The Weathervane


Well my last week at the winery was bittersweet. I was excited to finish that chapter of my trip, but also a bit sad to be leaving my “Patagonian family.” We had a pretty mellow final week – lots of blending, more barreling down, and one day we bottled for the entire day!

Last Thursday night we had a final parilla (bbq) with the crew. We drank some great wines, ate a lot of bbq, and played some music. It was an incredible send off!

After the last day of work we headed to Neuquen for a Friday night dinner that couldn’t be beat. We ate again at Toscana, the place I had the incredible lunch one week before. The cheeses, meats, and wines were to die for.

So for now Bodega Chacra, it’s been one hell of an experience. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity, to have met the people I met, to have seen the things I saw, and most importantly, to have the chance to live life to the fullest. I am forever grateful. Now, on to Bolivia and then to the far south of Patagonia. Ciao for now – west coast see you soon!



Wow. What a weekend. To start we had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off! Friday was a national holiday in Argentina. The Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice (Spanish: Día de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia) is a public holiday in Argentina, commemorating the victims of the Dirty War. It is held on 24 March, the anniversary of the coup d’état of 1976 that brought the National Reorganization Process to power. However, on Thursday night we had a dinner and a night out to celebrate Louis, the French interns’ last night in town. We had a great dinner at a local restaurant, then headed out for a night on the town.

On Friday, Elena, one of the Italian interns, and I drove Louis to the Neuquen airport (about and hour and a half) away, then after enjoyed a 4 hour lunch at a restaurant called La Toscana. Two brothers run the restaurant, and it serves the best Italian cuisine in all of the Rio Negro valley. It was one of the best meals I have had since arriving in Argentina. A massive cheese board, salads, Salmon with spicy rice, a ribeye steak, cheesecake and lemon merengue for dessert. We also drank a couple bottles of wine of course! The great part about this restaurant is they produce their own dairy products including goat yoghurt, and a variety of cheeses and bread that they bake in house. Needless to say, dinner was light that night!

On Saturday we relaxed, had a beautiful lunch, then headed over to another local boutique winery to try something different. This winery reminded me of when my parents were first starting out – only a few barrels of each variety! As the afternoon drifted into the evening, we experienced a classic Patagonian storm. Heavy rains, strong winds, and a light show in the sky! The lightening here is absolutely the most intense, raw, unbridled power I have ever seen. It will go on for hours, giving the effect of living inside a dome of electricity. The bolts would illuminate the entire sky! And with that came a power outage that has now lasted for 36 hours! Very common here….

Today, Sunday, we headed into town for a Parilla lunch – basically a little salad and bread, and A LOT of meat prepared on an indoor bbq. As my Italian friends would say, “bellissimo!” After, we had another vineyard and winery tour with a true garagiste winemaker, something that really puts the world of wine back into perspective.

Here are a couple of pictures from the vineyards there.

Afterwards we headed back to Chacra, and since there still was no power, we sat on the patio of one of the main houses, and enjoyed the sounds of Patagonian nature. A moment of meditation was something nice to finish off the weekend.


It’s been a little while since my last post, but in terms of harvest, everything is finished! A couple days ago, we pressed the very last lot of Pinot Noir we had fermenting – a sad but exciting feeling. Nowadays, work has consisted of racking wines off of their fermentation lees, barreling down, or creating blends for their three wines, Barda (entry level), 55, and 32. It’s been a trip getting to taste all of the components and understand the decision making. I have also spent quite a bit of time barreling down wines after completion of blending. Many hours in an air conditioned barrel room!

Yesterday, the bio dynamic consultant, who guides and educates Bodega Chacra in maintaining their certification, came to the farm. I got to spend the morning and part of the afternoon with him, touring the farm, asking questions, and also tagging along while they went to collect organic cow manure from a nearby farm for compost preparation. Very interesting stuff!! Here are a few pictures from the farm!

Compost piles.

Garden where they grow vegetables and also plants necessary for biodynamic preparations.

Opening soil jars from previous years to check development.

Cow at local farm.

One of the tractors at Chacra.


Well, as was the same last week, more pressing! However this weekend we finally got a Sunday off, so I think it goes without saying that Saturday night (into Sunday morning) was a long one! This Sunday we slept in, which was long awaited, and then headed to the Rio Negro for the afternoon, where we met up with a friend who operates a small bar on the river. Relaxation in the sun, a few beers, and some tapas were the perfect way to wrap up the weekend. Here are some more pics of pressing, and also one of the crew while at the river!



More and more pressing the last couple of days, all Pinot of course! Here at Chacra, they use a horizontal or basket style press. Although it can press much less quantity at one time, the theory is that the actual pressure on the grape skins is less, therefore extracting less harsh compounds and more of the good stuff! At Carhartt we have a couple of these, however they are about 100 years old and made out of wood and heavy metal!

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Wow. A couple weeks have blown by faster than I could have ever imagined. When I set out to write this blog, my idea was to pair everything down so I could write short snippets while continuing to work the almost certain long days of harvest in Patagonia. What I did not anticipate was that this year, the 2017 harvest, would be the warmest season in the last 44 years, therefore rocketing the grape picking and in turn the working hours of a harvest intern, into what I would call “beast-mode.”

To give a small reference point, Bodega Chacra produces around 175 ton of grapes per year, about 1.75 times the size of Carhartt. In a normal harvest back home, we pick our grapes over the course of 2-3 months. Something to keep in mind is that we also make 20 different wines, ranging from the early ripening Pinot Noir, to later ripening Merlot. Here at Chacra, we only grow and produce Pinot Noir, so when it’s ready, there is no choice but to buckle down and get the fruit picked. Since my first day of work about two weeks ago, we have been running an average 13+ hour day. In the world of harvest that isn’t necessarily abnormal, but pair it with the fact that in Argentina, like most of Europe, the culture eats later, and so by the time we cook dinner and get to bed, its already past midnight. Hence, that didn’t really leave me a lot of time to look through my pictures of the day, and write about what was happening at the time.

This post will then tally the activity of the last couple of weeks, so I can play catch-up, and get back on track!

Upon arrival, we (the interns) were greeted with a bbq of meat and some awesome wines! This bbq area and pizza oven is right outside of our casita.

The next morning, we started work so I took a photo of the beautiful scene in our backyard.


From day one it was all about sorting fruit (processing it) and getting it into tank to begin fermentation. The winery is set up with three sizes of cement tanks that all sort of connect to each other so you have two levels to walk – the winery floor and above the tanks. At Chacra they believe in fermenting in cement and that for their style it brings forward the best quality wine. The winery floor isn’t necessarily huge, so we have to get creative when sorting fruit. Some is processed as whole cluster (with stem) and some is de-stemmed. It goes from a sorting table to a giraffe (a conveyor belt that brings the fruit from the winery floor into a tank of our choice). If we de-stem, it has to go from a sorting table to a small giraffe, into a de-stemmer, then into a larger giraffe that puts the grapes into tank.
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Once in tank the grapes are allowed to ferment by native yeast (no addition of a specific strain). Fermentation here is definitely different than any winery I have ever been to in that they treat their grapes and fermentation more like a tea bag infusion. The idea being to not aggressively extract tannin, structure, color, and aromatics from the wines through a series of cap management techniques like punch downs and long pump-overs, but more to delicately infuse the juice with soft tannin, soft aromatics, and finessed structure through cooler ferments, and non-macerating techniques.

We accomplish this by keeping the cap (top section of the ferment) constantly wet with a series of short pump-overs, usually accompanied by a cooling of the juice/wine to keep the temperature in check. As fermentation progresses, especially in the whole cluster lots, we will do a very delicate foot-stomp on the top of the cap to break open some berries and produce some liquid, but not macerate the skins and extract harsh compounds. It has been very eye opening for me and really interesting to utilize new techniques and see the incredible outcomes!

On a non-winery level, one thing I think is amazing about this place is its landscape. I’ve been told that the colonization of this area is only about 100 years old, so it is free of most diseases or problems that we often see in vineyards all over Europe and the U.S. This is basically a massive desert with a thin stretch of civilization down the middle, right next to the river. As you can see from the photos below I took from the plane, the green sliver is the cultivation of man, while on both sides are vast desert lands.

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In fact, here is a photo from the kitchen window where we make our lunch every day!

Along with this big sky country (no mountains) also comes quite amazing natural beauty. The sunrises, sunsets, and cloudscapes that I have seen here are some of the most amazing of my life. As Piero, the owner and head winemaker would say, “you don’t need a filter on your phone to capture the beauty here.” Below are some photos I snapped over the last few weeks.
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Yesterday, Sunday, we finally got an afternoon off, and were invited to have lunch at Piero’s house next to the winery. It was created by two bothers who own and operate a restaurant in Neuquen, a city an hour away from us, called Toscana. It was delicious! We even got to go in the pool!

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Chase’s Patagonia Blog – Post #1

I took a plane from Salta today to Buenos Aires and then to Neuquen, the airport closest to the winery. I met 2 of the interns on the flight, both Italian! When we arrived to Neuquen there were strong winds, and very warm! The ride to the winery was about an hour, and upon arrival we were greeted by a grand bbq! We had dinner with a small crew of people that work for Chacra, shared some great wines, and got a full belly before heading to bed early. I am staying in a small house with one of the Italian guys and supposedly at the end of the week we will have a French intern. Lots of languages at the dinner table. Work starts tomorrow!!

Below, Chacra BBQ & Backyard



Chase’s Patagonia Blog – Introduction

For many years now I have wanted to work a vintage in South America. The more well known choices would be Argentina and Chile, probably the most popular being the Mendoza region of Argentina. Truth be told, Mendoza never piqued my interest, not because they aren’t making great wines, but mostly because it is a warmer growing climate. The wines therefore are representative of that heat – riper flavors and higher alcohols. That combination can make excellent wines, but our winemaking style at Carhartt is very different from that, and my track record in other parts of the world has been in cool- climate regions, usually producing fresher style wines with higher acidity and lower alcohols. Quite often these are Pinot Noir producing sections of the world. With that said, I decided to focus my attention on cooler climate areas of Argentina, which brought me to the south, specifically Patagonia. Patagonia is a large region that actually reaches far into Chile also, but I knew I wanted to work in Argentina, so I did my research.

After many emails back and forth, I finally secured a job at Bodega Chacra, a primarily Pinot Noir producing winery, with a biodynamic farm and some of the best wines in the country (obviously subject to personal opinion).


Now not only does most of the world not know anything about Patagonian wines, neither do a large portion of Argentines! The fact is that most wines drinkers in Argentina drink big Malbecs or Cab-Malbec blends. Pinot is barely on the radar, and so Patagonia is not really in the limelight – exactly my type of place!!

If you would like to learn more about the winery, just google “Bodega Chacra,” pretty cool history! The gist of it is, they make 3 main Pinots – Barda (a field blend I think), Cincuenta y Cinco (a vineyard planted in 1955), and Treinta y Dos (a vineyard planted in 1932). They also make a rose, and a single varietal Merlot.

You might be thinking that I am making wine on a glacier in Patagonia – not quite! The Rio Negro valley is actually a desert climate that has warm days and cool nights. Hopefully if we finish work early I can explore the region beyond the winery, but we will see.


All in all this is a great opportunity for me. Not only do I get to further my knowledge under the guidance of a great winery, but I get to work in a region that is atypical, unknown, and up and coming!

I will be writing a short blog to document my time here, accompanied by pictures to give a visual of my experience. Please excuse any poor grammar or lack of in depth descriptions. I need to focus on my work here, but I wanted to make sure that those who were interested got a taste of my adventure in this new environment! I will be instagramming my journey on the @carharttvineyard account, and will be using #chaseingpatagonia17 to compile my pics in one album.

I will be back in the states in late April, so down here for 2 months. Thank you for your interest in my work, it means a lot! I hope you enjoy!


Wines for Women in Winemaking Event – March 8th

Contact Persons:
Danielle Dauphinee,
Karen Steinwachs,

For tickets to the March 8 event, or for additional information, please visit

Women Winemakers and Female Chefs Join Together to Celebrate International Women’s Day

A family feast that will benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County

Solvang, CA — International Women’s Day has been celebrated worldwide since 1909, with a focus on working women’s achievements and issues. All glamour and romance of the wine industry aside, winemaking is work; hard work that generally sees about 10% of that industry as female winemakers. Santa Barbara County, however, has a much higher percentage of women winemakers than most places in the world, with nearly double the average. Out at dawn during harvest, hauling wine hoses and wrangling barrels in the cellar, and utilizing keen sensory skills to create wines of finesse, balance and deliciousness, are part of a routine day – followed by swapping the boots and jeans for business attire, and hitting the road to spread the word and sell the wines and the region. All of this, is often accomplished while raising a family and participating in community service.

On Wednesday, March 8, 2017 (5:30 PM-9:00 PM), many of the women winemakers of Santa Barbara County will gather in solidarity and camaraderie to celebrate International Women’s Day over glasses of wine, fine cuisine and convivial company.

“During these turbulent political times, we believe people can come together if we simply sit down at a table with wine and a meal,” states Kathy Joseph, owner and winemaker at Fiddlehead Cellars. “Stop the rhetoric and pass the Pinot Noir!”

The dozen+ female winemakers will be joined by some of the Santa Ynez Valley’s most inventive female chefs, who are creating a five-to-seven course meal to pair with their winemaker colleagues’ wines. Participating wineries include Buttonwood, Cambria, Casa Dumetz, Cebada, Dreamcote, Fiddlehead, Harrison-Clark, Kitá, La Montagne, Lepiane, Lumen, Nagy, Rideau, Rusack, Sanford, Story of Soil and William James Cellars (additional participating wineries, TBA). Chef Pink of Bacon & Brine, Chef Brooke of the Union Hotel, Cheesemonger Janelle McAtamney and Baker Amy Dixon are slated to create the menu. The Women Winemakers Dinner will be held at K’Syrah Catering & Events’ new venue in downtown Solvang (478 4th Place, Solvang, CA 93463).

Chef Pink, co-owner/chef at Bacon & Brine, continues, “There are many similarities between women in the wine industry, and women in the restaurant industry. There are by far, fewer female chefs and restaurant owners than male, and it’s much more of an uphill battle for us than for our male counterparts – in many more ways than one.”

Proceeds from the March 8 event will benefit the Women’s Fund of Northern Santa Barbara County, a giving circle where individuals combine their money and/or time so that they can have a bigger impact on the causes most important to them, than they would by donating individually. In 2016, the Women’s Fund distributed $50,000 in grants to organizations serving women and children.

For tickets to the March 8 event, or for additional information, please visit

2014 Mourvedre Food Pairing Recipe

Roasted Veal Chops with Mushrooms and Madeira

1 cup rich beef stock or canned double-strength broth
1/2 cup water
4 baby turnips, peeled
4 baby carrots, peeled
4 pearl onions, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 veal rib chops (3/4 pound each), cut 1 1/4 inches thick
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, quartered
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, caps quartered
1/2 cup Madeira
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a small saucepan, bring the beef stock and water to a boil. Add the turnips, carrots, pearl onions and garlic, reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, transferring them to a plate as they are done, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve the garlic cloves and the broth.

Preheat the oven to 400°. Season the veal chops with salt, white pepper and the cloves and nutmeg. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet. Add the veal chops and pearl onions and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until the chops and onions are nicely browned, about 8 minutes. Return the onions to the plate with the other vegetables and transfer the veal chops to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast the chops in the oven until pink in the center, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and white pepper and cook over moderate heat, without stirring, until browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Madeira, cover and cook over low heat until the mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of Madeira and cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes longer.

Transfer the veal chops to dinner plates and keep warm. Pour any veal roasting juices into the mushrooms. Add the vegetables and the reserved broth and garlic and simmer over low heat until warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt and white pepper. Pour the sauce and vegetables over the veal chops, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.

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