Winemaker(s): Alvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faúndez
Chono is the cutting edge of Chilean winemaking—a micro-estate that produces world-class wines from some of the most unique terroirs in the country. Led by two of South America's leading winemakers and enologists, Alvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faúndez, Chono too is the future of the Chilean wine industry, as producers move away their quantity-over-quality past to focus on Chile's terroir strengths.
The heart of Chono is in the Maipo Valley, the starting point of Chilean viticulture in the late 18th century. It is here where enterprising winemakers brought back vine cuttings from Bordeaux to plant in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, on alluvial soils not too different from those on the banks of the Dordogne. Chono's home base is the eastern side of the Maipo Valley called Isla de Maipo. Here the soils are sandy; vineyards sit between 1,800 and 2,000 feet above sea level; and temperatures are warmer than in more coastal areas, moderated by the cooling winds from the Andes. Red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, not to mention Chile's signature grape, Carmenère, thrive here.
Winemaker Alvaro Espinoza was one of the first winemakers to identify Carmenère, a red grape previously thought to be (and grown as) Merlot. It is actually a pre-phylloxera grape that was once grown widely in Bordeaux, but today grows exclusively in Chile.
The winemaking team of Espinoza and Faúndez too is what makes Chono so exceptional. Espinoza cut his wine teeth both in Chile and abroad, working for Chilean winery Carmen, Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux and Fetzer and Bonterra in California. During his time in California, Espinoza worked with biodynamic expert Alan York, who helped open Espinoza's eyes not only to the possibilities of organic viticulture but also the ways such practices could be applied to Chile. Faúndez, who also spent time at Carmen, teamed up with Alvaro early on, instructed and inspired by Alvaro's father, a prominent enologist who instilled in both young winemakers a passion for hard work and for Chile's undeniable potential.
In addition to wines from the Maipo Valley, Chono sources grapes from the Elqui Valley as well as the Rapel Valley. Most vineyards are either farmed organically or are in transition to organic farming.
Chono is the name of an extinct Chilean tribe, a hardy group of ancient people who braved the rough conditions of the rugged islands that make up Chile's southern tip.