Insider Profile: Gustavo Santaolalla

This Argentine-born Renaissance man produces terroir-driven Mendoza wines that are easy to fall in love with.

The trophy case at award-winning musician Gustavo Santaolalla’s home in Los Angeles is packed with hardware: back-to-back Oscars for scoring the films Brokeback Mountain and Babel, a pair of Grammys, a baker’s dozen worth of Latin Grammys and more.

The producer/composer/guitarist from Ciudad Jardín outside of Buenos Aires has produced several world-famous acts, including Juanes, the Colombian heartthrob. These days, Santaolalla, 63, is working with songwriter Paul Williams on the music for an upcoming stage version of Pan’s Labyrinth, the award-winning 2006 film by Guillermo del Toro.

Somehow, Santaolalla has found time to add the title of “vintner” to his résumé. In 2005, he followed through on a longtime desire to own his own winery. Along with guitarist Raúl “Tilín” Orozco, Santaolalla and his wife, Alejandra Palacios, bought a vineyard in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza.

The trio owns and operates Cielo y Tierra (Heaven and Earth), which spans about 50 acres in the Lunlunta subzone. The first commercial vintage of Cielo y Tierra wines came in 2010.

The winery currently produces just over 50,000 bottles annually, including three Malbecs and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines, named Celador, Don Juan Nahuel and Don Juan Nahuel Reserva, are sold in the U.S. by The Sorting Table.

The Cielo y Tierra vineyard is called La Luna, named after his 19-year-old daughter, Luna, who’s studying enology at UC Davis. The two Don Juan Nahuel wines honor his son, Don Juan, who they call D.J.

“From my twenties on, I had this romantic idea of someday owning a vineyard and making my own wine,” says Santaolalla. “With Cielo y Tierra, the goal was never to produce a celebrity wine, but something that people would drink, fall in love with, and only then want to know who was behind it.”

Santaolalla also works as an honorary ambassador for Wines of Argentina.

The Argentine has lived in the U.S. since the 1970s. “In Argentina, we have a saying: America is not a country, it’s a big continent, from Ushuaia up to Alaska, and we’re all Americans.”

Published on February 5, 2015
Topics: Argentina, Interviews
About the Author
Michael Schachner
Spanish and South American Editor

Reviews wines from Argentina, Chile and Spain.

Michael Schachner is a New York-based journalist specializing in wine, food and travel. His articles appear regularly in Wine Enthusiast, where he is a longstanding contributing editor responsible for South America and Spain. Schachner reviews more than 2,000 wines annually for WE and regularly travels to Chile, Argentina and Spain to keep abreast of the constantly changing global wine map. Email: mschachner@wineenthusiast.net.




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