Sancerre South

“I had to be in my square meter cubicle at six in the morning and work until six in the afternoon and at the end of the day nobody cared if your work was well done.  In Geyserville, California.  After two months I was thinking what am I doing here?  I’m waking at five in the morning to be at work at six and I’m working for something that is not mine, and I am not even related to, and I’m giving my time for someone I don’t even know.  I thought you know what?  I have to go back.  So I took the plane.  I thought if I have to wake up at five and work 15 hours per day I will do it for someone that I know.  I know my effort is going to be recognized, and at the end of the day you’re happy.  Nobody is saying all day work, work, work.”

Daniela Gilmore speaks to me at the Gilmore Winery and Tabonkö Guest House in the Loncomilla Valley of Chile, a few hours drive south of Santiago city.  The buildings scattered around this compound include lengths of welded iron and spacious angled walls reminiscent of pterodactyl wings.  Ample light streams inside each structure through huge windows.  The architecture is  reminiscent of caves, a tribute to valley dwellers who staked out this region as their home thirty thousand years ago.  The reason for this design?  According to owner Francisco Gilmore, French winemaking communities such as Sancerre sell their wine by selling their history.  Why shouldn’t the Loncomilla Valley do the same?
Francisco’s Cave
 The word Tabonkö derives from an ancient name for the region, combined with a local Indian word for water.  The grounds that surround the winery and guest house include ancient machinery – presses, drill hoes, tillers – and a miniature golf course.  Pumas rest inside a small zoo.  Emus mull about the earth near a barrel-shaped aviary that stands two stories tall, constructed from iron hoops, barrel staves, and wire mesh.
There’s far more to Gilmore than wines, vines, and a gift shop
My keeper is away making wine

We eat dinner inside one of these rooms with huge windows and an open plan.  Daniela is the wife of Gilmore winemaker Andrés Sánchez and daughter of owner Francisco.   After she vents frustrations about the long hours she spent working for a big winery in the U.S., she describes the tribulations she faced when she wanted to make a new wine label for her reluctant father.

“When my father started the winery he made a label that means a lot for him.  He was putting his name and the coat of arms of the family, all his passion into the label.  We said to him that we were going to change the label.  He said no, no, no.  There is no way.  So we went to my sister’s house in Santiago and I said ‘you know what Barbara?  We are going to make a new label.’  Barbara said ‘ah, well, okay.’  We said we need to create the label that represents our father and all his passion and all his works and all his dreams and everything related to the wine.  She started making a lot of drawings.

“The world is full of castles, all his dreams, all things he has in his mind to do.  So he’s putting his vine, that means the winery, in the dream and in the castle world.  We make the label and we print the label.  I went to the printer and then to my father’s house and I show him.  He was like ‘No, it’s awful.  I don’t like it.  No.  No!  You are going to stop the selling of wine.’  We were like, ‘okay, but they are already done and we are selling the bottles.’  ”

Daniela Gilmore – happy to be back home in the Loncomilla Valley

The label reads Hacedor de Mundos (Creator of Worlds).

“Maybe two weeks after, he start liking it a little bit, and a little bit, and a little bit.  Now if you ask him, he is the creator.”

Hacedor de Mundos – the drawing furthest right is now on Gilmore’s label

At a long table during a warm evening, we eat a salad of cucumber, avocado, walnut and feta cheese and hear the glug-glug of Andrés pouring his three year old Hacedor Cabernet Franc into our glasses.  We toast and talk.  Soon, the main course arrives.  This is a strong soup of shrimp – chupe de camarones.  Andrés pours us a bold, unconventional choice of unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon.  The distinct wine lights up our senses and I think –  bien hecho Andrés.  Well made.  After more talk, we unwind and drink glasses of Cobre, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Carignan.  Together with this we tuck into a dessert of wine-soaked pears dribbled with chunky lines of chocolate sauce.  Daniela then offers tea.  She passes around a pitcher of hot water together with a bowl of fresh mint leaves that she picked that afternoon from their garden.

Beautiful but functional – backup lighting during power cuts

Her husband Andrés tells us of the attraction of their rural setting.

“We live together here.  Our house is there in the corner.  We use spring water so we can take showers.  We have all the vegetables we eat today.  We cultivate an organic yard and we eat organic.  We try to find the balance.  Probably more and more people will try to get this lifestyle, the natural way.  With space, with an environment, with less real cost of food.  Real food.

“The people who come to this guest house, in general, are people in the same movement.  They are traveling and trying to live with experience.  We have a neighbor from California.  He was successful in Europe and he started looking to live an organic way.  He visited and saw how we live.  We found him a place of land behind the hill.  He built his solar house, has a spring so he gets his own clear water for drinking, and he cultivates vegetables.  He decided to produce organic olive oil.

“That has value.  Very powerful value in growing up because you are so far away from all the problems around the world.  Also it’s a country you can put your money in.  It’s safe.  You can come here to live and do business and do whatever you want.”

We walk outside to stretch, to enjoy the warm evening air, and to peek at the Southern Cross above.

Perhaps Andrés is right when he says – I think that you will come back.

That would be nice.

Loncomilla Gold

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  1. Tom this is wonderful. Just placed a link on my Facebook page. Keep up the good work!

  2. Absolutely awesome Tom. I love reading your writing. Loved the article and pics of Tiffany & family.

  3. Follement passionnant, mon petit doigt me dit que ce poste devrait intéresser une pote

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