Interview with Julio Robledo, Co-Founder Grand Cata Wine Shop D.C., “South America offers some of the world’s best wines today.”

  • 1. 1) Grand Cata was named one of the 10 Best Wine Shops nationwide in 2018 by Vine Pair last year? What earned that honor?
  • It was a surprise for us and an incredible honor. We opened Grand Cata to showcase what Latin America was doing with wines - not to win awards. My business partner and I are best friends. We met in D.C. When we would hang out, we could not find the wines and spirits which we enjoyed in our home countries (mine being Chile, his Puerto Rico). South American wine and spirits representation was terrible. We decided to open a store showcasing the entire Latin America region.

    We do an honest job of showcasing authentic wines, wines that represent terroir and culture. We strive to bring as much value to the customer as possible. We are not super geeky, but we tell the story behind the bottles. We are ambassadors of Latin American food, spirits, and wine. We introduce people to new things and hopefully evoke memories from places they have been. We want our store to bring back good memories and creates new ones. I think that's a crucial distinction of Grand Cata.
  • 2. New World and Old World commonly refer to fundamental wine geography. These simple terms have a significant impact on the perception of quality, styles, and prices. Are they helpful, or do they limit the customer's wine experience?
  • You have to take it from different points of view. For Grand Cata, Old World and New World are necessary to tell the story of the culture of wine. Old World is the origin and addresses wines arrival to Latin America. The Old World directly shaped the way that Latin Americans drink wine. Italians traveled the Atlantic coast immigrating to Argentina and Brazil, introducing their wine traditions. In Chile, France was the primary influence. Wealthy Chilean mining families frequented France in the late 1800s for culture, fashion, art, food, and wine - and returned to Chile with vines to plant.

    The concepts of Old World and New World are necessary for historical context. The terms do not have the same importance as they did 40 years ago, and they no longer are a shorthand for quality. Today, quality is being redefined everywhere and every day. The New World, and more specifically, South America offers some of the world’s best wines today.
  • 3. What about Chile as a wine region excites you the most?
  • Its diversity, quality, history, and entrepreneurship set it apart. You can design a fantastic wine list just with Chilean wine because there are so many unique styles, grapes, and producers. Chile has some of the world's oldest vines producing exceptional wines: Its the Jurassic Park of vines.

    New producers are popping up everywhere in Chile. VIK is clearly on a different level than others, but it is symbolic of the entrepreneurial spirit, which makes Chile exciting to wine lovers. There is so much to discover in Chile.
  • 4. You taste thousands of wine a year. What about VIK makes it stand out?
  • Everything. I had a stunning visit to the winery. Chief Winemaker Cristian Vallejo showed me everything that they are doing. They put a lot of thought behind each label. Each wine has a clear identity and a distinct signature. You taste VIK, and you know its an icon. You can taste and feel that in the tannins. La Piu Belle reflects the New World. It's a favorite of mine. The flavor and spice notes on the back end are incredible. Each wine shows you that they are thinking about a place and its wine, rather than just making wine for the money.
  • 5. La Piu Belle has a unique label. How important are labels to a consumer?
  • Labels and overall presentation are as important as telling the story of the wine's place. The packaging must give enough information to prompt the consumer to purchase. We hand-sell our wines at GrandCata, and that connects bottles to buyers. Labels should do the same - inspire the buyer to connect with the wine.

    The label is how consumers remember the wine. Look at how many people use photos and apps to recall a wine. Your packaging is the consumer's first experience of your wine. It's like going to a restaurant. If you have a terrible experience at the beginning, you probably won't come back even if the food was decent. I love the La Piu Belle label and the story behind it. It reveals a lot about the winery. Chilean artist Cienfuegos painted a portrait on a bottle that so inspired the Viks that they had to make a wine for it. That's something I appreciate about the Viks - they see art as wine and wine as art. That story of working with local artists, being involved in the community is really at the heart of the New World.


Stunning design, natural splendor, and exquisite wine earned VIK Chile the Best Vineyard Experience Award in American Airlines Celebrated Living's Platinum List 2019. Read more about our transformative experiences.


The muse takes many forms including books, art, music, film, and poetry. The current muses inspiring the Carrie Vik and the VIK team is El Cachimbo, a lyrical folk guitar song perfectly matching VIK vineyards and retreats in Chile’s Millahue Valley.


Amphora /ˈamf(ə)rə/ A vessel with two vertical handles traditionally made from clay and terracotta, used approximately 6000 years ago to ferment, age and store wine.

“After wrapping the 2018 harvest, our vineyard’s personality was crystal clear and inspired me to find a way to express our terroir’s flavors more fully. Amphora, ancient clay, and terracotta winemaking vessels are porous and increase the wine’s contact with oxygen. The micro-oxygenation process helps a wine to develop more depth in flavor and mouthfeel. Of course, I raced to find suitable clay on our property and a talented potter to create amphoras. After two months, I located an artisan capable of making 675-liter (178-gallon) amphoras. After five months of arduous research and digging many holes, we found our clay: I laid my hands on it to impart my spirit. Six months later, our amphoras were completed. Today these beautiful, tall, vessels bear our 2019 Cabernet Franc. Now we wait to see how the wine evolves. Like an expectant father, I’m anxious yet confident my new child will be unique and beautiful.”

VIK Chief Winemaker Cristian Vallejo

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