ORANJESTAD – Recently, Aruba Today had the pleasure of joining a tour of the Alto Vista Winery, an immersive experience including a walk in nature, lots of behind-the-scenes information, idyllic scenery and rum and wine tasting.
The winery is situated on a hill close to the Alto Vista chapel, from which it got its name. The scenery is romantic, peaceful and visually stunning, and the size of the vineyard is almost hard to correlate to what is usually associated with Aruba. Here, wine is made from grape to bottle.
The tour starts with a walk in nature, where you can appreciate the original terrain on which the winery is built, as well as a beautiful view of the mondi – Aruba’s wilderness. Taking this into consideration, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to navigate a mildly rocky terrain with some spiky plants.
Afterwards we saw the vineyard with plants at different stages of growth. The newest grapes were minuscule, and the red grapes had yet to achieve their final color. Following the path through the vineyard we arrived at the sugar cane plantation for the distillation of the Red Star Rum. The red star is a reference to the Aruban flag. We went in the afternoon as the sun was setting and the tranquil atmosphere and the warm colors of the sunshine made the plantation look like something of a postcard.
The Alto Vista Winery has been making win since 2019, but only recently began opening their doors for visitors to take a tour. The winery is owned by David Kock and it’s a true family business. During the tour we met his son, who walked us through the vineyard, where they grow four different varieties of grapes. He explained the challenges of growing grapes in Aruba and how they overcame them, and he was very knowledgeable, easily fielding questions from amateurs and connoisseurs alike.
We were shown the distillery and got to sample a Strea, which is a deliciously refreshing rum cocktail to cool down after our walk in the sun.
Our tour was interrupted for a moment as there were some playful, small, chubby puppies that came up to the children in the group. With delight, everyone took a moment to play with the puppies, before our tour guide gently directed us to the next part: the wine tasting.
Here we sampled the four wines made by Alto Vista Winery: French Columbard, Chenin Blanc, Orange Columbard/Chenin blend, Tempranillo and Syrah, each accompanied by a select cheese. The Orange Columnbard/Chenin blend was a surprise and the favorite in our group, and the sommelier – whose son led the rum sampling – explained that it is made in a special way using the peel of the grape. It is said that wine originating from Aruba has a “salty tinge”, as some wine in the region does, infused with the essence of the sea, something that makes the flavor unique.
Aruba Today spoke with David Kock, owner of Alto Vista Winery. He told us the idea for Alto Vista Winery actually started with the distillery. However, a special permit was necessary for a distillery, and the process for this permit took a very long time. As they were waiting for the permit, David saw in a newspaper that there was a project in Curaçao to cultivate grapes in order to make wine. “But the reason it was in the news was because it was closing, because they got problems with the airport – this because they had it right beside the airport.” And the airport was concerned that the vineyard attracts birds that can have a negative impact on the airplanes, so they had to shut down. David approached them – and as he is a lawyer, they thought he was interested in taking the case. But instead, he convinced them to use their knowledge to come help them set up in Aruba – that was five years ago.
It takes years for the grape plants to grow and produce the right fruit.
Covid also brought challenges. David says that he needs people to come from abroad to help because Aruba is lacking in expertise. People come from either the Netherlands or as students from Mendoza, Argentina, to help in the winery. However, during the pandemic there were no flights to bring people, and during this year, David had to take care of the entire production. “The entire thing is an adventure!”
Years passed and the grapes yielded, the wine fermented, and now it is time to begin seeing the fruits of their investments. Thus the winery is open for visits!
To experience the tour, or to order a bottle of rum or wine, you can visit their website https://www.altovistawinery.com/.