Contra Corriente

Patagonia, Argentina

Contra Corriente — Against the Current — tells the story in just a few words of how two childhood friends pioneered a new wine region 6,000 miles from home in Southern Patagonia. Without any prior experience, Rance Rathie and Travis Smith went all-in and against all odds, pushing the boundaries of viticulture by planting a small vineyard hundreds of miles south of where anyone previously thought wine grapes could be produced. They assembled an incredible team and together are producing Argentina’s finest cool-climate wines. Contra Corriente is one of the first to use the extreme cool-climate and terroir of southern Patagonia to produce original and fresh, yet complex and intense wines.

Contra Corriente produces fewer than 10,000 bottles of wine annually. The process is labor intensive but the results are extraordinary. Wines can be found for purchase in just a few select hotels, restaurants and wine stores in Argentina or purchased through our exclusive wine club. Join our wine club today to receive more information and to obtain your allotment!

The Vineyard

The Contra Corriente vineyard consists of two blocks planted at 620 feet of altitude. The first block of eight-acres was planted in 2013 with four varieties: riesling, gewürztraminer, chardonnay, and pinot noir. The second block, a two-acre vineyard of pinot noir, was planted in 2019, bringing the total vineyard area to ten acres. Soil in the first block is comprised of ancient riverbed left over from the retreat of Patagonia’s glaciers and is heterogeneous, well drained, and alluvial. Soil texture is sandy loam with the presence of volcanic ash, clay, and good organic matter. The pH is slightly acidic. The second block, planted on an east-facing slope, is comprised of glacial clays without the presence of alluvial soils. This block does not drain as well at the first block but is warmer and receives more sun throughout the day.

Everything about the vineyard is extreme due to its location in a production limit zone at 43* South Latitude. It is labor intensive. Unlike large mechanically farmed vineyards, each plant is handled at least a dozen times throughout the season, leading to low-yield high-quality fruit. Selective shoot thinning and fruit thinning go on through the season to ensure proper fruit set and ripeness. Strong winds up to 50 knots require that shoots are arranged and tied, and the long days and intense UV rays require that fruit is covered to avoid sunburn. Pests are a problem so the vineyard must be protected with electrical fencing to keep hares out and netting must also be installed after verasion to keep birds from decimating the crop.

The extreme terroir is also what makes Contra Corriente wines crisp and fresh and different from other wines of Argentina. Unique to just a handful of vineyards (all located in the Chubut Province), the vineyard has a maritime influence due to temperate Pacific Ocean winds which follow the Yelcho and Futaleufu Rivers upstream through Chile, eventually passing through a narrow gap in the Andes. Glacial soils, with the presence of clay and volcanic ash, are also unique and add to the complexity of the wines. Contra Corriente wines exhibit unique characteristics and that our terroir is original, extreme and unlike any other.

The climate can be described as cool but temperate, and like many other places around the world, is experiencing increasing temperatures. Precipitation historically averages 700 mm annually; although, the area has been experiencing a drought for the last decade and precipitation of 500 mm is the new norm.

The spring months between September and December are very unstable and can range from warm and dry to cool and cloudy. Strong winds, mainly from the southwest, are also nearly constant starting in the spring and sometimes reach 50 knots. The area experiences a warming and drying trend from mid-November through December.

The Summer months between late-December and mid-March are the hottest and driest and our vineyard receives less than 25 mm of rain on average. Summer months offer mostly clear skies and strong UV rays, although it can rain at any moment. The thermal amplitude during summer months is staggering and can exhibit as much as 30 degrees difference between the highest high and lowest low, although the average daily thermal amplitude is 24 degrees. Highs can reach 30 – 35 ºC during the day and still drop to 0-5 ºC at night. Strong winds continue through summer, especially afternoon winds generated by the heating desert to the east.

Winds subside in late March as fall starts to set in bringing slightly cooler but offer more stable weather in general. Precipitation tends to increase by late March and leading up to harvest in April, and an average of 50 mm of rain can be expected during this period. Fall colors begin to appear in early April and are at their peak by mid-April when we harvest.

The late fall and winter months between May and August are the coldest and can be quite wet and humid. Daily temperatures can be cold but usually never drop lower than -10ºC. The vineyard can receive as much as three feet of snow at one time but mostly receives rain due to its low elevation. The bitter cold weather experienced in most of Central Patagonia is more temperate in the Trevelin Valley, primarily due to the Pacific Ocean influence.

The Winery

Winemaking takes place in a small 2,000 square foot winery located in the center of the two vineyards. The winery is perfectly scaled and able to accommodate up to 15,000 liters of wine at any time (the vineyard’s max production). Seven stainless steel tanks for both fermentation and storage are distributed throughout the winery as well as twenty-something French oak barrels. The Contra Corriente winery has modern, state-of-the-art equipment consisting of Italian Enovenetta brand crushing and destemming machines. The winery also includes a high-tech temperature control system for tanks, ambient climate control system, full laboratory, bottling machine, and packaging equipment.

Incredible Wines Made by Incredible People

Owners, Rance Rathie and Travis Smith, best friends and passionate outdoorsmen originally from the State of Montana, have spent half of their lives developing Patagonia River Guides, considered to be one of the world’s top fly fishing destinations. Within their style of exploring and doing things differently, they have spent the better part of the last decade planting the Contra Corriente vineyard. They have struggled with Chubut’s extreme terroir, combined with long distances from other winemaking regions and little technical assistance. Despite countless problems and mishaps, they never gave up. In the end, they succeeded, playing a big role in pioneering Argentina’s new and exciting southernmost wine region, within their style of being persistent, resilient, and tenacious — going against the current!

Rance and Travis realized early on that Trevelin Valley wines would be unique and incredible; however, to achieve true greatness, they also realized they would need to surround themselves with the best vineyard and winemaking team. They have done just that.

Sofia Elena started as vineyard manager and winemaker in 2018. Sofia brings ten-years of experience working predominately in cold climate wine regions such as Oregon, France, New Zealand, and Chile. Sofia loves to get her hands dirty in the vineyard, knowing that wine is made in the vineyard, and is passionate about cold climate wines.

Jeff LeBard leads the project as consulting winemaker, overseeing the project as a whole. Jeff brings unmatched expertise, talent and energy to the Contra Corriente team, and has been critical in producing all of our wines, including our first incredible vintage in 2018. Jeff brings over twenty years of experience producing exquisite wines for Gainey Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley, California.

Our Wines

The Unique Wines of Contra Corriente

Contra Corriente wines have enormous complexity, aromatic intensity and a unique taste profile, expressing themselves with freshness, finesse and subtlety while offering great intensity. They are long and persistent, and despite being low in alcohol, our wines have a very good mouth and oiliness.

The intensity of the Contra Corriente wines is due to the extreme thermal amplitude, sometimes reaching 30ºC. The strong southwesterly winds and close proximity to the Pacific Ocean add to the freshness and uniqueness of the wines with a touch of salinity. The aromatic and gustatory complexity are due, in part, to our sandy loamy soil with layers of volcanic ash and clay.

Inspiration

Once a year trout swim upstream into shallow waters where they become vulnerable to predators and work harder with less food simply because trout are perfectionists. They journey against the current to find a spot in the river where the pebbles are big enough to protect their eggs but not too big to damage them, where the current is swift enough to keep them silt free but not too strong that the eggs get washed away, and shallow enough to keep them warm but not too shallow that they are vulnerable. They swim against the current because they are resilient, tenacious and patient and the results are unrivaled. We strive for the same perfectionism and adaptability – ensuring unrivaled results.

Pinot Noir | 2018

Layered Sophistication

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Chardonnay | 2018

Persistent Buttery Delight

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Gewürztraminer | 2018

Aromatic & Crisp Surprise

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Pinot Noir | 2019

Limited Selection

Black Fruit Delicacy

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Chardonnay | 2019

Limited Selection

Fresh Fruit Vibrancy

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Chardonnay | 2019

Private Reserve

Elegantly Balanced Oak

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Gewürztraminer | 2019

Limited Selection

SOLD OUT

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Wine Club

Join the club and secure your allotment of Contra Corriente wines today!

Limited quantities are available and for sale during a once-per-year sales event in the US. Our sales event allows members the opportunity to obtain limited quantities of Argentina’s finest cool-climate wines.

Depending on the level, our wine club comes with benefits including:

  • Exclusive discounts with partners of Patagonia River Guides
  • Unique food and beverage recipes
  • VIP access to exclusive restaurants in Argentina
  • Patagonia River Guides booking specials and incentives
  • FREE Contra Corriente and PRG & YETI Swag
  • Guaranteed future allotments

Sign up for the wine club today!

Choose your desired allotment and fill in your personal information. If you are accepted for an allotment, you will be charged $99 and will receive an email regarding your allotment and ship date. By paying your membership fee, you will be able to choose between exclusive CC swag choices — either (2) PRG Hats or (2) PRG branded YETI wine tumblers. Your membership fee of 99 Bucks will be discounted from all orders of at least one case of wine.

With a paid membership, you will receive access to wine-club benefits. Your wine purchase will guarantee an annual allotment in proportion to the number of bottles produced each year.

Serious Inquiry? Click here to schedule an appointment with our winemaker

Sign up for our Wine Club

For VIP access to our wines, we encourage you to sign up for one of our wine club options below. In addition to wine allotments, members will have a variety of other perks!

Explorer | 3 or 6 bottle orders

  • CC Swag Choices
  • Insiders Newsletter

  • Unique food and beverage recipes
  • Guaranteed yearly allotment
  • Exclusive online tasting with Contra Corriente owners and winemakers

Guide | 1-2 Case Membership

  • Everything included in the Explorer Membership plus……
  • Wine Club membership refund of $99
  • Possible allotments of Limited Reserve, Exclusive Special Blends and other exclusive wines

Outfitter | 3+ Case  Membership

  • Everything included in the Guide Membership plus….

  • Immediate access to Private Reserve, Exclusive Special Blends, and other rare wines. A limited number of memberships available and sold by the case.

    • First access to our rare first vintage Pinot Noir 2018. Only (40) cases available.
    • First access to our rare first vintage Chardonnay 2018. Only (40) cases available.
    • First access to our Private Reserve Chardonnay 2019. Only (40) cases ever made.
  • Exclusive Discounts on PRG branded gear (offer to come by email)

Where else can you buy our wines?

Limited quantities are available for purchase directly at the winery, through the online store (Argentina only), or through the wine club (USA only). You can also find Contra Corriente wines at these fine establishments:

  • PRG’s Lodge at Trevelin
  • Don Julio, Buenos Aires
  • Elena, Four Season’s Hotel, Buenos Aires
  • Baquano Restruatnt, Buenos Aires
  • Alto el Fuego, Bariloche

Please make advance reservations at all restaurants and be sure to ask for Contra Corriente wines!

Schedule a Tour of our Vineyard and Winery or Stay with Us!

If you are interested in visiting our vineyard and winery, please visit our winery website and contact us today! Daily tours and tastings are available to a limited number of guests each day. Reservations are required.

You may also be interested in booking a stay at Contra Corriente Wine Lodge. Unique and diverse hospitality programs are available during select periods of the year. Please CLICK HERE to visit our Wine Lodge Website. Please CLICK HERE to download our e-brochure.

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Download our 2020 CC Wine Brochure HERE