Kingston Family Vineyards is, in their words, “one of a handful of Chilean vineyards leveraging California viticulture and winemaking expertise to uncover the potential of [their] Chilean terroir.” So where does “California viticulture” come into play?
Prior to being summoned to this southern hemisphere, cool-climate Shangri-La, Kingston’s two winemakers, Byron Kosuge and Amael Orrego, had their hands stained red at Quintessa, Hirsch, Pisoni, and Talley; all are celebrated estates in California and wines I’d be thrilled to see on my table. The Syrah grown here in Casablanca Valley—due west of Santiago and 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean—delivers a wine full of subtly pure fruit and lifted freshness that makes it a seamless beauty. And now nearing three years of bottle age, it’s in a picture-perfect spot. When first popped at our tasting table, I steered towards Côte-Rôtie and Cornas on the nose, but the palate introduced layers of supple fruit, wild savor, and lifted acid that pushed it into a class all its own. We curiously sat around, pinging Rhône and old-school California producers back and forth, but all we could agree on was that it probably sported a $40+ price tag. Chile never once entered the conversation, making us all the more excited after the label was revealed. We were stunned—deservedly so—at the quality and complexity it offered. There’s a reason this region is rapidly emerging and I cannot wait to explore the wine treasures that remain buried in Casablanca Valley. Start with this bottle and you’ll understand why I’m eager to book a flight down south. Never judge a book by its cover—this is unbelievable wine for $24. Check its high scores if you feel so inclined, I couldn’t agree with them more.
After receiving degrees at Princeton and Stanford, proprietor Courtney Kingston’s vision was to transition the family farm into a fully functioning winery, with the first estate bottling being released in 2003. Though the first vines were planted in 1998, Courtney comes from a pioneering lineage that starts with Carl John Kingston in the early 1900s, when he trekked from Michigan to South America in search of gold. After years of prospecting, he eventually ended his efforts and started a farm in Casablanca Valley. Successive generations maintained the farm until Courtney entered with her grand winemaking plan. They now have their eyes set on organic certification, though they have been farming sustainably since their inception, and have been noted as one of Chile’s top wineries.
The estate-owned grapes for “Lucero” Syrah come from their steepest and highest sites that consists of granite and red clay loam soils farther downhill. All grapes were handpicked at low yields and each vineyard block was harvested and vinified separately until the final blend. Most of the grapes were destemmed at the winery (certain vineyard blocks are left whole cluster during fermentation) and they saw a minimal pump over and punch down regimen. The wine aged in 15% new French oak for 13 months and was bottled in April of 2015. Less than 1,000 cases were made.
“Lucero” (meaning ‘bright star,’ for they are still out during an early morning harvest) shows a deep crimson core with shades of ruby and violet throughout. On the nose, the perfume isn’t explosive or high-toned, rather, the aromas work their way up with a slow, clinging embrace. Subtle notes of wild blackberry, cherry preserve, blue plum, black raspberry, red and purple flowers, mocha, olive tapenade, wild herbs, black pepper and cured meat lead the charge, and a wonderful combination of smoke and baking spice kiss the finish. The wine is medium-plus bodied and deeply complex with a perfect lift of freshness. The earth and mineral components shine bright as well, making this “New World” wine a satisfying detour from the over-extracted, jammy norm. The wine, with nearly three years of bottle age now, is just in a perfect drinking spot. Sure, it has another 5-7 years left in the tank, but why wait when it’s already showing off lovely secondaries of savory earth and fruit? Enjoy in large Burgundy stems around 65 degrees after an optional 20-30 minute decant. Anything barbecued will be a perfect suitor for this cool-climate Syrah—if you’re feeling adventurous, try the attached recipe! Cheers!
15% New French
Red Clay Loam & Granite
Organic Practices (Uncertified)