Kingston Family Vineyards is a family-owned operation in the Casablanca Valley of Chile that began as a cattle farm in the 1920s and today is one of Chile's pioneers in the production of artisanal wines from cool-climate sites.
This Friday, June 3, from 5pm-6:30pm, we are excited to welcome Courtney Kingston to the Redwood City tasting bar for a special tasting of current releases. Courtney Kingston is a Portola Valley local that splits her time between Casablanca and the Peninsula while managing the family wine business - sounds like a sweet deal to us!
In anticipation of Friday's event, we asked Courtney to share some insight into her family's history in the Casablanca Valley, the challenges of making wine in Chile, and tips for tourists:
Q&A: Interview with Courtney Kingston
How did the Kingston family get into the wine business? What is your role?
Our great-grandfather went to Chile back in the early 1900's, looking for gold. He made a big bet on the Casablanca Valley. When the gold didn't pan out, he inherited what today is our family's farm. Five generations of Kingstons have lived on the farm for almost 100 years now. We have a dairy farm and beef cattle grazing in the fields. In the mid-1990's, we planted our first grapevines up in the far western hills.
What makes the Kingston estate's terroir unique?
We are only about 12 miles as the crow flies to the ocean. The influence of the Pacific and the cooling Humboldt current is ever-present in the almost daily morning/afternoon fog and the steady ocean breezes. I split my time between California and Casablanca, and in many ways western Casablanca reminds me of California's south-central coast, similar to the Santa Rita Hills, but flipped south of the equator.
Describe the Kingston winemaking philosophy.
Our goal is to blend the best of the Old and New Worlds. Our winemakers, like our family, are Chilean/American. Byron Kosuge (from Napa) and Evelyn Vidal (our Chilean winemaker) work together to leverage Californian small-lot winemaking expertise to uncover the potential of our coastal vineyard in Chile.
What are some of the challenges of producing wine in Chile's Casablanca Valley?
Our vineyard in western Casablanca is quite cool---almost 5-8 degrees cooler than some of our peers on the eastern side of the valley. So spring frosts are a big issue for us. We also typically farm at only 2-3 tons per acre, just to ripen our crop.
From your perspective, what effect has the emergence of the global economy had on the wine business in Chile as a whole?
Because it's such a small country, Chile's wineries have always been export-oriented and focused on their role in the global economy. With only 16 million people, Chileans alone can't drink all the wine it makes. (Unlike our larger neighbor to the east--Argentina--with 40 million people, where they can and do drink a significant amount of their own production.) I think Chile has done a great job on the world stage proving its wines are great values. The challenge for Chile is to make sure that the world knows that 'value' does not mean 'cheap'; Chile makes excellent wines at all prices levels. It's also important for people to know that Chile has many small, family-owned wineries, in addition to the larger brand names that have the widest distribution.
How has your experience in Chile influenced your attitude towards wine and wine consumption? What's your position on wine pairing and what do you like to pair your wines with?
At Kingston, we went against conventional wisdom by planting pinot noir & syrah in Casablanca, a valley known for whites. Our neighbors thought we were crazy (and some people probably still think we are) to try to ripen syrah so close to the ocean. I think that experience---of being the underdog, of having to prove ourselves---has made me more open to new wines, new places. I deeply respect the centuries of winemaking experience of our European peers, and I now couple that respect with a love for discovery of new wine regions around the world.
Many people think pairings are all about rules they are supposed to memorize (e.g. red wine with red meat). I find the most exciting pairings are the unexpected. At a James Beard Foundation dinner in New York this April, Amangani Resort Chef Rick Sordahl paired our Kingston Family 'Cariblanco' Sauvignon Blanc with a lamb tenderloin carpaccio. Not conventional. And it was amazing.
What advice do you have to offer wine lovers travelling in Chile?
I think the neatest thing about traveling to Chile is how much it has to offer in addition to wine. If you'd like to spend your entire vacation exploring all the different wine regions you can definitely do that, but you can also combine your passion for wine with your love of the outdoors. That's my favorite thing to do. Wine lovers can spend an afternoon tasting wines on the terraza at Kingston in Casablanca (an hour's drive from Santiago), having skied the day before in the Andes or having just returned from a trip south to Patagonia. Or if you're more into city living, you can explore the fish stands at the Mercado Central in Santiago and walk the winding streets of the old port city of Valparaiso. There's so much to explore and discover. The flight over to Mendoza, Argentina is only 45 minutes, and so you can also easily combine visits to both countries without stretching yourself too thin.
Tasting Kingston Family Vineyards with Courtney Kingston
Friday June 3
5pm-6:30pm @ K&L RWC
Cost of tasting: $5
Meet Courtney Kingston and taste through the following:
2009 Cariblanco Sauvignon Blanc $14.99
2008 Tobiano Pinot Noir $19.99
2007 Alazan Pinot Noir $29.99
2008 Lucero Syrah $17.99
2006 Bayo Oscuro Syrah $26.99
Walk in only. Final lineup and cost subject to change.
SHOP Kingston Family Vineyards on KLWines.com