When Protocol WineStudio announced Chilean winery Montes as the subject of July’s #Winestudio I jumped at the opportunity to join the conversation. I have enjoyed the high quality wines and the story behind the wines of Montes for years. In the past year I have written several articles featuring the wines of Montes: “Weeknight Enjoyment of Kaiken Wine,” “Montes Alpha Pairs Perfectly with Fall,” and “Celebrating Earth Day with Montes Wines on #SommChat.” I find Montes wines very approachable and I appreciate their commitment to producing high quality wines through sustainable, environmentally conscious practices.
From Protocol WineStudio web site: There is no formal title on the business card of Aurelio Montes —neither president nor chairman, not even winemaker. It simply reads “Guardian of the Spirit.” Back in 1988 four friends and businessmen decided to start a winery. Little did they know that it would grow into Viña Montes, surpassing 1 million cases annually and generally setting the stage for the Chilean wine industry. We’ve been invited to talk candidly, regarding Chile and now of course Kaiken in Argentina. And as Aurelio Senior settles into the Wines of Chile Directorship, the Viña Montes brand will include all members of the Chilean wine industry – large, family-owned as well as the small, independent wineries. We’ll discuss how the Montes brand is affecting long-lasting changes in Chile, Argentina and in the entirety of the wine industry itself.
“What is #WineStudio? PROTOCOL Wine Studio presents an online twitter-based educational program where we engage our brains and palates! It’s part instruction and tasting, with discussions on producers, varieties, tourism, terroir, regional culture, food matching and what all this means to us as imbibers.”
Week 1: How do we measure success? Chile now vs ten years ago; has the giant finally awoken? In 1987, Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, both experienced wine professionals, had a dream to produce Chilean wines “a quantum leap higher” than other Chilean wines at the time. In 1988, these two men joined with Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand and Montes was born. These four wine visionaries took Montes from nowhere to today more than 100 countries worldwide and made “ ‘first growth’ wines respected and admired by the world’s critics and trade, and by drawing attention to what Chile was capable of producing.” Montes first wine was their Cabernet Sauvignon, the first premium wine to be exported from Chile. The wine brought great success to Montes while also challenging them to not allow it to “become a standard ‘classic wine;’ [realizing] innovation is absolutely necessary to stay fresh.” Today Montes has a vast portfolio of wines and celebrating 25 years of producing outstanding Chilean wine; a true success story! Montes latest wine adventure is Taita. As Aurelio Montes explains, “Taita is Montes’ latest, supreme achievement. Our first ‘super-icon’ – vinified with passion, hallmark oenological rigour, and above all, wisdom. Put simply, it represents the sum of all the knowledge we have gained over 25 years of making fine wines.” As Montes looks to the future some additional varietals they are excited about include Mediterranean Carignan, Garnacha, Cinsault, Pais, Monastrell and others. As consumers we have much to look forward to from Montes and Chilean wines.
Week 2: What dry farming tastes like.
Our second week we tasted two outstanding wines that beautifully represented the diversity of the Chilean terroir as well as Montes winemaking practices.
Montes Spring Harvest Leyda Valley 2015 Sauvignon Blanc: This wine poured a light yet dazzling straw yellow into the glass and met the nose with an aromatic bouquet of stone fruit, lychee, citrus, jasmine, minerality and a touch of grass. On the palate this outstanding Sauvignon Blanc offers flavors of white peaches, grapefruit, lemon/lime zest, and a touch of mint; with savory herbal notes, mineral finish. It was crisp, clean and refreshing with bright acidity and a pleasingly dry, lingering finish. This wine was a wonderful representation of the granite soil, with a predominance of clay, in the Leyda Valley, which is about 4 miles from the ocean and one of the coolest ocean regions in Chile. Leyda Valley has low fruit yields but outstanding expression. I agree! As soon as I drank my last sip of the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc I was immediately sad it was gone. 12.5% alcohol. SRP $14.
Montes Alpha Colchagua Valley 2012 Carmenere: This wine poured a deep garnet into the glass and met the nose with rich ripe red fruit with tobacco, espresso, damp underbrush and licorice. On the palate this wine delivered loads of spice with blackberry jam, black raspberry, currants, plums, cassis, espresso, smoke and toasted walnuts. It has a well-balanced structure that was smooth, layered, full body and a long, dry finish. The acidity was round and the tannins were present but not overwhelming. This wine was crafted from 90% Carmenere and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 55% was barrel aged in French oak (1st, 2nd & 3rd use); recommended decanting for 1 hour; drink now or age for up to 10 years to further blend and mellow. This full body, full flavor wine would pair beautifully with grilled meats, lasagna, and barbeque; perfect for year round enjoyment. 14.5% alcohol. SRP $20.
Montes utilizes the sustainable practice of dry-farming in their Colchagua Valley vineyards. Due to “climate change and [lack of] water availability” Montes began in 2005 researching and testing different forms of irrigation. In the Colchagua region of Chile, rainfall is less than 80mm during the spring and summer. As a result of dry-farming Montes saves 65% of the water they used to use in irrigation and the quality of the wines has improved. Colchagua Valley has good soil that allow for maximum water retention. The dry farming offers additional stress on the vines that results in lower yields but much higher concentrated fruit, more elegant and better acidity that lends itself to aging, all of which was evident in the 2012 Carmenere. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah respond best to dry-farming but Montes has perfected the patience required to produce equally outstanding dry-farmed Carmenere as well.
Week 3: Aurelio Montes Jr. – 2nd generation winemaker leading Kaiken in Argentina.
In 2001 Aurelio Montes Sr. crossed the Andes that divide Chile and Argentina to explore a new land. In Argentina Montes Sr saw tremendous potential to of the region and of Argentinian wines around the globe. “The aim was clear: to make great wines by combining the exceptional conditions of the Mendoza region with the talents of professionals from Argentina and Chile. Wines that show the best of both sides of the Andes.” We were joined by Kaiken winemaker Aurelio Montes Jr to introduce us to Argentina and Kaiken. In addition to Malbec, Montes Jr explained the future of Argentina wines includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Bonarda, and Sauvignon Blanc to name a few. Kaiken has vineyards in one of the most extreme high altitude terroirs in the world, posing some challenges each year but produces outstanding juice. Although Argentina is experiencing economic challenges effecting some aspects of their wine industry Kaiken remains strong, producing high quality wines year after year. Water is also a scarce resource in Argentina, with Mendoza in a semi-desert condition lacking rain. One thing Montes Jr wants the US consumer to know is Argentina has a “unique and amazing terrior;” therefore, it is Kaiken’s impetus to express that terroir in its wines.
Week 4: The grape-growing Process – what this means at Kaiken.
Our final week afforded us an opportunity two taste two delicious wines from Kaiken. First I’d like to share a few brief notes from the session with Aurelio Montes, Jr. He seeks to change consumers mindsets about how to look at wine; wanting the focus to shift from varietal to terroir. Montes Jr sees this as movement in the wine industry but realizes it will “take at least 4 years to have the terroir reflected in the wine.” Furthermore, Montes Jr feels branding a wine region versus a grape is a more authentic approach to winemaking. He is correct look at Chardonnay for example. The flavor profile and texture of the wine varies greatly from California to Burgundy; terroir and winemaking make the difference. Kaiken hopes to promote this theory with their Terroir Series wines.
Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes 2015: This wine poured a light gold with green highlights into the glass and opened with vibrant aromas of tropical fruits, citrus, and dazzling white floral notes. On the palate these aromas delivered in crisp flavors of grapefruit, pineapple, lemon and orange peel, with a touch of guava and lychee. It has a creamy texture on top of a solid acidic foundation. The fruit is persistent with a touch of minerality on the finish. It was truly a refreshing and delicious wine! 13.2% alcohol. SRP $17.
Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012: This 100% Malbec poured a sultry deep inky violet into the glass and opened with inviting aromas of dark fruit, mocha, spice and deep earthiness. On the palate this layered wine developed and changed over time. It offered flavors of black cherries, blackberry marmalade, black raspberries, blueberries and plums along with espresso, leather, very dark chocolate, spice notes with a touch of chili powder and cedar notes on the finish. The descriptor of the night via @1educated palate summed up this wine perfectly “raspberry infused chocolate dipped ripe dark plums.” Doesn’t it sound delicious! This wine had wicked tannins that relaxed as it opened up. Advice from Kaiken is best to decant this wine for 30 minutes and serve between 64-68 degree Farenheit to help tame tannins. The acidity was rich and round in this powerful, full body wine, leaving a lingering, dry finish. This was truly an outstanding Malbec. Aged in French oak for 12 months. 14.5% alcohol. SRP $20.
This was a very informative and delicious #Winestudio. A BIG thank you to Aurelio Montes Sr and Aurelio Montes Jr for your time, wines and educating us on the wonders of Montes as well as wines from Chile and Argentina.
A BIG thank you to our July #WineStudio program sponsor, the Brooklyn NY-based, Feast PR, whose “experience, originality, imagination and passion for progress also ensure the production of one-of-a-kind events that drive the message home.” @jenoflanagan FeastPR has sent me many media samples of high quality wines. Please visit their web site after construction to view their client list and support those wineries.
My Song Selection: As I listened and learned from Aurelio Montes Sr and Aurelio Montes Jr share their love and passion of wine making, the beauty and uniqueness of the Chilean and Argentinian terrior, with all its challenges and rewards I could not get one of my favorite REM songs out of my head. The song has great movement and is great to run or cycle to because it offers a vastness such as that of Chile and Argentina. It also offers a message similar that the one shared throughout out July session. Therefore, my song pairing for the July edition of #Winestudio is “I Believe” by REM.
Get your own bottles of Montes and Kaiken wines and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!