Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 22: Avoid the city and see the country (by Carolyn)

January 22

We met two more TNC'ers, this time Felipe Rubio and Maryann Ramirez-Calisto, part of the Chile team, who would accompany us on a tour of the Matetic Vinyards. The closest Conservancy project to Santiago is a four hour drive up (and four hours back down) to high Andean wetlands, which would be lovely to explore but make for a long day in a small van.

Maryanne, Carolyn, Felipe

The vineyard and biodynamic winery was founded by a Croatian family who moved from Punta Arenas in 1990. The buildings are carefully designed and oriented to protect the fermenting operations from extremes of sunlight and dry air and to minimize handling of the fruit. Heavy stone and concrete walls, thick French oak doors and overhangs keep it cool even in summer. Aging is accomplished variably in steel tanks, concrete "eggs", or French oak barrels with different wines coming from the different processes and time of fermentation. Barrels can be used 2-3 times, and are eventually burned to ash which is worked into the soil - apparently it wards off a fungus. They also compost the seeds and skins.

We toured the vineyard by bicycle - which felt great after way too many days of not exercising. There was a hazy cloud cover and cool-ish breeze which kept us comfortable. Maryann explained that the haze is due to forest fires south of Santiago (250,000 acres!). Fire is not a natural part of this ecosystem but due to a long term drought aggravated by climate change, it is more and more common and the long term consequences for the environment are worrisome. Again, climate science is not a political issue here. It is happening and the discussion is what to do about it.

 Felipe, Becky, Maryann, Giuseppe, Jerry, Josh, Pablo
 Jerry and Josh
looking at the  barn owl
 Our crazy Italian, Commander Giuseppe Caltibiano, Ph.D.
 an old wine cellar with hand made mud and straw brick walls

We got back to the winery and tasted a white and a red, both bright and fresh. Too bad we can't bring home a case or two, but I got pictures of the labels. Then on to lunch at a spectacular restaurant surrounded by lush gardens and lawns. More wine, more conversation, more learning.

 the pilots in the missing man formation