Winery: Vina Casablanca
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Type: White Still Wine
Drink Dates: Until 2013
Price Point: $12
“Vivid straw. Pungent herbs, orange zest and pear on the nose. A juicy, supple midweight, offering lively orchard fruit and melon flavors and a touch of bitter citrus rind. Finishes smooth, with good breadth…”
- 87 Points, Stephen Tanzer
Interview with Winemaker Ximena Pacheco
Ximena Pacho is one of the leading ladies of the Chilean wine making scene. She is a dangerous combination; a pretty face, an eloquent voice and an incredibly sophisticated palate. Pacheco is the head wine maker for Vina Casablanca which is one of Carolina Wine Brands’ boutique properties. I’ve known Ximena for quite a while and have been a huge fan of many of her wines; in particular Nimbus Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. I finally made the time to ask her a few questions so all of you can get to know her as well as I do. I promise, after reading…she will leave you salivating for more.
FriendsEAT: Ximena, when you were a little girl; what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ximena Pacheco: Lots of things: a scientist, I wanted to work in science, but finally I had to make a choice.
FriendsEAT: And when did you first get the idea that you wanted to make wine?
XP: I always liked wine, drinking and eating. But once I finished university I traveled a bit. I was at a crossroads. I went to work in California and I loved it, I knew that wine making was for me.
FriendsEAT: What was the first step you took once you realized this was your path?
XP: I went to work at La Crema in Sonoma. And I got in touch with an agency that helps you to get jobs at wineries and things happened from there.
FriendsEAT: Tell me a bit about the journey to get to where you are now.
XP: I worked in California at La Crema for 3-4 months and then back in Chile. Then I started working with Montes for 3 years where I met Andres Caballero (he is currently the head wine maker for Vina Santa Carolina). While I was at Montes, they had me work with their Argentine project Kaiken. I decided I wanted to travel and expand my portfolio (as well as become more cultured). I had worked with Paul Hobbs in Sonoma and through him I met some people who were starting a winery in the South of Hungary. I knew I had to take this opportunity so off I went. I had kept in contact with Andres the whole time. When I returned to Chile, I was not planning to stay. One day Andres and I were chatting over coffee and he brought up the idea that I work in Chile. I met with the people from Carolina Wine and I am still here today.
FriendsEAT: Tell me a bit more about Vina Casablanca, what makes it so special?
XP: Vina Casablanca is our boutique property; we work on unique wines. We are super focused on terroir, it’s a mix of the soil, climate and the hand of man. The focus is to show the best wines from the best vineyards and to respect the integrity of the fruit.
FriendsEAT: How does a Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca differ from New Zealand or the Loire?
XP: I think that it comes down to styles. Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca is absolutely different. Our vineyards are closer to the ocean (20 kilometers away) which results in a colder climate. Our style is very elegant and complex. We aim to stay away from greeness. With Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca, you will get more jasmin on the nose; the mouth will be luscious. Sauvignon Blanc of New Zealand is greener, more in your face. The style of fruit in the Loire has gone through oak; they are fresh and fruity in the beginning, but grassy and herbal. I think that when people taste our wines, they will easily understand the terroir of Casablanca.
FriendsEAT: So what do you do when you have a particularly difficult growing year?
XP: You always have to pay attention. In those cases, decisions are taken at that exact moment. You have to try to plan ahead to beat the weather. If you see that the year is too hot then you need to pick earlier. Depending on the problem, there is a lot that we can do to assure the quality of the wine. One has to intervene to get the best wines. That being said, we try to do as little possible to maintain the integrity of the terroir.
FriendsEAT: Speaking of growing years, how is the current harvest coming along?
XP: We are happy, but it has been a strange year; like last Spring. The problem is that it has been particularly cool, so we are waiting for the fruit to ripen. The longer you wait the more fear of rain. And now we have to plan to harvest all at the same time because the grapes are taking so long to ripen. I expect elegant whites with great minerality.
FriendsEAT: Tell me a bit more about Nimbus and Neblus.
XP: Neblus is the icon wine for Vina Casablanca; a Syrah that is only made in certain years. The top of our line is Nimbus. We produce Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet and syrah. These wines are very elegant and represent the valley. Each wine in the Nimbus range is from a single vineyards within the Casablanca appellation. These wines are made in limited quantities so that we can assure the best possible wine. In terms of wine; we are not looking for super potent wines; it is more about elegance with Nimbus. These are complex wines that are made to represent the essence of Casablanca.
FriendsEAT: Who were the most influential people in your wine making style?
XP: I learned a lot from Aurelio Montes, Paul Hobbs and Nick Goldsmith . I try to retain as much as possible from what I learned from them. Then, I adapt it to what I think will respect the wine best. I have been influenced by these people as well as my travels. Then I put it all in a blender and came out with my own blend.
FriendsEAT: Chile has been growing in popularity in the wine world. Where do you see the Chilean wine industry going in the next 10, 25 years?
_XP: I hope that everything we are doing (wineries, government) has changed the face of Chilean wine. We offer incredible soils and climates, the types of wines is incredible. What is happening today is intense, we are focused on finding special terroirs to show the personality of Chile. I think we can do incredible things. Wines with personality. Specially those coming from the north (chardonnay) and the south (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay). I think the wines will reflect the variety of the country and the landscap. I think it will help people learn more about the country.
FriendsEAT: How is the new vintage of Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc?
The 2010 is very pretty, it has a delicate nose that reminds me of citrus, very characteristic of Casablanca. It also has lots of floral notes like jasmin. This Sauvignon Blanc is elegant; in the mouth the texture is creamy and pleasant with a tremendous force. The wine is complex, long and elegant with acidity typical of Casablanca acidity; a bit nervous, persistent and delectable. It makes the wine ideal not just as an aperitif but with a meal.