"I knew this place since I was a child," said María Luz Marín, of her property on the Pacific coast, in the San Antonio Valley, "my father bought land near." And though she had familial connections to the region, her path to becoming the first female Chilean winemaker and winery owner, was not without hindrances and hurdles. Long before she became a vintner, María Luz knew that she wanted something there. Seeing the plateau planted to lettuce and other legumes that supported the local community, she knew that the area could potentially support something more. "The lettuce was large and crisp, very good quality," she said, "better than [what was growing] five to six kilometers away." And though there was a stream nearby to support the village, María Luz didn't know how she might ever irrigate the hills.
"When it was clear that this was the place, I looked for investors, but no one would support it," said María Luz. "At four kilometers to the ocean, [the area] wasn't known for planting." But then she started conducting bulk wine business in the UK, and after three or four years, she'd saved enough to become a one-woman operation. "I could do it alone, no partners," she said. "If I failed in some ways, with wrong decisions..." no one could question or withhold funding. "It was liberating."
As drip irrigation started to make its way to Chile, making the project seem more viable, María Luz said, "I started to be known in Chile as a crazy woman!" And then she laughed. "By the time I started the first production [in the year 2000]," she added, "I was very well known, and the quality [of the fruit] was there from the beginning."
"Knowing that the San Antonio Valley was the new frontier for winemaking in Chile, I sought and found Casa Marin," says Jorge Perez, our South American Portfolio Director. "After following her steps for over a decade now, the time is finally ripe for the both of us, with Casa Marin now joining its rightful home for U.S. distribution."
Totaling 50ha in the town of Lo Abarca, the estate of Casa Marin consists of 8 sections that are divided into 38 blocks. Having traveled throughout many wine regions within the Old and New World, María Luz instinctually knew where to plant her vineyards; and with the assistance of Ann Kramer, a viticulturist from California, she decided exactly where to plant each varietal. Without science or studies, Maria resisted the authorities' fears of erosion, cool climate and low water supplies, and planted vines to soils of limestone, clay, schist, granite and high calcium carbonate. And because the area was once underwater, the soils are also littered with shells.
"It's a region that's young and new," says Jorge, "so one cannot go by the accomplishments of her peers. I respect that María Luz decided to plant uncommon varietals, such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Her pioneering spirit is evident in the style of wines that she makes, landing Casa Marin its Holy Grail status."
Working together with her son, Felipe Marín, María Luz is upgrading the winery from sustainable to organic, with 10ha planted to organic vines in August 2011. To best express the terroir of each block, María Luz picks and vinifies each block separately. And with the Sauvignon Blanc planted to six different blocks that face in all directions on two different hills with different soils, the wines develop an unrivaled complexity, elevating the position of María Luz from local to world class celebrity.