by Fred McMillin
for November 15, 1999
Imports From Chile
The First, and Now the Best
As early as 1834 Charles Darwin observes
mines operating in Chile. Some of these Chileans became
the first pit miners in California when the gold rush
started 15 years later. They not only brought
their mining skills, but also their wine...5,250
gallons in the first three years.
The vineyards were watered by melting snow from
the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere,
23,000' Mount Aconcaqua (AK-un-KAG-wu). The
grape was the Mission, brought to Chile by Spanish
missionaries long before the friars brought it
to California. The trip from the Aconcagua foothills
to the Sierra foothills could not have helped the
quality. The haciendas sent their wine in
goatskins on the back of mules to shipping centers,
where it was transferred to wooden kegs for the
About the time that Chilean red was heading north,
LEAVING the country, the first French vines
were ARRIVING in the country. Since the phylloxera
insect has never invaded Chile, descendants of
those early cuttings still grow on their own
rootstock, a claim even France can't make.
(Most of the wine world must grow their grapes on
phylloxera-resistant purchased rootstock.)
And, it's a French varietal that yielded the
best Chilean wine my panel has tasted so far this
year. Here 'tis.
1997 Vina Calina Cabernet Franc
Producing Area—Valle del Maule
Producer—California's Kendall Jackson
Tasting Notes—Berries, cherries and oak flavors all in harmony for lamb, pork, beef.
Contact—(707) 525-6217, FAX (707) 544-4013
Other Calina Goodies—Chardonnay: See Nov. 17, 1997 WineDay, "A Dilly From Chile", For Cabernet Sauvignon: See "Foulweather Jack" On Chilean Wines.
About that first grape in Chile, the Mission (called
Pais in Chile). Whatever became of it down
there? Would you believe, in those Aconcagua
foothills, it still produces about half of the
wine in the region.
Credit—Jay Monaghan's Chile, Peru, & The CAl. Gold Rush.
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history
for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine
courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College.
In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred
with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded
to American wine writers.
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