A wine I said I’d never make, from a vineyard I said I’d never plant…famous last words, eh?! But it’s true, I never had a dream of owning a winery, it’s just something that happened to me…One of those truly happy accidents that happen in life. Santa Ana has that effect.
When I did plant the vineyard (and I’ll be honest, it was mainly for landscaping purposes, with the possibility of making the odd barrel for personal consumption), I chose the varieties that go into my favourite wines from the south of France, in particular Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These wines are almost always a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. So that’s what I planted.
But it turned out that I absolutely love vineyard work- being outside all day, driving the tractor, pruning, weeding…the less “romantic” side of owning a vineyard is what I enjoy the most. We farm the vineyard organically; it’s hard work, much harder than a “conventional” vineyard, but our home is nestled amongst the vines and our dogs and cats have free run of the place, so we want to ensure our, and their, health.
It’s a terrible old cliché, but I really do believe that wine is made in the vineyard. We work like hell 11 months of the year (July’s our quiet month) to prune, weed, tie, irrigate, tidy up, mow grass, sow cover crops…Whatever it takes to produce the highest quality fruit possible. With fruit of the quality we produce, the winery work is a doddle.
When you drink our wine, you’re drinking our bad backs, our long days in the hot sun, our exhaustion, our bruises. But, most of all, you’re drinking our passion and the happiness we get from seeing our hard work pay off. There’s a lot of nonsense about ‘hand-crafted, artisanal, bottled by Tibetan monks by the light of a waning moon wine’ around these days. But when we say the wine is our wine, and our label says “Handmade Wine”, it really, honestly, truly is our wine and it really, honestly, truly is handmade. By us. We do the work, we make the wine.
I have been doing this work since 2013…Ana came into my life and joined the project just in time for our very first harvest in 2015, and, for reasons known only to herself, decided to stick around. We made just one barrel that year, a co-fermented blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Mourvedre. The result exceeded all expections and we realized we could be onto something…something we could share with the world. And so in 2016, La Despensa Boutique was born!
A degree in Economics, work as an English teacher in England, Australia, Ecuador and Argentina, and as an international real estate consultant in Argentina and Chile (which continues to be how we pay for the financial folly of owning a winery), Matt’s taken the long route to becoming an aspiring winemaker! He’s learned on the job, and what he knows about winemaking is what he’s gleaned from his incessant questioning of his poor, put-upon, professional oenologist and agronomist friends. Always curious, always looking for new (and new-old) and different ways of doing things, Matt is stubborn as hell, but will always pull back and listen to those around him when it really counts! In the wine, this comes across in his passion for rediscovering old ways of doing things, such as planting less common varieties, or choosing to co-ferment all the grapes, but always with the guiding hand of our consultant winemaker to ensure that we live up to the modern standards expected of us, and that we expect of ourselves.
With a degree in Business Management and several years' experience working for large transnational companies, Ana joined the project just in time for our very first harvest in 2015. She’s currently studying for a Diploma in Wine at the Universidad Catolica in Santiago in order to broaden her knowledge of the wine business and wine in general. A keen learner, she's constantly looking for new things to do, which has led her to study what could be the true love of her life: Photography. She's passionate about (drinking) wine and her impressive organizational skills balance out Matt's messy lack of discipline. She's a major reason La Despensa Boutique exists...we couldn't do it without her!
Our consultant winemaker…never on time, but always with a good excuse, Eduardo is a partner in Alchemy Wines, a boutique winery from Almahue, the next valley over from us. He has many years of experience doing all the hard work required in a small winery, so knows and understands our pain and suffering. Eduardo helps us make the important decisions and stops us from making mistakes, but is laid back enough to just let us just get on with most things. Sometimes he deigns to gets his hands dirty when he helps us out with practical work in the winery. Eduardo is our friend first and our consultant second, and we appreciate all the helps he gives us. One day, we might even pay him
Juan is our full-time employee and general go-to guy for any of the tough work we’re too weak to do ourselves. A man of superhuman strength and endurance, Juan is an integral part of our team, always looking for something to do and always ready to work. He’s been farming since before we were born and knows more than we ever will. We wouldn’t have a vineyard without him.