I like seeing that first facial gesture on people. That first gesture is honest without lies or compliments. It’s when you know if they like it or not without saying a word.
Sergio Avendaño + Trabun Wines
Creator: Sergio Avendaño
Location: Requinoa, Chile
Words of Wisdom – Be honest with yourself. Do what you think is right and what you believe in. Don’t do it because of the money or fame. Don’t look things as just a business. Live every process and consider them as part of your life. Go step-by-step, get fully involved, learn, study and accept all the critics.
Several months back I was speaking to a close friend of mine from Chile who’s currently a top consultant here in the States. As we talked about Hustle & Deal Flow™, he asked me if I had heard of Trabun wines, a vineyard located in the Chilean city of Requinoa, approximately 100km south from Santiago.
I hadn’t heard about it, so my friend began to relay the story of his good friend Sergio Avendaño, winemaker and vineyard owner.
As I listened, I got that typical sensation I get when I know I want to interview someone.
Musician, winemaker, world traveler and seeker of higher education, both experiential and institutional, Sergio’s story is fascinating to me because he didn’t just start a winery for the sake of wanting to start a winery.
He first learned his craft by traveling to other parts of the world to become more educated on both the process and the industry. Not only did Sergio work for various vineyards, he often used that work to pay for his next trip to other vineyards, and so his journey began.
“The idea was to learn as much as I could to really understand wine. Not just wine itself, but the worldwide concept. I became a flying winemaker working in one place to pay for the ticket to get to the next destination.”
Aside from being a winemaker, Sergio also surprised me with his love of music, which compliments his talent for winemaking.
“In many ways both are artistic expressions that share the same language to describe a sensation: intense, light, heavy, persistent, complex, structure, and even commercial.”
Photo by Francisca Montero
While one talent is birthed from his passion for understanding the process of winemaking, the other serves as his outlet for a peaceful escape. Both he appears to be really good at.
During the interview with Sergio I learned about his experiences to go learn from the greats in winemaking all over the world, the similarities between making music and making wine, his love for the harvest and what it means to carry out a vision of something you start on your own. Here’s what Sergio had to say:
HDF: Sergio, thanks for doing this interview with me. I was researching your past and it’s pretty amazing. Before we get into that, can we start with a little bit more about where you’re from (Hometown and Current City)? What do you love about either?
Both places are different and I love them equally. Each in its own particular way.
Santiago is a big place. There are over 7MM people, but I love being ‘part of a whole’ with that city – presenting wine or playing at a local bar. There everything is fast and that keeps you awake, active and moving.
On the other hand, Requinoa is 27.000 people. Everybody knows you and time seems to pass much slower. There’s no hurry, which is just perfect to create and think.
HDF: So what led up to Trabun? Can you tell me a little bit more about your backstory and what you were doing before being a winemaker extraordinaire? (laughter)
Sergio: Yeah, after finishing University, I spent two years travelling and working, jumping between wine countries and regions (U.S.A, South Africa, New Zealand, France and Chile).
The idea was to learn as much as I could to really understand wine. Not just wine itself, but the worldwide concept. I became a flying winemaker working in one place to pay for the ticket to get to the next destination. I always knew that I wanted my own thing so I preferred to see as many realities as possible and meet other winemakers rather than taking a winemaker position in Chile.
After that I became totally in love with wine and all that’s involved in the process.
HDF: And I also see you’re heavily influenced by music, which I think is awesome! Were you always into both wine and music?
Sergio: I was, but first was music. I still remember when I was a child, my parents stereo was playing 24/7 nonstop. Everyone in my family, everyone, plays an instrument or sings as a hobby. For me, it was the drums since I was 13. I’ve played in several bands during my life and I will always keep playing.
HDF: I can relate. Often one passion drives another. How appropriate that wine and music come together in your world. So then, how did Trabun come around? You can tell me as much as you’d like.
Sergio: Well, I wasn’t necessarily passing through my best years at this point. I was back in Chile living in Requinoa and I got a position in a winery. The job was NOT what I expected compared to what I had just lived around the world. There was too much paper work, budgets, no time to check the vineyards or going to the cellar. I literally saw no passion for the work, just business. I thought
“This is the industry????!!!!!”
This is probably true and the same in a lot of places, but this wasn’t my idea of winemaking. I became frustrated. Probably also due to long hours of late tastings I had to quit the band I was playing in. That was tough because playing in a band was my “exhaust outlet!!”
That was when I decided to become an independent and start a label from scratch on my own terms, involving both of my passions – Wine and Music.
The plan was to keep it small (for Chile) and little by little transform our family estate with apples, almonds and peaches into vineyards. Ten years after the plan was created, it’s still in motion with 22 hectares planted and 8 more on the way.
After our first 2 years, our Syrah Blend was born, but a name was needed. I chose ‘Trabun’, which means ‘Place of Encounter or Gathering Point’ in the native language Mapudungun in honor of that land where my to passions met again.
HDF: It’s interesting to see that your story is like a lot of individuals who attempt to work for other companies or organizations, only to see that they would do it differently if they had the chance. You clearly decided to do the same.
I love the fact that you’re constantly speaking on Music and Winemaking, as if it’s closely intertwined. The fact that you took two very passionate activities and molded them into your life is extraordinary. Do you find that they compliment each other?
Sergio: Absolutely! And in many ways both are artistic expressions that share the same language to describe a sensation: intense, light, heavy, persistent, complex, structure, and even commercial.
So, if you can describe a song or an artist, then you for sure can describe a wine regardless of the style. Even more, you can pair a song with a wine.
Now going in a little deeper with the two – In Trabun each vintage must be the reflection of an experience (good or bad) within a particular stage of time and in conjunction with the appropriate elements and influences to the process.
At times you will also find yourself revisiting the process to fine tune those experiences. And no matter what you do, you must never lose the essence that defines you or what you’re building in the first place.
The same can be held true to your music album or your career in a band. You must experiment and grow with it, but never forget why you started it in the first place. And ever so often, you must revisit the basics.
In that way I think you show the consistency of your work through time. Whether it’s music or winemaking.
HDF: So, basically both passions require similar processes?
Sergio: Let me show you some similarities to growth in winemaking and to music using Trabun Syrah and my band as an example. Especially since the two are so close to my heart.
2008: First wine, made with not too many resources. Equate this to recording on tape in your mom’s garage. Maybe include some sound defaults. (laughter)
2009: Wanted to show the “true colors” of Syrah, so we started upping the game with our techniques. Concurrently, we played harder without any ornaments to start making a difference in our music.
2010: Became technical. We fine-tuned our winemaking process and we fine-tuned the instruments by going into a studio. Now, let’s go live and global with both.
2011: Same technic, but consult with a producer. We got serious, added a few extra riffs, and received a nomination. Same can be held true by getting extra advice on our winemaking.
2012: Back to basis. Let’s look out how far we’ve come and start something fresh. Lets do something unplugged.
In the end, we always expect changes to what we’re building and you will always know it’s Trabun or our band, the Lesser Apes.
The Lesser Apes
Photo by Francisca Montero
HDF: Lots of similarities. Staying on winemaking, what’s your favorite part about it?
Sergio: Hmmm, I have two in particular.
1.) The harvest. In essence, turning it into our wine. It’s that time of the year when everything else can wait. It’s funny, I always say,
“Goodbye, see you in two months, its harvest time”.
Only winemakers know that feeling. It’s like going away to a retreat camp. You feel exited, stressed, tired, nervous, focused, and sometimes angry, but at the same time happy. No matter what though, it feels great at the end of the day. I love that feeling.
2.) When I’m presenting a wine and you see that first facial gesture on people. That first gesture is honest without lies or compliments. It’s when you know if they like it or not without saying a word.
HDF: So then what’s the best part about creating your music?
Sergio: Nowadays I’m playing with The Lesser Apes. Essentially, we started out rocking back in 2010. We are just 4 self-made musicians using music as an escape mechanism and a way of keeping those early years still alive without the “so-called responsibilities.”
We’re Indie Rock and compose our own material while incorporating all of our different tastes in music.
We have a background in 70’s rock, Grunge, post Rock, Hip Hop and even Nu-metal . . . Most of the time no two songs will sound the same.
When composing, as with every band, we don’t always agree, and sometimes we just want to go at each other. Of course, this kind of heat sometimes gets the best of us. What can I say, that’s Rock n Roll.
We are hoping that this year we can get our first full album out. It’s going to be hard considering we have other jobs that pay the bills, but we are going to give it our best shot.
Keep up with the Apes this 2015
Photo by Francisca Montero
Photo by Francisca Montero
Photo by Francisca Montero
HDF: I will! What’s the best advice you can give someone just starting out as a winemaker or vineyard owner? How about just starting in music? Or really anything for that matter?
Sergio: Be honest with yourself. Do what you think is right and what you believe in. Don’t do it because of the money or fame. Don’t look things as just a business. Live every process and consider them as part of your life. Go step-by-step, get fully involved, learn, study and accept all the critics.
HDF: You hit all of those points exactly on the head. Especially the part about living every process and considering them part of your life. I think you have to create routine to what you’re building and go from there.
Have there been any obstacles along the way, either at an earlier age or something more recent that has taught you valuable lessons?
Sergio: : Yes, never go on holidays while there still are green leaves on the vines. (Laughter) – Seriously, you leave and just a week can make all the difference. For everything else, don’t stress, there is a solution.
HDF: Good to know. (Laughter). So, how do you describe Trabun as a brand, or even it’s brand essence?
Sergio: The essence is to respect the fruit character of Requinoa at the Cachapoal Valley, and elaborate honest wines’ faithful expression of the vineyard, as well as the people who work in it.
We are passionate, but also very technical. It is not about image making but winemaking.
Finally, it is to see wine as a way of living and to enjoy the ride. It’s not to see it as just a multinational business. I’m going to make wine as much as I can, and for the right reasons.
HDF: That’s pretty powerful! And has social media or the Internet played an important role in the building of Trabun? I always ask this cause we truly are living in a digital world.
Sergio: It’s been very important. In my case at the vineyard level, growth is little by little so is essential to show what’s new or what’s happening online. I want people to feel close to what I’m doing and make them part of it. Nowadays you can do it in real time online showing how an idea grows. For sure I will continue keep using social media and the Internet.
HDF: If you could meet any winemaker or vineyard owner throughout all of history, current or past, who would it be and why?
Sergio: Hmm, great question. I have always wondered about how wine was made in past and what it tasted like. When I say the past, I mean I would probably go for an ancient winemaker from the de Caucasus era where the first vines were discovered.
That would be an amazing tasting . . .
HDF: So two very different experiences? (Laughter)
Sergio: Yeah. (Laughter)
HDF: Anything else you’d like to share?
Sergio: Actually yes!!!! You can find our wines in NYC, Washington and Chicago, so if you see them give them a try. Remember this article. Also, check for the music sheet with two notes on the label.
HDF: Nice!!! Thanks Sergio for doing this! Your story is awesome!