If something puts a smile on your face every time you think of it…if this same something is exciting to talk about…if it would be a dream come true and it was within reach would you take it? But, what if it would cause a complete lifestyle change…it may never make any profit and would be a huge risk…would you still take it?
The idea of owning a vineyard was more of a retirement thought for later in life until O’Fournier brought up the idea as a real possibility. Since then, we have not been able to get the concept out of our heads! Although we were seriously wined, dined and romanticized by the owner Jose Manuel…like any purchase we needed to look at other options. If we are really considering buying a vineyard in Argentina…are we looking at a competitive price and a quality grape?
The Vines of Mendoza is another company out here offering investors to purchase 3-10 acres of vines on their 1500 acre property. Today they invited us onto their vineyard…they were harvesting grapes. We were a bit late when we arrived but eventually found them down a dirt road in the middle of the vines. Let me paint the scene for you…the sun was shining, the air was perfectly warm, the picturesque mountains stood strong in the background and the grapes were plump and begging to be picked from the vine. As soon as we arrived, they greeted us, gave us gloves, garden shears and a bin. We walked between the vines in the dirt with smirks on our faces, and started clipping those beautiful grapes until our bin was full.
We loaded our bin of grapes onto the truck and stopped to take a group picture with the other grape pickers (and potentially new vineyard owners) before heading up to the warehouse where the grapes would go through the de-stemming machine. The grapes are poured into the top of the machine and then the stems are taken away from the fruit, emptied into one bin as the grapes flow through the machine where someone hand picks any stems that were missed or grapes that don’t look good. We all gathered around the conveyor belt to help remove the unwanted stuff while letting the perfect fruit pass by.
The owners took the small group of us through the warehouse to show where the wine barrels were being stored and the small office in which they experiment by mixing and matching different varietals. Once the warehouse tour was complete, they moved us onto the outdoor patio and opened a few bottles of wine to have us taste the results of hard-work put into a bottle. After wine tasting and mingling, we went over to the part of their property which was under construction. There was a sign showing what the layout will eventually look like, private estates, spa and resort. Hmmmm…we could even live on the wine property…very tempting!
For lunch we all gathered around a long wooden table that easily sat about 30 of us. They were treating us to a classic asado (BBQ)…plates were made of wood, like little individual cutting boards which were perfect for all the meats being served. As if we were one large family…the platters of food of all sorts but definitely focused on meat kept coming around, and we all talked and ate outside in the middle of the vineyard drinking its wine.
We had gone to this vineyard to learn about their ownership program and to maybe talk ourselves out of this whole lifestyle change, but as we left…we were even more excited. We had so much fun actually picking the fruit and watching it go through the process. Then to taste the final product, eat local food and socialize with other wine lovers from around the world made us think about our vineyard dream just a little bit more…
There is a pattern here, sleeping in, eating a lot of food and tasting a lot of wine seems to be the theme in Mendoza…love this life! So, today we are going to try to get into O’Fournier and no we don’t have reservations but we are going to hope for the best.
According to the map, it was really not so far from the little town of La Consulta where we were staying but of course this area is not the best with directions…and there is definitely a lack of signs. It can definitely be challenging to know which street to turn left on when the streets aren’t marked and in every direction is farmland and vines!
We finally found the entrance to the O’Fournier winery and stopped at the security guard to see if he would let us in…from what we heard this is a super modern winery with amazing multi-courses lunches. The guard radioed in and then told us he could let us in for a tasting, but we could not sit for lunch as the restaurant was full (we’ll see about that). We thanked him, drove along the gravel road as we admired the vines and found the parking lot.
We walked up the ramp towards the UFO looking building, there was a tour in progress and the “guide” told us to join. The tour was in Spanish but he also spoke English so would talk to the crowd and then English to us and one other couple who had walked up at the same time we did. He pointed out the science lab which was behind glass windows where all sorts of test tubes and experimental type containers were in view. The guide explained it was the room where testing is done on different varietals and the room is all glass so the scientists can seek inspiration from the surrounding mountains and vines.
Across from the science lab was another room where the experiments are actually tested in small tanks before it would be released in large batches. He pointed to the ground at the large doors…those were the openings to the large fermentation tanks underground…in fact 70% of the winery is underground. Since wine needs to be aged and kept in a temperature controlled environment, why not build most of the winery underground so the temperature is naturally cooler? Very efficient…and very smart.
He took us inside underground and first showed us the giant stainless steel tanks which were a different shape than a typical steel tank at other wineries, he told us these tanks were actually the first of their kind in both North and South America and by the way they had touch screen computer controls. He opened the big doors to the room holding the large wooden vats, the room itself was also temperature controlled and humidity controlled which keeps the wood in good condition.
Walking through this place was like the kids walking through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for the first time…everything was advanced technology, new and impressive architecture. We walked over the grated platforms into a huge room where we were staring at 1000s of wine barrels. The room was huge and open but there were no solid beams holding the ceiling up, the style was known as honeycomb architecture.
The portion of the building that is above ground is held up by 4 beams and each of those beams is made of stainless steal which also holds wine!! This building is amazing… We continued walking through it until we reached a room which he said was specifically for his investors, it had space to hold wine for each owner and a large table in the middle of the room. We listened in as he talked about investors and asked questions. The guide was actually Jose, the owner!!! He talked about how he was looking for investors to purchase various lots of vines right next to his own…he sparked our interest.
The tour ended in the beautiful dining room which was bright with natural light and tall windows overlooking the property. We explained that we would love to sit and eat one of the multi-course meals with wine pairings but did not have a reservation. He squeezed us in with the other English couple and we were immediately given our menus and poured O’Fournier wine. There were 6 courses, small quantities of deliciously prepared local food. Each course was fun to look at and talk about, as much as it was to eat and we had fun chatting with the other couple who owned a wine shop in Napa.
Jose Manuel Ortega Gil Fournier was the owner and founder of O’Fournier along with his wife, Nadia (the chef). He was walking around to the various tables after the tour in the small restaurant pouring wine and chatting with his guests. We started asking questions about the investors he had talked about and he explained there was a project they are working on which would be open to the public soon…but was not yet. He talked about how these investors would purchase an amount of land, say 3 acres of vines and these vines would be planted from the vines in their nursery and taken care of as if they belonged to O’Fournier. Not only is the area and soil the best in Mendoza, but the vines would be cared for by O’Fournier staff using top of the line equipment and harvested along with the other grapes through the sorting process. The investors would of course be wanted to assist with the harvest in order to make the wine as they see fit using O’Fournier labs, barrels and winery for aging. In addition, the investors would be able to use the discounts offered to the winery for bottles, labels and corks.
As we ate lunch and drank wine we day-dreamed about becoming a vineyard owner…this project sounded like an amazing opportunity. We finished lunch, thanked Jose for his time and the tour before leaving him our contact info to send us additional info about the project.
We spent most of the day at O’Fournier and then decided to drive the short distance back to our B&B since it was so peaceful at the property hidden amongst the vines. We opened a bottle of wine from the small vineyard of La Azul, walked around taking pictures and played with the little puppy who lived on the property…we even let him in our room and made a little place for him to sleep for the night. He was adorable! After much wine and relaxation, we watched a movie and fell asleep.