by Fred McMillin
for November 15, 1999


Imports From Chile
The First, and Now the Best


The First

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.

Vina Calina  
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 voyage north.

The Best

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.
Price—$16 range


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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