Building beauty, ecology and profitability, one farm at a time.

learning from our weeds

learning from our weeds 559 397 vidacycle

We have learnt that a great way to learn more about the land is to understand what grows naturally on it. Weeds are an important part of this – so we did a little survey of all the weeds growing out in the olive groves to try and get a further glimpse into the plentiful world of the soils below. We have tried to identify as many of them as possible but there are still quite a few we haven’t identified yet. If you know any of them then please let us know!

Haplopappus illinitus

Haplopappus illinitus

Cirsium vulgare (Cardo negro) Spear thistle/Bull thistle?


Convolvulus demissus () or Ipomoea purpurea (Gloria de la mañana)


Plantago lanceolata (Llantén / Llantén menor) Buckthorn plantain (also here)


Taraxacum officinale (Diente de león / Lechuguilla) Dandelion


potentially Lupinus polyphyllus


Dipsacus sativus (L.) Honck.   Carda , Cardilla


Madia chilensis (Nutt.) Reiche



Oenothera mollissima L


and the rest we haven’t figured out yet…


















agraz harvest 2016

agraz harvest 2016 559 397 vidacycle

It’s El Niño year and so weather has been quite unusual. All the flowers and fruits are about two weeks later so the grapes really didn’t have much juice in them until end of January. El Nino antics also meant that we only had half as many grapes as last year – there was a late frost in October just after the vines flowered and many of the potential fruits were killed.

It took all of us one morning to thin all the low-lying and ‘extra’ grapes whilst they were still very green. Of course we don’t just leave the grapes, we use the green grapes for our Agraz. It took us 2 long days in total to get all the agraz made form this point…the process goes like this:

grapes to the bodega


buckets into the crusher and then the basket press…once it’s full we start pressing….


we had enough grapes to press 3 times, so in between we clean the press…


juice is poured through gauze into the tank and bottles filled from the tank


lightly heated using hot water from the solar panel (to prevent any fermentation if there are small amounts of sugar)


cooled and corked


cleaned and then labelled and dated


and then boxed – definitely the worst job because of that troublesome tape!

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finally the cleaning of all the equipment begins…


Gillmore Winery

Gillmore Winery 559 397 vidacycle

Just over 20 years ago Daniella Gillmore started out on a long journey, to create a family boutique winery with fruitful vineyards in the Loncomilla Valley, Maule. A place where people can come, discover their wines, and learn about the heritage and history of the valley. Where drinking wine is about nurturing the soul and connecting to the land and its people.


The first 10 years were spent caring for the vines and their granite soils, building beautiful accommodation and a dining room for guests to soak up the local flavours and have somewhere to stay. They cultivated 20 acres of vineyards, all dry farmed – just the rainwater giving the grapes their flavour. This region is perfect for vines to flourish with almost no intervention, the low-yielding vines are over 80 years old so bring out the distinct soulful flavours of the land.

The next 10 years were about perfecting their wines and to understand what they want to show the world about the Maule…Daniella is married to winemaker Andres Sanchez, so once she perfects the grapes in the vineyard he ensures the wines have the character and soul of the region. In their words this is ‘handcrafted work on a human scale’.


All was going well with their Cabernet Franc winning multiple awards and all their other wines rated very highly by critics around the world…however on 27th Feb 2010 03.34 AM the earth started shaking violently… It was the 5th largest earthquake ever recorded at 8.8 on the richter scale with the epicentre just 80km away from their farm. Thankfully everyone on the farm was ok but the wine cellar and many of the buildings were devastated. This was a real blow to a small family farm like the Gillmore’s, they had to rebuild a lot of what they had created just 10 years earlier and a lot of the wine was lost.

Daniella and Andres were not defeated, they love their family farm, the opportunity to make wines with soul and to share the wonderful quality of life the Maule Region offers. Their wines continue to win many more awards, they have their own beer called Kuhla beer, sold internationally and their wine is accessible globally through Naked Wines and other distribution channels. Daniella says the next 10 year is about sharing their joy of life with more people around the globe, so they invite you to come visit and experience this special place on earth, or you can buy a bottle to taste the soul. You can find out more about Gillmore winery here.


Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 2

Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 2 559 397 vidacycle

This follows on from part 1.


Jeremy and Joy were the chefs, first up was Joy’s blanched chard and rhubarb toast, with olive oil and agraz dressing, along with the tarragon and radicchio salad with the most amazing olive oil, agraz and shallots dressing.


The beauty of the agraz in dressings is that unlike lemon juice and vinegar it brings a very refreshing balance without overpowering the flavours of the food itself, it seems to highlight and accentuate just how fresh and tasty the olive oil, lettuce, chard and rhubarb are. The TINTE wine also goes perfectly with this, which makes sense because it’s made from exactly the same vines, just the grapes are now fully ripe and full of sugar – the two flavours are in sync with each other.


For our main course Jeremy made a mushroom porridge, with chanterelles and black trumpets hidden under a charred red cabbage leaf. Plus little purple carrots with a milky white herb dip.
For the porridge, the spelt was toasted for a few minutes in olive oil and then cooked in water and the short grain brown rice soaked over night in water to soften it up. Both the wine and agraz were added to the rice and spelt as they were cooked to highlight and deepen the flavours.
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The agraz was also used in the beurre blanc which made the porridge ‘creamy’ – unbelievably delicious! We served another Chilean natural wine with this course because we prefer TINTE 2014 before or after dinner.


Finally for dessert we has almond cake with almond milk jelly, TINTE jelly and a cashew butterscotch sauce. Thanks to The Pressery girls for giving us 1L of their raw almond milk which Jeremy jellyfied with gelatine . The TINTE jelly was a real hit, the rich flavours worked perfectly in a more solid format.


Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 1

Vidacycle Taster Dinner part 1 559 397 vidacycle


One of the interesting things about creating products that are either particularly unique or not well-known by people is that they there is no language set out to describe them. Even the rich orange-pink colour of the wine is complex to convey. Tinte also has a wealth of flavour not found in many more conventional wines as we have stuck to the completely natural process – the farming and care of the vines and the soil determines the flavours, not the addition of yeast and sulphites starting and stopping the fermentation at will. This is natural wine at its best – unpredictable, flavourful and refreshing.


The other product produced from our 100 year old vines is agraz (or verjus) a little-known waste-product of wine-making. It’s made in early Summer when the vines are thinned and all the lower hanging green grapes removed. These green grapes are sugarless and produce an extremely bitter but fresh grape juice that is used instead of lemon or vinegar to balance sauces, drinks and dressings.


So we invited round some of our friends who have supported us along the way in making these products to drink the wine and eat food prepared with our agraz, olive oil and TINTE and see what words they used, and what flavours they liked.

Jeremy and Joy were the chefs…read more in part 2.


Why does TINTE taste like that?

Why does TINTE taste like that? 1417 1890 vidacycle

TINTE (natural wine)
We have found TINTE is best drunk chilled before or after dinner. It can also be a nice accompaniment with salads or spicy food…but everyone’s tastes are different so experiment for yourself.
We started making wine in 2013, the first batch had a few quirks but thanks to some great advise from the local Maule young winemakers club we were able to develop techniques that allow the grape and lands to be fully expressed in TINTE.

This is the beauty of natural wines, they have an integrity to the grape and the land, rich nutritious soils and warm air create an exciting flavourful wine. This also means each year will be a new experience, a new wine. Enjoy!

Why TINTE tastes like it does:
Our 100 year old Pais vines are dry farmed (we never water them) and soak up the strong sun and elements in Chile, which ensures the strong unique flavours of the grapes.
Our small farm is certified organic but our approach is beyond organic,we practise something closer to natural agriculture and don’t do anything to the vines other than gently prune them and thin them in early Summer (to make the agraz).
When the grapes have turned red we hand-harvest them, press them and store the juice in a mixture of small steel tanks and old oak barrels. The unique pinky orange colour of our wine is formed at this point because we don’t add back in the red skins for the fermentation. The natural yeast on the grapes starts the fermentation and we allow the grapes to ferment fully over about 12 months in one long cycle. This is truly a natural wine, no artificial yeast or sulphates are use to start/stop the fermentation process…the grapes are in charge.

verjus, vinegar and lemon juice

verjus, vinegar and lemon juice 559 397 vidacycle


When I was thinking about what to make for the tasting dinner I was drawn to look at Alice Water’s book ‘The Art to Simple Food II’, after flicking through the pages to glance at inspiring recipes, verjus jumped out at me in a range of recipes, from dessert all the way to drinks! There were also several of Alice’s recipes that use lemon juice and champagne vinegar – both of these can be substituted with verjus. It was interesting she often coupled it with rhubarb, and I had rhubarb and chard growing in the back gardens so I went for the rhubarb and chard crostini plus the other recipe I liked was the crab salad with tarragon and chicory. Both went down really well and the flavours of our agraz and olive oil really sang through to create a fresh flavour combo! Next time I’m going to try the salad with Manchego cheese instead for a good vegetarian alternative.





Farmers Chile – Truffles

Farmers Chile – Truffles 559 397 vidacycle

Our neighbour Ander has worked closely with his uncle to start importing Chilean Truffle mushrooms into North America. In fact his company Farmers Chile are the first people to ever import Chilean Truffles – an exciting new opportunity for Chile .

Watch this video to find out more:

Chilean Truffles First Import in History from Ander del Rio Naiz on Vimeo.

You can also read more about Ander’s blueberry exports here.

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flavours of changing seasons

flavours of changing seasons 559 397 vidacycle


We shared our olive oil, agraz and the Tinte wine with our friend Jeremy, a young chef who has done stints at Noma and Dinner both 2 Michelin Star destinations, and is now opening up his own restaurant Ikoyi. He is amazingly creative with flavours and has heard lots about Fundo Meza for many years…so he is the perfect person to explore different dishes using our ingredients. Joy Rose, part of the vidacycle team and culinary crafter, also made some simpler and super delicious concoctions for starters and a salad. Our friend Claudia also took all these great photos.


Jeremy made crisped chicken thigh, with agraz brown butter emulsion, and cashew tahini in a cabbage taco and a ‘grapes through the seasons’ dessert, both were indescribably good. We all just sat there in silence for a few minutes, stunned and humbled by the wonderful flavours. The whole evening brought out the power of good quality food and the wholehearted wonder in feeling connected to the land.

You can hear more about Joy’s recipes and thoughts here. Jeremy also talked us through the way he approached each dish…


Grapes through the seasons – cold pear in agraz syrup and hot pear in Tinte wine caramel with thyme crumble (butter and ground almonds toasted with fresh thyme leaves and salt)

The inspiration for the pear dish is the change of seasons, the evolution of the grapes from unripe, tangy and sharp, to sweet, rich and fermented. The hot and cold elements, the chilled verjus (agraz) pears set against the warm pears stewed in mulled Tinte wine caramel is intended to bring out dominant flavours for the two seasons- refreshing, zingy and cool, versus spiced and warming. The thyme crumble gives the dish some crunch, the slight salinity brings out all the other sweetness, and the fresh thyme cuts through everything subtly, cooling it all down and giving the dish a unique hint of savoury.


Crisped chicken thigh, with agraz brown butter emulsion, and cashew tahini in a cabbage taco

The chicken dish was just for fun, to taste like a taco but with the complex richness of the agraz brown butter emulsion. I liked the idea of “hiding” everything inside the translucent cabbage leaf. You bite into it and underneath there are all these flavours: the rice roasted cashew tahini, the crispy chicken skin and juicy meat, and then the mildly acidic but butterscotch flavour of the sauce, with some sharpness from the capers and fragrance from the fresh parsley. It’s a complete dish and well balanced, also looks pretty cool.


Jeremy also created this recipe with our Agraz.

Farmer’s Friend

Farmer’s Friend 559 397 vidacycle

Farmer’s Friend is an export company that champions the farmer, started by our neighbours Ander and his mom Helena. They recognise that the farmer should be respected and paid a fair price – they are farmers themselves after all. Farmer’s Friend is there to be in service to the farmers, so that at the end of every season everyone wins. It makes so much sense, a grower can’t just make enough money to get by…in a season they need to make enough money for a good living but also enough for them to reinvest in their farm for the year ahead, otherwise they won’t be able to survive in the long run.


Helena has been working hard for years to get her small blueberry farm off the ground. They have planted multiple different varieties, early ripening, late ripening they nurtured their soils and they started to produce enough blueberries to export to the U.S. As more and more blueberry bushes matured and flourished, they had more blueberries to export, but they were never making any more profit. That didn’t add up – all their hard work to create the perfect environment for lots of blueberries and there was hardly enough to pay themselves, never mind money to re-invest in the farm.

So Helena and her son Ander went to the packing house and asked if they knew where the money was disappearing to. After some investigation it became clear that the exporting agent was adding in lots of hidden costs, taking all the extra profits for themselves. Packaging that was double the size, was double the price for the farmer, yet it actually cost the export company marginally more than the smaller packaging to provide – they were ripping Helena off. Ander couldn’t find better options out there so he decided to setup his own export company in conjunction with his mom – and so Farmer’s Friend was born.

One of their first few customers, Eduardo is a perfect example of why Farmer’s Friend is such an important contribution to the farming community here. Eduardo produced 100 tonnes of fruit in a season and gave it to the export company A.F., to pack, sell and export it. A.F. made plenty of profit from that, but somehow he ended up owing them money at the end of that season. It just didn’t make sense, how could he have given them 100 tonnes of blueberries and ended up having to pay them money, no profit at all, just negative numbers. This was devastating, he thought he was going to have to sell his farm just to pay off the money.

Luckily he was local to Ander and heard about Farmer’s Friend, they helped Eduardo get the loan he needed confident they could help his farm recover. After 2 seasons with Farmer’s Friend Eduardo is now free and clear, he paid A.F. what they needed, he didn’t have to sell his farm and now he earns a good living with a bit extra, so he can continue to invest in his farm to ensure it prospers for many years to come.

Farmer’s Friend now work with 25 smaller-scale blueberry farms in the region and provide support to all their growers 12 months a year…such a simple recipe – respect each other and everyone prospers. This year they will be exporting 1200-1400 tonnes of blueberries and have started to look into exporting other farm produce as well. Find out more here.

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