Montes is a legendary name in the wine industry. Aurelio Montes Sr has more than 35 years’ experience as an enologist and president of the iconic Montes winery. Aurelio Montes Jr has been working in viniculture since he graduated with honors in 1999 with a winemaking degree. Today Montes Sr remains at the helm of Montes winery as well as the Vice President of the Wines of Chile association, while Montes Jr (in charge since 2011) runs Montes’ Argentinian winery, Kaiken.
Montes Sr was the first to produce an iconic Chilean wine, the Montes Alpha M, a high end Bordeaux style blend. This was Montes Sr vision when he began Montes in 1988, to create a Chilean wine that would rival old world stalwart Bordeaux, and new world rebel Napa Valley. Montes Sr has achieved that goal and so much more. Montes crafts an extensive portfolio of wines to please every palate and price point. Montes is known for his love of wine, people, and the environment. He is known for playing Gregorian chants to the wine while it ages in barrel. When asked what effect the music has on the wine; he replied, “I have no idea but I love it.”
In a recent wine tasting and lunch I attended with the Montes men I had the pleasure of dining with Montes Sr. He shared, “As I get older I focus more on the human side of winemaking.” It is true he is known for how well he takes care of the community and his employees. Montes provides scholarship for workers, complimentary life and health insurance for workers and their families, finances a learning project at a school where most of the winery workers attend as well as provide language classes, computers, and books for the children between grades one through four.
Aurelio Montes Jr grew up watching his dad work. He began trying wine as a young man and was fascinated by the business. He was also very curious about winemaking. At age 10 while his friends were playing soccer he was helping with harvests. After graduating with a winemaking degree, Montes Jr traveled to Australia and Napa Valley to acquire knowledge of different viticulture practices. In 2007 he returned to Chile to join the Montes winemaking team before moving to Argentina to run Kaiken.
According to Montes Jr, Argentina is a more challenging winemaking region than Chile. One reason is in Argentina the rain comes in the summer, as opposed to the winter in Chile. However, Kaiken’s vineyards are located in the best terroirs of Mendoza and Salta, known for producing high quality wines. Kaiken employs biodynamic practices in their vineyards, resulting in the return of native animals such as birds, rabbits, and foxes, increase in organic matter in the soil, and grape skins (musts) ferment more easily, all resulting in high quality wines that better express their terroir with distinctive aromas and flavors. Montes Jr said Kaiken “believes in biodynamics in the vineyard because they believe in grapes over winemaking.”
The tasting was a lovely event. It was highly educational, entertaining, and quite delicious. Prior to this tasting lunch I had enjoyed many different vintages of Montes and Kaiken wines; however, I had never explored the same varietals side by side to better understand the differences in the terroir. We were able to experience this in the tasting and as well as taste some delicious wines.
2014 Montes Alpha Chardonnay Acongagua Costa Chile ($19.90): 100% Chardonnay; clear medium lemon; clean medium aromas of ripe orchard fruit, lemon zest, sweet spice highlighted by nutmeg; dry, medium acid, rich and round with a touch of creamy texture and a judicious use of oak to add body but not butter; lovely expression
2014 Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay Mendoza Argentina ($20): 100% Chardonnay; clear medium lemon; clean medium- aromas of green apples and pears, white flowers, citrus; dry, medium acidity, crisp and refreshing minerality, light and elegant; both wines used same winemaking process with vastly different results highlight terroir
2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile ($19.90): 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot; clear dark ruby; clean medium aromas of baked black berries, plums, black raspberries, and cherries; violets, tobacco, sweet spice, vanilla; dry, medium acidity, tannins, body and finish; well balanced and well-structured wine with a silky mouth-feel that over-delivers for price.
2014 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina ($20): 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Malbec; clear dark ruby; clean medium- aromas of red fruits, dried herbs, dry dirt, minerals; dry, medium acidity, tannins, body and finish; round on the palate; more earthy and mineral driven than Chile which is a bigger wine that is fruit forward
2014 Montes Alpha Malbec Colchagua Valley Chile ($19.90): 95% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; clear deep ruby; clean medium- aromas of bright red fruit, candied violets, sweet spice, chocolate, minerals, and vanilla; dry medium acidity, medium+ tannins, medium body and finish; elegant, layered, and sophisticated
2014 Kaiken Ultra Malbec Mendoza Argentina ($20): 100% Malbec; clear deep ruby; clean medium+ aromas of jammy black fruit, sweet spice, dark chocolate, cigar, dried herbs, black pepper; dry, medium acidity, medium+ tannins, medium body and finish; mouth-coating wine in a classic Malbec style
2015 Montes Outer Limits CGM Colchagua Valley Chile ($24.90): 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre; clear deep ruby with scarlet hues; clean medium aromas of fresh red and blue berries, soft floral notes, dusty earth, black pepper, dried savory herbs; medium acidity, tannins, body, and finish; rustic yet elegant
2014 Kaiken Obertura Cabernet Franc Mendoza Argentina ($35): 100% Cabernet Franc; clear deep ruby; clean medium- aromas of red fruit, black pepper, tobacco, kiss of green pepper, smoke, fresh herbs; dry medium+ aromas and tannins, medium- body and length; elegant wine, lighter than many Cab Francs, less bell pepper, really nice
2012 Montes Alpha M Red Wine Colchagua Valley Chile ($98): 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; clear deep ruby; clean medium aromas of bright red fruit and black fruit, dried savory herbs highlighted by eucalyptus, sweet spice, fresh tobacco, dried rose petals, smoke, red licorice, dusty earth; medium+ acidity, tannins, body, and finish; elegant and masculine, silky and round on the palate; well balanced and structured.
2013 Kaiken Mai Malbec Mendoza Argentina ($70): 100% Malbec; clear deep ruby; clean medium+ aromas of red and blue fruit, dark chocolate, Mexican spice notes of paprika, chili powder, and cinnamon; dry, medium acidity, medium+ tannins, body and finish; rich and round on the palate, like smelling and biting into a slice of Mexican chocolate cake; delicious; Montes Jr, “a meat lovers wine.”
2007 Montes Taita Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile ($249): 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Winemaker’s secret choice; clear deep ruby; clean medium aromas of bright red fruit, dried rose petals, sweet spice highlighted by nutmeg, black pepper, cocoa, coffee, dusty earth, dried tobacco; dry, medium+ acidity, tannins, medium body and finish; silky, earthy, elegant, delicious.
2009 Montes Taita Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile ($249): 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Winemaker’s secret choice; clear deep ruby; clean medium aromas of red and black fruit, dried savory herbs, fresh tobacco leaves, dry dusty earth, espresso beans, vanilla; dry, medium+ acidity, tannin, body, length, an elegant and earthy wine, sophisticated, full-body, an absolute stunner, I loved it.
2010 Montes Taita Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile ($249): 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Winemaker’s secret choice; clear deep ruby; clean medium+ aromas black fruit, sweet spice, fresh picked tobacco leaves, milk chocolate, sweet spice; dried herbs, minerals; medium acidity, pronounced tannins, medium body and finish; elegant wine with lots of spice on the palate, silky mouthfeel that coats and creates a long finish.
After tasting these wines we sat down for lunch to enjoy more Montes and Kaiken wines expertly paired with food by Chef Abraham Salum, owner of Salum Restaurant in Dallas.
Montes and Kaiken wines are widely distributed throughout the globe. I highly recommend you seek them out and try a variety of their wines; after all, there is something for everyone.