The Tico company Copey Estate Winery managed after nine years to adapt its grape harvest to produce a wine of international level; as well as the collection of cape gooseberry to create the first liquor of that fruit called Golden Rush.
Its owners Niv Benyehuda and Karen Retana —who have commercial wine cellars located in Israel and California, United States— arrived in Costa Rica 12 years ago with the commitment to plant vineyards in Copey de Dota, 2,200 meters above the level of sea, according to experts, something out of the ordinary for wine production.
100% national differentiated product
However, their goal of creating a 100% national differentiated product to be placed in the local market and positioned abroad, kept them constantly working to reach the “point and quality” they expected. The goal with production is to first distribute in the national market and then export, specifically to the United States and Europe.
The vineyard, which opened its doors to the press on Friday, March 19, currently has a total of 25 hectares —20 of grapes and 5 of cape gooseberry— with a capacity to produce in its first stage (three years from now ) 100,000 bottles of both wine and gooseberry liqueur.
Currently in the case of wine, they have samples and first harvests (grape harvest) and are selling exclusively to customers and business partners, however they still do not have enough commercial capacity to place it on the national market.
With the Golden Rush – cape gooseberry liqueur – they do have a commercial production both for the domestic market and for export. The liquor is already on sale in supermarkets such as Fresh Market and in different restaurants and premium hotels in the country. The company generates 30 direct jobs, and its main objective is to support the economy of the Copey area and the country in general.
“The Dota area has a great tourism potential. We believe that the vineyard complements a coffee and wine experience in Costa Rica that can be very aggressive in tourism”, said Leandro Aldaburru, commercial partner and distributor of the wines in the country.
Long way ahead
Rolando Serrano, general manager of Copey Estate Winery, assured that Costa Rica is not a grape area, and that many of his collaborators did not even know a wine grape plant when they arrived in the country.
The entire learning and production process has involved three stages: agriculture; agribusiness to make wine in the country and the latter; show farmers in the Copey area what can be done beyond cattle ranching.
Serrano assured that the agricultural stage has already been overcome. It was the biggest and most difficult challenge they had for almost ten years. “It was a whole process of adaptation of the plant. The seed was brought from California the first time and grafted here, despite all the effort it did not give us the results we expected. It was another climate, another type of land”, said the manager.
“To see the results of the grape you have to wait at least three to four years, we waited and it was fatal. Little by little they taught us how to do it and gave us tools. The grape lasted more than nine years to reach the point we expected. The idea is not only to grow grapes, but to grow quality grapes to make a world-class wine”, he highlighted.
Benyehuda added that they now manage the Costa Rican rootstocks and do the grafts themselves. In other words, all the grape production plants are already Ticas. The second stage, which began in March 2020, was the production of wine. The company already has bottles of Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon among others, made in Costa Rica.
“Terroir” of Copey
“The idea with the grapes of international level, is that the grape corresponds to the strain of wine that is taken. In addition, we have the touch or plus of “terroir” of Copey”, said the owner.
However, the experts affirm that in the production issue there are still many adjustments to be made, such as wine maturation, how much to harvest, and the challenge of the climate, so that over the years the product “acquires more body”.
On the other hand, among the future plans they have projected to build a visitor center, so that people have the experience of doing the tour and tasting their wines. They are not yet open to the general public.
“Weed” turned into a “story in a bottle”
What was thought to be a “weed” turned into a “story in a bottle,” so recounted the owner of Copey Estate Winery, his authentic Golden Rush gooseberry liqueur. Benyehuda said that the cape gooseberry production process lasts six months and involves a double extraction: flavor and color plus the nutrients of the fruit.
In addition, it is harvested at the maximum point of maturation to deliver it fresh to the final consumer. As with wine, the main objective is the creation of a 100% national product and in terms of merchandise and distribution the process is similar: go to market locally and later internationally.
“The cape gooseberry liqueur is going to become an international liqueur that everyone will know. The idea is to put the name of Costa Rica on the global wine map. We are going to create jobs and make an effort to lift the country’s economy,” said Benyehuda.
During the activity with the press, and with the presence of international sommeliers, there was a tasting of red wine and Copey white wine, as well as the Golden Rush in different presentations, which were accompanied by different meals from producers in the Copey area, such as cheese, smoked trout, rib, among others.
The company sees itself in three years with a sufficient commercial production of both products to supply national and international chains, and to position the name of Costa Rica in the market as a country capable of producing quality wines and spirits.