A Quarter of a Century in Chile: A Vertical Tasting of Seña

What were you doing 25 years ago? A quarter of a century is a good chunk of anyone’s life, but time is always a matter of perspective. Whereas for some old-world producers 25 years can go by in the blink of an eye, in South America it represents an eternity. It’s hard to organize a vertical tasting that can adequately tell that story. But it is not impossible. In Europe, a vertical tasting that spans 25 years might tell the tale of a slowly evolving tradition, but down south it’s more likely to be an account of breakthroughs and landmarks. And that’s what makes it so fascinating. This summer, while I was compiling my Chile report, I had the opportunity to travel a quarter of a century into the past through a pair of iconic Chilean wines. Interestingly, both were created by the same man: Eduardo Chadwick. I say interestingly because people generally dedicate their lives to one overarching project; Chadwick has two. The vertical of Viñedo Chadwick will be featured in the coming weeks. A Nod to History Let’s start with Seña and slip into the back seat of a car travelling the roads of Chile in 1991. At the wheel is a young Eduardo Chadwick and next to him in the passenger seat is the veteran Robert Mondavi. As circumstance would have it, the Chadwick finds himself taking Mondavi on a tour of the vineyards of Aconcagua, Maipo and Colchagua, to offer an idea of the country’s potential. Or perhaps it had nothing to do with circumstance at all but is rather one of a series of moves calculated to implement a vision of how Chilean wine should be. That would make this trip the culmination of a plan. Either way, Chadwick and Mondavi are getting on well, enjoying the conversation and landscape, and as they move from vineyard to vineyard, they begin to plot an ambitious project: the creation of an iconic Chilean wine. It’s a watershed moment. During those years, Mondavi was beginning to see the fruit of his work with Opus One – a joint venture with the Rothschild family – and the dream of making iconic wines in the Americas was really becoming a reality. In the case of Seña, Chadwick was already a partner with substantial pedigree: the heir to Viña Errázuriz, whose family tree features several presidents and titans of business. Chadwick had his feet on the ground but his eyes firmly fixed on the horizon. And so Seña was born; a wine made for the first time in 1995 whose name means “sign” or “brand”. Or landmark. To achieve this, Tim Mondavi went to Chile to take the reins of an Errázuriz team that also included another Californian émigré: the young Ed Flaherty, who oversaw oenology. This first Seña offers a good idea of what was to come: grapes chosen from the Errázuriz vineyards, a base of Cabernet Sauvignon and just under a third of Carménère. Both varieties would be present in all the following blends, in different proportions. In 1998, Mondavi and Chadwick invested in a 42-hectare vineyard, named Ocoa in the Aconcagua Valley, a narrow northeast-facing valley between the Andes and the Chilean Coastal Range. Ocoa is influenced by both mountain climate systems, an ample thermal range from the former and a cool, dry breeze from the latter. Its soils are a mixture of alluvial and colluvial make-ups as well as deposits of volcanic ash. Across these different seams, they planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, while Malbec would follow a decade later. These varieties make up the core of Seña. And so, the Mondavi-Chadwick partnership set out apace, and the wine began its journey. But as is true of all stories, there were twists to come. At the turn of the century, Mondavi was acquired by Constellation. Chadwick decided to keep going on his own and purchased the Mondavi stake. Chadwick was so proud of his work and product that in January 2004 he hosted the Judgment of Berlin: a blind tasting of famous wines from the old world – 2000 Château Lafite-Rothschild, 2001 Château Margaux, 2000 Château Latour and 2000 Solaia – alongside 2001 Seña and 2000 Viñedo Chadwick, his other flagship wine. The results saw both come out on top; in second and first place respectively. -- Joaquín Hidalgo, A Quarter of a Century in Chile: A Vertical Tasting of Seña, August 2022 Read even more from Joaquín Hidalgo's article and check out images of Seña on Vinous now . Watch the recording from the Vinous Live! with Eduardo Chadwick of Seña hosted by Joaquín Hidalgo on our YouTube channel here . Below is a selection of wines featured in the report.

Seña

Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2004

I don’t like young Sena somehow. But this is great, no greeness at all and beautiful tertiary nose. Fully resolved tannin. — 10 months ago

Bob, Severn and 3 others liked this

Seña

Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2011

Vintage 2011 - wagonloads of cherries, confituren, chocolate, impressive rich smell, taste with tension, smooth taste, very long aftertaste #chili — 5 years ago

Stef, Wil and 12 others liked this
Berry Marinussen

Berry Marinussen

Chili.....9,3 😳
Peter van den Besselaar

Peter van den Besselaar Influencer Badge

@berrymarinussen Schitterende wijn

Seña

Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2013

Shay A
9.5

I got to have some of the '12 vintage about a month or two ago and it was my first time having Seña. I was so impressed that I went searching for whatever I could find. Local wine shop here stopped selling it. Then, to my lovely surprise, I see @Martin G Rivard enjoying a bottle a few weeks ago. He so graciously sent me some in exchange for some personal recommendations from me, and I'm so excited to say that the '13 is even better than the '12. This wine is absolutely fantastic. Everything from the nose, to the structure and body feels so well aligned. Medley berries on the nose, gorgeous texture, and the taste of plums, spice and small bit of cocoa just flat out works. Buy up what you can, but please tell me where you find it before it's all gone! Thank you again, Martin! I'm excited to get introduced to Beau Vigne on my trip to Napa in a few weeks after you sent over a bottle of their Chardonnay! — 6 years ago

Martin, Mike and 22 others liked this
Martin G Rivard

Martin G Rivard Influencer Badge

@Shay Aldriedge Hi Bud! I knew you would love the 13! Amazing vintage. In my Opinion., the best they've ever made! 👏🍷🍷👏
Shay A

Shay A Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Martin G Rivard : You are so right. This is such a treat to enjoy!
David L

David L Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Shay Aldriedge @Martin G Rivard Santa comes through again. Shay - Nice notes!

Seña

Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2015

David T
9.5

While the 09 showed better than the 15, it’s not a fair race. The 15 has gorgeous fruit and amazing acidity. You would only need a time machine to take a 2015 about eight years into the future and bring it back to make the fair comparison. 2015 was a phenomenal year in Aconcagua. The fruit, tannins and acidity day it will surpass the 09 in time.

On the nose; dark currants, dark chocolate, ripe; blackberries, black raspberries, black plum, plums and strawberries on the edges, light cinnamon, clove, vanilla, dark semi-sweet moist soils, soft leather, elegant Asian spice, mocha, touch of caramel, dark roses & flowers and soft violets.

The body starts lean and moves to full. The tannins are young but not overpowering. It’s still very fresh and showing more ripe elegant fruit than the 09. Ripe, fresh; blackberries, black raspberries, black plum, plum, raspberries & strawberries on the edges. Light cinnamon, clove, vanilla, dark semi-sweet moist soils, soft leather, elegant Asian spice, mocha, touch of caramel, dark roses & flowers and understated violets. Waterfall acidity. The long, finish is more ripe fruit driven but less complex at this point than the 09. But, it’s not a fair race with less time in the bottle. 95 now but will improve further with another 5-8 years in bottle.

Photos of; another aspect of their Estate vineyard as shot from their hillside terrace. The organic garden they planted to grow flowers, herbs etc. to use in the vineyard to treat the soil and vines. A photo of the last time Robert Mondavi was at Seña with Owner Eduardo Chadwick. Their friendship located and set the creation of this property in motion. Their Estate vines framed in the background by the Andes Mountains.

— 4 years ago

Sofia, Eric and 16 others liked this
Sofia Jalilie

Sofia Jalilie

I agree with David- the views from this Viña were breathtaking. Diego, the export manager, showed us around and provided the history of how the winery came to be. From the beginning, Mr Chadwick meticulously planted this vineyard with great respect for the native vegetation. You can see that the rows are not always straight, they were made to compliment the setting. They also kept all the rocks that were dug up to create a retaining wall. The wines were stellar.

Seña

Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2009

David T
9.4

This was one of the best visits we had. It was also the most beautiful. The best in Chile and right in there with the very best sites we’ve seen in all our wine region visits.

They have their wine program dialed in and do everything right. All their practices are organic/biodynamic. They also control every aspect of them start to finish. There is no money spared or practices skimped on.

On the nose; dark currants, smoldering ambers, elegant spice, incense, cinnamon, light clove, vanilla, blackberries, black raspberries, black plum, plum, dark cherries, some black licorice, elegant minerals, soft loamy soil and fresh dark floral with violets.

The body is beautiful and full. The tannins are velvety, round and just a touch sticky. The structure, length, tension and balance are excellent. Dark currants, smoldering ambers, elegant spice, incense, cinnamon, light clove, vanilla, ripe; blackberries, black raspberries, black plum, plum, dark cherries and strawberries on the edges. Some black licorice, elegant minerals, tobacco, beautiful medium spice, underbrush, used leather, crushed rocks, soft loamy soil and fresh dark floral with violets. Beautiful round acidy. The long, elegant, ripe, beautifully balanced finish is lovely and goes on for minutes.

The Photos don’t even come close to how beautiful their property and view are. It would have helped if the fog had not be in. It’s a stunning view. Photos of; their Estate vines as seen from their hillside hosting terrace. Eduardo who handles all their vineyard practices and set up their biodynamic program. He is an amazing person to talk vineyard management..,not to mention a very nice and salt of the earth person. Examples of all the different organic products they make and use in the vineyard to keep it and the echo system in perfect balance. Last but not least, the beautiful Andes Mountains as again seen from their hillside terrace.
— 4 years ago

Shay, Kimberly and 14 others liked this
Shay A

Shay A Influencer Badge Premium Badge

Loved the ‘12 and ‘13 vintage of this!

Seña

Aconcagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2006

Dried ripe red cherry, red currants, plums, strawberry compote underlayed by a lovely savoury and slightly herbal character- iodine, leather. The alcohol is present but seems to lift the flavours. This is delicious and shows a beautiful evolution. — 6 years ago

Rob liked this