Richard Siddle, Chilean adventures: winery opening Errazuriz style
When I was first told that as part of the Errazuriz Don Maximiano winery opening event in Chile I would be expected to wear a dinner suit for the gala dinner, the prospect of lugging the full paraphernalia half way round the world did not flll me with excitement.
I was even less excited when on the day of the dinner the Aconcagua valley was enjoying one of its hottest days of the Chilean summer. But all such negative thoughts were cast aside as soon as we descended off the Errazuriz bus convoy and entered the revamped Don Maximiano winery and caught sight of the new icon winery extension for the first time.
Situated in the bowl of the valley and surrounded by imposing mountains the Don Maximiano winery is pretty memorable at the best of times. It is also oh so familiar as the winery is emblazoned across all of Errazuriz's estate wines.
Seeing the winery for real for the first time was even more strange experience as I had Errazuriz wines at my wedding way back in 1995 - a Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc if my memory serves me right. It was a trip down memory lane I had not anticipated taking.
The icon winery itself is clearly a labour of love for Eduardo Chadwick and his team. At first sight it looked like it had been scooped up from the Guggenheim museum in New York with similar curves and architectural touches.
As we gathered in the evening sun, refreshed by thimble full servings of Sauvignon Blanc, we looked like a 100 plus penguins that had somehow taken a wrong turn on the way to the Antarctic.
Group by group we were invited to take a tour of the new wonderfully hi-tech and laid out winery. Spread across a series of floors, this is the kind of winery where a grape is fed through the system without seeing the light of day, passed by gravity from the entrance hall at the top of the winery, through the presses, and tanks that sit below floor by floor down to the barrels in the basement.
If the recently resurrected MGM film studios are looking for a setting for the denouement of the next James Bond movie they should give Mr Chadwick a call.
The winery is even surrounded by Bond villain-like moat ideal for housing a shark or shoal or two of piranhas.
As evening turned to night, then the fun part of the event began. After the warm reception of Eduardo and Felipe De La Jara we were then invited to huddle around the steps leading up to the imposing winery in front of us.
Suddenly, and seemingly without warning, the blocks of stone that make up the outside wall of the winery apparently started to move and shift around like a mammoth Jenga game.
In a flash they were gone replaced by a projection of space, the earth and then an almighty montage of Chilean landscapes, vineyards, grapes, mountains, streams - you name it. I half expected David Attenborough to appear and find ourselves in the middle of an episode of Planet Earth.
Then, as if that was not enough, a figure appeared dressed like some sort of condor on the edge of the winery roof, followed by a series of equally over and under-dressed dancers who came abseiling down from the roof and started flying acrobatically across the place.
For the next 10 minutes or so we all stood like children open mouthed on Bonfire Night, captivated by what was being played out in front of us.
I doubt we will put on a better show for the opening of London 2012.
With all our senses blown away we were then invited back into the winery which had been transformed into an enormous banqueting hall, with the added touch of enormous video screens that again took us to the other side of space and the planet with a series of amazing film projections.
And then it was finally time to eat surrounded by the vines and the backdrop of the Aconcagua mountain range.
By this time I could have been wearing a pink tutu and feather boa, never mind an ill-fitting dinner suit and I would not have minded a jot.
If the wines that Eduardo and his team make at the new winery are even half as good as the show they put on in opening it then sign me up.
* Bit of a drama last night as we were pulled off our flight to Mendoza due to mad rain and wind making it too dangerous to fly over the Andes. So not too disappointed to disembark considering the potential outcome if we had given it a go.
But bumped into Lyndsay Talas and buying team at Thierry's on the plane and ended up hooking up with them for an impromptu extra night in Santiago.
Finally hope to get to Argentina later today, weather permitting!