This journey started with Mountainfilm in Telluride, and ended with wedding bells in Santiago, Chile, punctuated by an earthquake that had less to do with the seismic connection between the bride and groom and more to do with frustrated planet shaking its fist at recalcitrant man. Joining us at the nuptials were Damon and Sam Demas. (Lanie was scheduled to be in Turkey with the Telluride Academy’s Mudd Butts).
What follows answers the opening question in the affirmative.
In 2004 the then director of Mountainfilm, Rick Silverman, made a request: knowing Clint and I were headed for Italy for that spring off-season, he asked if we would add Bra to our itinerary, the town where the Slow Food movement began. The goal: bag an interview with a director of the organization scheduled to appear at Mountainfilm that year.
Look it up. Bra is in the industrial north of the country, near Torino, a six-hour detour from the region we were planning to explore around Florence and Sienna. You can guess the punch line.
The guy I was suppose to interview, turned out to be a no- show. In addition to working for Slow Food, my would-be subject was also a rock musician off recording his next hit in London. Also turned out pisco sours do wonders for frustration. While nursing several at a local watering hole, we met a Chilean chef who was participating in the food and film (all about food) festival in town. He was hosting an event at an old Savoy castle in the neighboring town of Verduna and invited us. The Chilean ambassador sent regrets for the evening – and a surrogate: the Chilean consul from Torino, one Vivien Jones, who greeted guests along with her partner, Silvio Castelli.
The evening was long; the sprawling conversation, well-lubricated. Laughter bled into an invitation to cancel our hotel reservation in Genoa, stay in their villa in Rappallo and sail with them on the Italian Riviera. Twist my arm.
Two more trips to Italy, more sailing, and then an invitation to Chile, where Vivien was born. (Her family, once in nitrate mining and railroads, founded the town of Iquique in the north.) We were to stay at the boutique hotel the couple was building on the bones of an old (18th century) monastery. Residencia Historica is located just a few clicks from the toy town of Marchihue, 40 minutes from the larger Santa Cruz in the Valley of Colchagua. Colchagua is the southernmost portion of the Rapel Valley, one of Chile’s best known wine regions, known for its full-bodied Cabernet, Carmenere, Syrah, and Malbec. Situated in an Eden of old eucalyptus trees, fruit orchards and rose gardens, today Residencia Historica is an oasis of peace and quiet, a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Santiago, about a two-hour drive away.
When we arrived on our first visit, however, Residencia Historica was still a work in progress and workers were putting the finishing touches on the bed we were to sleep in. Lasered into my many fond memories of that first trip was dinner at the Correa hacienda.
According to the patriarch of the clan, Santiago, his family first arrived in the sliver of a country – 4,300 kilometers of hills, valley, lakes and sea, gorgeous dawns, fragrant aromas and a cacophony of vineyards – in the 18th century. Once established, the Correas became wine-makers and power brokers. Salvador Allende was a friend of Santiago’s father, but when the man became the country’s first democratically elected president, he (or rather the workers he “liberated”) confiscated the lands of the old colonials, including the Correas. Pinochet, for all his sins, made it possible for the Correas to repurchase 40 acres and for that small gesture, they remain grateful. From the modest new beginning, Santiago now owns about six wine-producing properties, land which defines him and consumes his every minute.
That is, when he is not playing polo. (He had no time for his favorite sport this year. Chile’s economy is booming. There is nearly full employment and it is hard to find workers to help with the harvest.)
That is, when he is not at the dining table, where elaborate meals are served three times a day.
That is, when he is not celebrating the six children (and now grandchildren) he and the lovely wife, Anna Maria produced, all beautiful, all smart, all in love with each other. (Think Camelot. Think the halcyon days of the 1950s when this America was on a roll and “Lassie” was hot TV and families still gathered around the dinner table and discussed report cards.)
Among the four boys is Tomas, the aforementioned groom. Tomas was the one who, without hesitation, raised his hand when we tossed out an invitation between courses at that first banquet to anyone who would like to visit Telluride. Tomas was game for an adventure – he is always game – and he needed to improve his English to further his business ambitions. ( He, along with brother-in-law Matias are now in business with Santiago pere, producing grapes and wines for bulk export.)
Wheels set in motion, I asked several friends for help filling Tomas’ schedule while he was in town. The idea was to return the warmth and hospitality the Correas had shown us in Chile and to make his visit as unforgettable as ours had been. Lanie Demas, then a board member, now the director of the Telluride Academy, did more than come up with work. She figured her offspring, Xanthe and Sam, would benefit from the presence of a Spanish-speaking guest in their home. Tomas wound up staying with the Demases for about four months. A few years later, his younger brother Andres, came. Ditto. Then Tomas wrote and asked if we could help place his girlfriend (now wife) Fernanda with a family. She too needed to improve her English skills and also come out from under the protection of her own family, try her wings. This time, it was the McManemins of Texas and Telluride (Casey and Megan) who provided a roof.
Following days of celebrations, wine-drenched banquets, warm embraces and lots of laughs among family and their gringo friends, at 8:30 p.m. on March 23, a handsome and beaming Jose Tomas Correa Lisoni, in tux and tails, married the exotic Spanish beauty, Maria Fernanda Sanchez Palacios. The fairytale wedding took place in an elegant neo-Gothic church in Vitacura before a crowd of 500 well-wishers. The reception was at La Cascona San Ignacio, a grand old home now used exclusively for bold-faced revelries. Six gringos attended: Damon and Sam, two delegates from the McManemins, Kiki, who has been attending university in Santiago for the past year, and Kate, a teacher, and Fernanda’s best friend when the bride was in the states – and we, the Viebrocks.
Despite a pinky promise not to leave before the bride and groom made over a dinner the night before, Clint and I, exhausted, departed the festivities with Damon and Sam at around 3:30 a.m. Just as our heads touched our pillow at around 4:30 a.m., the apartment in which we were staying started to shake. Were the gods of Olympus bowling? Apparently an earthquake reading 7.1 hit the town of Talca, about 150 miles south of Santiago.
Mother Nature, as always, gets the last word.
Though sometimes it’s our dear friend Vivien, a force of nature.
Check out Clint’s video of the Correas and events surrounding and during the wedding. You should feel the warmth radiating from your screen.