Will Evelyn was born in Surrey, but found himself living in Argentine Patagonia in 1997 as a fly-fishing guide. After several years between Patagonia and surfing on the Chilean coast, he settled on the Chilean side of the Andes mountains in the wine region of Colchagua where he planted a small vineyard in the hills and opened a 6-bedroom mountain resort, Tumuñan Lodge. Amanda Barnes interviews Will Evelyn, a Friend of the Circle, on the challenges of planting high altitude Cabernet Sauvignon in this part of Chile and what attracted him to rural tourism in South America.
Having worked in tourism in Patagonia, what drew you to Alto Colchagua instead?
What I saw in the Andes of Colchagua just blew my mind. I thought it was better than Patagonia – and nobody knew about it! There’s fly-fishing, condors flying around your head, waterfalls and mountains, with the added bonus that the wine region is right on your doorstep.
How did your dream evolve from running a successful adventure lodge, to planting a vineyard and becoming a vigneron?
I’m quite an impulsive person and when a friend asked why I didn’t plant a vineyard here, it seemed like a no-brainer. Who doesn’t want a vineyard? It does sound nice to say ‘I’ve got a vineyard’… And so I thought, why not? I had the space at my lodge estate, I love wine and I come from a farming background. It also seemed like quite an exciting site to plant vines, we are in one of Chile’s most prestigious wine regions and basically it was like a light went on. Wine does that to people – their eyes glaze over and the wallet pops open!
There aren’t many vineyards at such high altitude in Colchagua, what are the challenges of viticulture in this territory?
The wind here at the lodge picks up at about 10.30am in the morning which is fantastic for ventilation and healthy vines but it makes it extremely complicated to make vineyard applications. It’s a pro and con…. Another difficulty is the lack of manual labour here, the challenge to find help on the vineyard in an isolated place was something I didn’t really anticipate. We also share the neighbourhood with tens of thousands of hectares of forest and the local birds who also have a veracious appetite for grapes! Bird, rabbit and even wild boar damage are a challenge.
But the good thing about this mountain terroir is that we have dry weather and are in an isolated location with little disease pressure. We’re also extremely pleased to be working with Koyle winery (who vinify the wines) which is a family estate with a great respect for nature and work in biodynamic farming. For me, what I love most about being here is seeing the rivers filled with fish, the forests filled with birdlife and the beautiful mountain location. It’s a pristine forest environment, its not an agricultural area, and that’s what we hope is transmitted in the wines. These are mountain and forest wines!
What’s in the pipeline for Tumuñan wines and the lodge?
I’m really excited about seeing our next vintages as our vines come of age here in Tumuñan. With our new partnership with Koyle, we are looking forward to seeing what we can achieve using biodynamic and organic techniques for getting the best quality fruit from our special terroir.
With regards to the lodge, I just love waking up each morning and looking at the mountains, and seeing our guests feel the same. I’ve got no ambition to be a millionaire, but seeing people enjoying the mountains and our wine is ambition achieved!
Members are invited to the Lodge with a 15% discount and free wine tasting.