2015 Tobiano
91pts PinotFile, 2015 Tobiano
92pts PinotReport, 2013 Tobiano
Tobiano
90pts Descorchados, 2013 Tobiano
90pts Wine Spectator, 2013 Tobiano
92pts James Suckling, 2013 Tobiano
90pts James Suckling, 2012 Tobiano
90pts Stephen Tanzer, 2011 Tobiano
CJ’s Barrel
96pts James Suckling, 2015 CJ's Barrel
90pts PinotFile, 2014 CJ's Barrel
90pts Wine Spectator, 2014 CJ's Barrel
90pts Wine Spectator, 2012 CJ's Barrel Alazan
90pts Wine Enthusiast, 2012 CJ's Barrel Alazan
90pts Wine Spectator, 2011 CJ's Barrel Alazan
90pts Robert Parker, 2011 CJ's Barrel Alazan
“The wines are made from blends of different blocks and different lots that are barrel-selected in the winery”

Syrah

Kingston Family makes two Syrahs: Bayo Oscuro, our top Syrah, and its youthful sibling, Lucero. The Syrah comes from the highest, steepest hills in the vineyard with the most sun exposure and leanest soils. Like our Pinot Noir, the Bayo and Lucero are blends. The process starts in the vineyard from several different syrah blocks, which are fermented and aged separately. Once the grapes are harvested they go through long cold soaks and native yeast fermentation in 1-ton bins and 3- to 5-ton open top tanks.

Most of the Syrah ferments with completely de-stemmed fruit, although we always do a few small lots that are mostly whole cluster. Extraction is pretty gentle, mostly pump-overs and little punching down. Wines go straight to barrel out of the fermenters where they complete native malolactic fermentation in the barrel. The Syrah finishes malolactic fermentation much later than the Pinot, usually the summer after the vintage, and it is aged in barrel longer than the Pinot—generally 14 months or so. We use only about 15% new oak, all French, sourced primarily from the same coopers as we use in the Pinot. The syrah usually is racked once to assemble the blend but is otherwise handled quite gently.

Acres
80
Soil
Red clay loam with decomposed granite
Clones
174, 300, 525
Roots
95% own-rooted, 5% root stock
Production
Bayo Oscuro (100 cases per year)
Lucero (1,000 cases per year)
Varietal Composition
100% Syrah
Alcohol
13%-14%
Type of oak
French
Months in oak
14 months
Bayo Oscuro
94pts James Suckling, 2014 Bayo Oscuro
93pts Wine & Spirits, 2014 Bayo Oscuro
93pts Vinous, 2014 Bayo Oscuro
90pts Wine Enthusiast, 2014 Bayo Oscuro
94pts Descorchados, 2012 Bayo Oscuro
90pts Wine Spectator, 2012 Bayo Oscuro
92pts Wine & Spirits, 2012 Bayo Oscuro
92pts James Suckling, 2012 Bayo Oscuro
Lucero
91pts Wine Enthusiast, 2014 Lucero
93pts James Suckling, 2014 Lucero
94pts Descorchados, 2013 Lucero
Lucero
90pts Robert Parker, 2013 Lucero
93pts Wine & Spirits, 2013 Lucero
92pts James Suckling, 2013 Lucero
90pts Descorchados, 2012 Lucero
90pts James Suckling, 2012 Lucero
94pts Descorchados, 2011 Lucero
92pts Wine & Spirits, 2011 Lucero
CJ’s Barrel
90pts Wine Enthusiast, 2014 CJ's Barrel
90pts Wine Spectator, 2013 CJ's Barrel
92pts Wine Spectator, 2012 CJ's Barrel Bayo Oscuro
“Comes from the highest, steepest hills in the vineyard with the most sun exposure and leanest soils.”

Sauvignon Blanc

We use a combination of native yeast fermentation and inoculated fermentation. We discourage malolactic fermentation, although we allow it to proceed partway if doing so brings the acidity into better balance. We age Cariblanco on lees, with some stirring, in stainless barrels and tanks for about seven months. Because the wine has not completed malolactic fermentation, it is filtered so that it will be stable in the bottle.

Acres
144
Soil
Red clay loam with decomposed granite
Clones
107,242,UCD 1,297
Roots
95% own-rooted, 5% root stock
Production
~500 cases
Varietal Composition
100% Savignon Blanc
Alcohol
Vintage dependent
Type of oak
French (10%), Stainless steel barrels (90%)
Months in oak
7 months
Cariblanco
91pts Wine Enthusiast, 2015 Cariblanco
90pts James Suckling, 2015 Cariblanco
93pts Descorchados, 2014 Cariblanco
92pts Wine & Spirits, 2014 Cariblanco
90pts Robert Parker, 2014 Cariblanco
90pts James Suckling, 2014 Cariblanco
94pts Descorchados, 2013 Cariblanco
Cariblanco
90pts Wine Spectator, 2013 Cariblanco
90pts Wine Enthusiast, 2013 Cariblanco
94pts Descorchados, 2012 Cariblanco
91pts Wine Enthusiast, 2012 Cariblanco
93pts Descorchados, 2011 Cariblanco
90pts Stephen Tanzer, 2011 Cariblanco

Chardonnay

Chardonnay has been grown in the Kingston Vineyard since the beginning but we only decided to add it to our lineup late in the game. The block we use is planted just below the largest Pinot Noir block and was planted in 1999 on its own roots.

Because, for Kingston Family, Chardonnay started out as an experiment we make it a little differently than most. Half of the juice goes into a concrete vat to ferment (and later age) and the other half goes into oak barrels, some neutral, some new.

Other than chilling the juice down prior to fermentation, we don’t do anything to it before the fermentation. No yeast or bacteria are added. It takes a long time for the wine to start fermenting and even longer to finish, and in the process it develops all kinds of interesting flavors.

Once the fermentation is complete, we add a little sulfur, top up the barrels and the vat and let it age until just before (or sometimes just after) the subsequent harvest. We generally blend together the wines from the various vessels prior to bottling. So far, putting all the pieces together has resulted in the best wine, although in the future we may bottle some of the wines separately.

It’s pretty minimal winemaking, by new world standards. Handling the wine this way, with what you might call benign neglect, moves the wine out of the strictly fruit driven realm into something more savory, even earthy. But it retains freshness thanks to the naturally high acidity. A unique expression of the vineyard, and quite different than the Cariblanco.

Acres
41
Soil
Red clay loam with decomposed granite
Clones
Mendoza 76, 96, 130
Roots
Own rooted
Production
~120 cases per year
Varietal Composition
100% Chardonnay
Alcohol
13.5%-14.5%
Type of oak
French (50%), Concrete Egg Container (50%)
Sabino
94pts Descorchados, 2015 Sabino
90pts Wine Spectator, 2015 Sabino
90pts Vinous, 2015 Sabino
91pts Descorchados, 2014 Sabino
90pts Vinous, 2014 Sabino
Sabino
90pts Descorchados, 2013 Sabino
90pts James Suckling, 2013 Sabino
91pts Wine Spectator, 2012 Sabino
90pts James Suckling, 2012 Sabino