When I was invited to meet with the winemaker Max Weinlaub of Chilean winery Viña Maipo, one thing immediately caught my attention – Max was described as an advocate of the “new Chilean Syrah movement“. Syrah might be my all times favorite grape (secretly, of course – I would never admit it in public), so anything which has to do with the Syrah sounds interesting to me.
Winemaker Max Weinlaub. Source: Viña Maipo
I couldn’t travel to New York on the given date, but Patricia Clough from Gregory White PR was very accommodating and managed to include me in the live conversation and tasting with Max with the modern wonders of technology (thank you Patricia!). I was able to listen to Max presenting his wines and even ask questions and make comments – and all of it not with my fingers (in most of the “virtual” tastings we use Twitter or similar mechanisms to “talk” to the presenters – this conversation was refreshingly different).
This was the tasting, of course, so I did taste the line of Viña Maipo wines, and in a word, the wines were stunning. But I will tell you all about the wines in the next post, as I reached out to Max with a bunch of questions, which he graciously answered despite being on the plane for the most of the time in the months, going around the world and introducing his wines. Max’s answers are great and well worth every minute of your time if you want to learn more about Chile and its wines.
Without further ado, here is our [now virtual] conversation with Max Weinlaub:
[TaV]: It appears that Viña Maipo was one of the Syrah pioneers in Chile, planting it in 1990. Are there any wines from those early vintages still around? Did you have a chance of tasting them? What do you think of them if you did?
MW: Even though the vines were planted around 1998, the grapes were blended with other red grapes. In 2005 the grapes were used to make Limited Edition for the first time. We still have bottles of that vintage. I have had the opportunity to taste it, but the style has evolved year after year. To me, the first vintages were bold and too ripe. In recent years, I have been turning to a fresher style with a better balance and great ageing potential.
(Side note for Anatoli: If you are truly interested I could find one of those rare bottles, and we can taste it together next time I’m in NY.)
[TaV]: Since starting at Viña Maipo almost 10 years ago, did you make any changes in the way Syrah grapes are grown or the way the wines are made?
MW: Since I started as chief winemaker in 2007 it has been an endless learning process in direct connection with understanding how the vineyard behaves under different climatic conditions and canopy management, and noting the changes as the vines age each year. Today, I have a better knowledge about our Syrah grapes to express the varietal’s maximum potential with a clear sense of origin: Syrah from Chile. If I compare the last 10 years, I definitely see a change in the style of Viña Maipo’s wines —building towards better elegance, power, balance, fruit expression and oak impact.
[TaV]: Why Syrah in Chile? Do you think that Syrah is the next big grape for Chile?
MW: Until the first half of the 90’s, Chile was known for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Carmenere was re-discovered just in 1994. So the general perception of Chile was as a reliable producer of inexpensive wines but without many options to show (in terms of grape varieties). At the same time, Australia was living golden years with its Shiraz, so many winemakers thought that maybe Syrah could be introduced in Chile. Some clonal material (stocks) were imported and multiplied by a couple of nurseries in Chile and then, we neared the end of the decade, the first Syrah grapes were harvested with pretty good results. Thanks to a joint venture with one of those nurseries, Viña Maipo was one of the first wineries that planted Syrah in the country.
In my opinion, Chile has been and will be widely recognized as a great place of origin for Cabernet Sauvignon. But at the same time other grapes, especially those from the Rhône Valley, have adapted extraordinarily well to the Chilean terroirs — and Syrah is by far the best example of that. If you consider that nowadays the oldest Syrah vines are around 20 years old and already are producing high quality wines, then you can clearly see a bright future with this grape variety.
[TaV]: When making Viña Maipo Syrah, is there a region (Cote-Rotie, Hermitage, Cornas, Barossa, and Santa Barbara) or a wine maker (Guigal, Chapoutier, …) which you see as a hallmark and try to achieve some similarities with?
MW: The regions you mention (with their singularities) plus the talent and skills of those renowned family names have made some of the most iconic and unique expressions of Syrah grapes in the world. From those wines I learned that Syrah is able to make outstanding wines with a great potential for ageing even comparable with some Cabernet Sauvignon. My humble dream is someday to be part of that “Hall of Fame of Syrah” world, to be recognized as a previously-unknown Chilean winemaker named Max Weinlaub who made a jewel with Syrah in Chile, standing along with those big names.
[TaV]: You are blending Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon and vice versa, which is quite unusual. Why do you think these two grapes work together? Are there any other regions in the world where Syrah is successfully blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, or do you think this is purely a Chilean phenomenon?
MW: I do believe in the synergy between their different but complementary components when you blend the right way. This is the best evidence that winemaking is closer to an artistic expression than to math because 1+1 is more than 2. Syrah is a fantastic grape to make single varietal wines, but also for blending. Sometimes the Cabs are too classical, too serious for me. I used to define the Syrah variety as “fireworks in a carnival”…it has lots of color, intensity and rich flavors. So Syrah plays an important role shaking up or adding verve to a (sometimes) circumspect Cabernet Sauvignon. My aim here is to make a more distinctly South American or Chilean style of Cabernet Sauvignon.
In another style, I add a smaller percentage of Cab to Syrah to increase the structure or backbone of the wine. As part of its nature, Syrah’s tannins are soft but non-structural – so hence the need for the strength and structure of Cabernet Sauvignon. You can find this blend of Cab-Syrah or Syrah-Cab elsewhere and it works well for me, and I intend to keep perfecting it.
Source: Viña Maipo
[TaV]: Pinot Noir seems to be fast growing in popularity in Chile. You don’t make any Pinot Noir wines – do you have any plans for it? What do you think overall about Chilean Pinot Noir?
MW: I think that finally there’s a bunch of very good Pinot Noir produced in Chile thanks to the better knowledge of the grape variety in terms of terroir, viticultural management, clonal selection and winemaking. Pinot Noir is a challenging variety that sooner or later many winemakers—who tend to thrive in challenges–try to produce his/her own version. I’m having a lot of fun and joy producing Syrah (among other grapes of course) so Pinot Noir will be in my “101 things-to-do-before-to-die” list for a while.
[TaV]: Many wineries around the world add sparkling and Rosé to their repertoire – do you have any plans for Viña Maipo to start producing sparkling or Rosé wines too?
MW: We produce sparkling and rosé too!!! As we have a limited capacity (in terms of volume), the production of sparkling is allocated to certain markets – so it is not currently part of our global portfolio. Our rosé is sold largely in Nordic countries at the moment. We could taste both wines next time I see you.
[TaV]: How old are the oldest vines at Viña Maipo?
MW: The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are the oldest planted in our vineyards. Today, some of them are reaching 40 years old….just like me.
[TaV]: Don Melchor is an uncontested flagship wine for Concha e Toro, with very high critic ratings (98 from Suckling, 96 from Wine Spectator). Do you think Alto Tajamar will beat Don Melchor’s ratings one day?
MW: By far Don Melchor is the Dean of all the renowned Chilean wines. It’s the Chilean wine with the longest and most complete vertical tasting starting in 1986. I truly admire its history and legacy. If someday Alto Tajamar receives as high ratings as Don Melchor has won, for me that would be an honor and privilege. One of my principles is “work hard in silence, do your best and the rest will come along.”
[TaV]: When it comes to the white grapes of Chile, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are, of course, well established and well known. Is there a next big white grape for Chile?
MW: Chile is a paradise for grape growing due to its diverse terroirs, stable weather and healthy environment. Even though Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are widely planted I’m sure there are new areas where some other white grapes could produce great quality wines, such as Verdejo or Godello, both grapes especially recommended for warm climates. There are some very interesting Rieslings and Gewürztraminer. But the problem with those grape varieties is the almost relatively little commercial success we’ve seen when are produced outside of their home countries. I have the feeling that the only white grape that could succeed (technically and commercially) is Pinot Grigio.
[TaV]: What are the biggest export markets for Viña Maipo?
MW: By far the UK and Nordic countries at the moment, but there are some interesting opportunities to grow in other areas especially in Asia. Asia is a great market with its own codes and tempo (rhythm). We’ve also been focusing on the U.S. to a greater extent and I am very much looking forward to spending more time in the market.
[TaV]: Continuing the previous question, how big is China, and it is growing, flat or declining?
MW: China is just awakening!!! And everybody is trying to get a space in China since the Dragon feels thirsty. They are starting drinking wine, more often for Gambei (heavy duty toasts) rather than for joy, learning or food matching, so there are some things to do in terms of wine culture and education.
[TaV]: Do you have a favorite vintage of Viña Maipo Syrah?
MW: Always the last one!!!… Because it’s better than the previous one. Maybe it’s because the vines are becoming older and I’m turning older too (and hopefully wiser)!!!
[TaV]: When you are not drinking your own wines, what are some of your favorite wines and winemakers around the world?
MW: More than follow a label, brand or winemaker, recently I have been discovering regions. I’m currently really intrigued by German Rieslings (especially old vintages from Mosel River) and some Spanish red grapes such as Garnacha (aka Grenache), Mataro (aka Cariñena or Carignan), Graciano, Mencia and Bobal.
Source: Viña Maipo
We are done here, my friends. I really enjoyed our conversation with Max, and I hope that the next time we will sit across the table and taste his delicious wines together. You might be thirsty at this point, so I hope you have something to drink – and the next time I will tell you all about delicious Viña Maipo wines I had a pleasure tasting. I can only say that I would gladly drink those wines at any time… Until we talk again – cheers!
Categories: Art, Chile, Syrah, Winemakers, WineryTags: Chile, Chilean Syrah, Chilean wine, Max Weinlaub, one on one with winemaker, syrah, Viña Maipo, virtual interview
[The following are excerpts from the newly published “Forbidden Books of Heresy: Revealing the Secrets of the Gnostic Scriptures – From UFOs to Jesus’ Love of Mary,” by Sean Casteel. The two sections provide an overview of alien contact as expressed in ancient times, using scriptures from the Gnostic book “The Acts of John” and the apocryphal “The Second Book of Enoch.”]
THE CHANGING FACE OF JESUS
There is no one face or personality for the Jesus described in the Gnostic scriptures, but instead a series of incarnations and embodiments that each serve a different purpose and lead the believer from one point of revelation to another, the various “masks” of the deity.
In part three of “The Masks of God,” entitled “Occidental Mythology,” Campbell relates an interesting story of Jesus in disguise from the Gnostic book called the Acts of John.
The Messiah has just come from his desert fast of forty days,” Campbell writes, setting the scene, “and his victory there over Satan. John and James are in their boat, fishing. Christ appears on the shore. And John is supposed to be telling, now, of the occasion.”
The scripture commences.
“For when he had chosen Peter and Andrew, who were brothers, he came to me and James, my brother, saying, ‘I have need of you, come unto me.’ And my brother, hearing that, said to me, ‘John, what does that child want who is on the shore there and called to us?’ And I said, ‘What child?’ And he said again, ‘The one beckoning to us.’ And I answered, ‘Because of the long watch we have kept at sea, you are not seeing right, my brother James. But do you not see the man who is standing there, comely, fair, and of cheerful countenance?’ But he answered, ‘Him, brother, I do not see. But let us go and we shall see what he wants.’
“And so, when we had brought our boat to land, we saw him also, helping us to settle it; and when we had left, thinking to follow him, he appeared to me to be rather bald, but with a beard thick and flowing, but to James he seemed a youth whose beard had newly come. We were therefore, both of us, perplexed as to what we had seen should mean. And as we followed him, continuing, we both were, little by little, even more perplexed as we considered the matter. For in my case, there appeared this still more wonderful thing: I would try to watch him secretly, and I never at any time saw his eyes blinking, but only open. And often he would appear to me to be a little man, uncomely, but then again as one reaching up to heaven. Moreover, there was in him another marvel: when we sat to eat he would clasp me to his breast, and sometimes the breast felt to me to be smooth and tender, but sometimes hard like stone.
“Another glory, also, would I tell to you, my brethren: namely, that sometimes when I would take hold of him, I would meet with a material and solid body, but again, at other times, when I touched him, the substance was immaterial and as if it existed not at all. And if at any time he were invited by some Pharisee and accepted the invitation, we accompanied him; and there was set before each of us a loaf by those who entertained; and with us, he too received one. But his own he would bless and apportion among us. And of that little, every one was filled, and our own loaves were saved whole, so that those who had invited him were amazed. And often, when I walked with him, I desired to see the print of his foot, whether it appeared on the earth; for I saw him, as it were, sustaining himself above the earth; and I never saw it.”
An important point to make here: the description of Jesus as “rather bald” and “a little man, uncomely,” who never blinked and left no footprints but rather seemed to float above the earth as he walked, contains many elements of our present-day descriptions of the gray aliens of abduction literature. One is reminded that the gray aliens are universally described as bald and small in stature. Whether or not they are “uncomely,” meaning “unattractive,” is a matter of personal taste. The oval gray heads with unblinking black eyes are nowadays a ubiquitous cultural icon, and the gray aliens’ ability to float just above the ground as they “walk” is a very familiar feature of abduction accounts. Abductees are often conveyed to and from the waiting ships in this same manner.
The Apostle John concludes by saying, “And these things I tell you, my brethren, for the encouragement of your faith in him; for we must, at present, keep silence concerning his mighty and wonderful works, in as much as they are unspeakable, and, it may be, cannot at all be uttered or be heard.”
Campbell explains that this ancient view of a chameleon-like Jesus holds that Christ’s body, as seen by men, was “a mere appearance, the reality being celestial or divine, and its appearance, furthermore, a function of the mentality of the seer, not of the reality of the seen; a mere mask that might change but not be removed.”
The face and body of Jesus could be anything, anywhere, anyone, according to Campbell. It is understandable that the orthodox hierarchy would reject such a view of Jesus. A carefully choreographed game of “Now you see him, now you don’t” is a hard and elusive thing to grasp even in this supposedly more enlightened age, and a Jesus with a perpetually changing face doesn’t exactly fit one’s notion of “that old-time religion,” does it? But it is an enthralling mystery, nevertheless, and one worthy of continued contemplation by those seeking a truth not often told in the mainstream churches of our time.
THE BOOKS OF ENOCH
The apocryphal Books of Enoch are a marvelous addendum to the Bible as we more commonly know it. We share in Enoch’s wondrous adventure as he travels to both heaven and hell, bearing witness to the innumerable mysteries and testifying always for the sake of the righteous as they battle, suffer and endure the wicked. The fall of the evil angels called The Watchers, who take earthly wives and breed a horrifying race of giants; the birth of Noah as a strange and supernatural child of the great unknown who utterly terrifies his father; the creation story told by God, which begins with God as a solitary figure creating the visible from the invisible, all combine to fascinate and enthrall the reader who takes up the Books of Enoch and joins the prophet on his fearsome ride through the cosmos. Space and time melt away, and the promise of an eventual paradise where there is no time becomes the goal of Enoch’s journey, and our own as well.
Article continues tomorrow Saturday June 21, 2014!
. . .
Forbidden Books of Heresy: Revealing the Secrets of the Gnostic Scriptures, From UFOs to Jesus’ Love of Mary
By Sean Casteel
Signs and Symbols of the Second Coming, Expanded and Revised Edition
By Sean Casteel, with additional material by Timothy Green Beckley
Project World Evacuation: UFOs to Assist in the “Great Exodus” of Human Souls Off This Planet
By Tuella and the Ashtar Command
UFOs, Prophecy and the End of Time
By Sean Casteel
Flying Saucers in the Holy Bible
By Virginia Brasington, Sean Casteel and other contributors
Angels of the Lord – Expanded Edition
By Timothy Green Beckley, Sean Casteel, Dr. Frank E. Stranges, and William Alexander Oribello