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Seña Winery Captures The Taste Of Chile In A Glass

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Founded by Eduardo Chadwick and Napa Valley wine legend Robert Mondavi, Seña has captured the essence of Chile in a bottle. The rich soil gives Chilean grapes a distinctive taste unique among the best wines from around the world. 

Seña was established in 1995 when Chadwick and Mondavi saw the potential of Chilean wine country. The two met in the 1980s before Mondavi spent a week in Chile with Chadwick in 1991. They agreed Chile’s wine country was similar to California’s. The vineyard released its first vintage in 1997, modeled after the Bordeaux style in France.  

“The beautiful hillside vineyard is located in the Aconcagua Valley, just 40 kilometers from the cold Pacific Ocean,” Magui Chadwick, daughter of Eduardo, wrote to The Business Download via email.

Photo Courtesy Seña Winery

The Chadwick sisters — Maria Eugenia (Magui), Maria Magdalena, Maria Jose, and Alejandra — are now involved in operating Seña today.

Sustainability was implemented during the design of the estate. Working with architect Juan Grimm and Mondavi specialist Tim Mondavi, sustainability tests were conducted in the mid-90s. The goal was to create a self-contained site to prevent cross-contamination with other vineyards and better protect it from climate factors. 

The Aconcagua Valley, on the Pacific coast, has cool air and low precipitation. The Andes Mountains keep out storms and let in plenty of sunshine, fostering an ideal environment for grapes. 

In 2005, Seña made a commitment to biodynamic agriculture at the vineyard. Across 42 hectares, you can see it in practice. Organic and animal waste are transformed into compost, giving the vines nutrients. Grazing animals roam the fields to snack on weeds. 

Cover crops also protect the soil and plants from erosion and retain water better. A biodynamic garden of blossoms, nettle, dandelions, valerian, and dried horsetail influences soil pH levels and helps plant growth. It also attracts pollinating insects. 

“The aims of biodynamic agriculture are to restore and maintain the vitality and living fertility of soils and nature of the environment, Chadwick explained. “At Seña, we are committed to making a wine from estate-grown grapes to reflect the maximum expression of its terroir.” 

The Aconcagua Valley soil is gravel and rocky clay loam. It drains water well, perfect for producing grapes. The Seña estate has volcanic rock soil containing colluvium and alluvium deposits. These minerals allow vegetation to flourish, especially in a climate comparable to the Mediterranean.

Photo Courtesy Seña Winery

Seña’s vintages are incredibly well-rated amongst the wine community. Chile’s climate and soil give the grapes a distinct taste. 

“This unique promontory, only 39 km away from the Pacific Ocean in the winding Aconcagua Valley, has the perfect climate for producing red grapes that reach an excellent level of ripeness with balanced acidity that provides great elegance,” Chadwick said. 

The late great wine merchant Steven Spurrier was a real fan of Seña’s wines. Spurrier is famous for introducing California blends in Paris, where they ranked first in a blind taste test in 1976. 

Eduardo Chadwick wrote a tribute to Spurrier, explaining how they met and brought Chilean wines to Europe. The two met in England in the 90s, developing a strategy to import Seña to Europe. They would successfully do so in January 2004, when a blind taste ranked the winery’s vintages first out of 18 samplings. Spurrier passed away in 2021 after battling cancer.

Photo Courtesy Seña Winery

In celebration of its 25th anniversary in 2022, a historic 2009 vintage was unveiled. It aged for more than 10 years in a handcrafted wood coffer. The wood — called “Lenga” — is a valuable material from Southern Patagonia. Critics held the wine in high regard, with esteemed taster James Suckling giving it 95 out of 100 points.  

The future of Seña will be interesting to watch. The Business Download asked if renewable energy will be integrated into the vineyard’s sustainable strategies. Magui Chadwick said they are evaluating solar panel installations for the vineyard’s energy needs. Water reduction and management will be addressed, too. 

The winery says the 2021 vintages have performed well so far. According to Chadwick, Suckling gave Seña 100 points.

“Seña 2021 is a wine with high aromatic complexity, refreshing acidity, and delicious linear palate with fine-grained tannins,” she explained. 

When asked what advice she would give to winemakers looking to integrate biodynamic agriculture into their farming practices, Chadwick gave plenty of good tips. 

“My main advice would be that every person that will be part of the project should be strongly committed to embark into this venture, as it requires a lot [of] patience and a long-term vision as the full incorporations of these practices is not immediate and needs a lot of dedication as well as investment,” she said. “The integration and education of the whole team into a more sustainable approach for wine production is key as small changes matter.” 

“Finally, I think it is totally worth it: it leads to a deeper understanding of the vineyard, and it adds meaning to what we do as an industry,” Chadwick continued. “Biodynamic, as well as organic, regenerative, or other practices that respect the environment, are the future, so as soon as they commit, the better for them and for our planet.”

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