First in a series of posts by Courtney Kingston (Founder, Kingston Family Vineyards) about her year in Chile.
I write from a flight to Chile, embarking on a new adventure. For the past 10+ years, I’ve been traveling to our family’s vineyard in Casablanca four to five times per year from the San Francisco Bay Area. I usually fly with Byron (Kosuge, our Napa-basedconsulting winemaker), and/or meet my father Michael in Dallas to continue the 10-hour flight down to Santiago. My trips usually last around a week to 10 days, and then I return home to my family in northern California. In many ways, this month’s trip is like many others this time of year. Byron and I are headed south to check on the 2013 pinot noir and chardonnay blends before bottling. We’ll also be surveying the vineyard in anticipation of the upcoming 2014 harvest in March. The big difference is this: Byron flies home midweek, and I’ll stay to live in Chile for the balance of the year.
My husband Andy and our young daughters (ages 8, 6, and 4) arrive this weekend. We have rented an apartment in Santiago, where Annie, Louisa and Caroline will attend an all-girls’ school nearby with their Chilean cousins. I brought back the girls’ navy school uniforms after my November trip, which they eyed cautiously (especially Annie who “doesn’t wear dresses”). They were more easily enthused when Andy and I talked up the ascensor in our El Golf apartment building. (Clearly an elevator is a bit of urban glamour for kids used to living the more rural and suburban setting of Portola Valley, California.) For the past two months, Andy and the older girls have been cramming Duolingo online Spanish lessons together. While Andy hopes the lessons will temper the girls’ adjustment to an all-Spanish speaking school, the girls are clearly in it to spend time with their father on the sofa.
The vineyard will be an easy hour’s drive on the Costanera Norte to Casablanca to visit the winery during the week. It will be a treat to watch summer fade into fall, fall fold into winter, winter burst into spring. Living in the US, I’ve always “dropped in” to Casablanca for 10 days here, 10 days there—rarely having the chance to watch the farm gradually shift with the seasons. Andy and I are planning a weekly date night to explore the food scene in Santiago, which has been coming of age lately. When we made our first Kingston Family wines over ten years ago, the local sommelier community was virtually non-existent. Now a connoisseurship of wine is developing in restaurants in Chile, and artisan wineries like ours are newly embraced.
We hope to spend many weekends at the farm as a family, gathering eggs from the chickens and hiking in the western Casablanca hills. When we’re not on the farm, we hope to explore greater Chile—and discover it in a whole new way. I’m always struck by the fact that Chile is as long as the United States is wide. Given my family’s five generations farming in Casablanca and my frequent trips south, many friends consider me to be quite knowledgeable about Chile. But in fact I know a lot more about our farm in Casablanca. My other travels to Patagonia were 15 years ago, before our vineyard’s inaugural harvest in 2001. This year will be all about depth and discovery. I have much to see and learn. I can’t wait to get started.