The Grapevine – Quest for Gold

A miner’s unquenchable desire for riches can drive him to all ends of the earth in search of the mother lode.  One such man was Carl John Kingston, a miner and engineer from Central Mine, Michigan.  In 1906, Kingston’s thirst for adventure led him to set out for Chile.  There he joined the Cerro de Pasco Mining Company.

Kingston never struck gold, but as a result of one of his many mining deals, he wound up with a large dairy farm and cattle ranch. He married Caroline Los Kamp and settled the property with her.  “The Farm”, as it has been called by five generations of the Kingston family, is nestled in the western hills of Chile’s Casablanca Valley, twelve miles from the Pacific Ocean.  Little did C.J. know that the Casablanca Valley of Chile would become one of the most desirable grape-growing regions in the world!

Chile runs north to south for 2600 miles on the west cost of South America.  It is only 100 miles wide at its widest point.  It is a melting pot with a heavy European influence from Germans, Spanish, English and French that have taken up residence, enjoying the moderate climate similar to the Mediterranean.

Chile features three distinct climatic conditions from east to west, and three main growing regions from north to south.  The coastal region is a cool climate; the central valley is warm, and the Andes can be cool or warm depending on the location.  The main grape-growing regions are the Casablanca Valley (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir), the Maipo Valley (cabernet sauvignon), and the Rapel and Chlchaqua Valleys (cabernet sauvignon, carmenere, merlot).

These days, few family-owned farms are sustainable beyond the third generation.  Like many other farm and ranch families, the Kingstons wondered how they could sustain The Farm.  Courtney Kingston, a member of the fourth generation of the clan, did her undergraduate studies at Princeton and graduate studies at the University of Stanford.  It was at Stanford that Courtney, realizing the potential of the property, formulated a plan for sustainability, one that would serve the Kingston family for generations to come.

Risk-taking is deeply ingrained within the DNA of the Kingstons!  Courtney’s plan, inspired by California vineyard visionaries David Hirsch and Gary Pisoni, calledfor the planting of pinot noir and syrah grape vines in an area known only for white grape cultivation.  The family’s mission was to grow world-class, quality red grapes in a cool climatic zone.  In 1998, pinot noir and syrah grapevines were planted on the western hills of The Farm.

Carl John Kingston, the gambler and risk taker, who loved to wager on the horses at the traditional Chilean rodeos in the early 1900’s, never saw his dreams of quick riches realized.  But he clearly saw The Farm as a legacy of stability for his family.  And, thanks to his descendant Courtney’s inspired plan, it has become exactly that.  The Kingston family harvested their first grapes in 2003. The payoff: 400 cases of pinot noir and syrah.

Under the watchful eyes of the Kingstons and two amazing winemakers, Byron Kosuge and Evelyn Vidal, Kingston Family Vineyards produce one of the best values in wine today.  Their sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, and syrah are all named for horses on The Farm.  The Kingstons offer a flight of exceptional “stallion”-like wines, inspired by the great namesake horses:  ‘Cariblanco’ sauvignon blanc, named after a white-faced horse; The ‘Tobiano’ pinot noir,  after a painted horse that looked like someone had poured two cans of paint over him; and their syrah, ‘Lucero’, after a horse with an intense white flash on his forehead.

These exceptional selections have been reviewed at http://www.wineguymike.com, and are available at Liquid Planet, “Missoula’s Best of Beverage”, in the Heart of Downtown Missoula.

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