“Our philosophy is to produce wine from special terroir and express the real taste of our culture.” – Aurelio Montes Sr.
Presenting the ‘Kings of Cabernet’. A magical blend of spicy, velvet Latino crooners to celebrate the holidays! These were Media Samples but the opinions are solely my own.
I had an opportunity in November to discover Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon by Montes Wines and Argentina Cabernet Sauvignon by Kaiken Wines hosted by #SOMMCHAT and KeeperCollection on twitter. I’ve only had Montes Sauvignon Blanc which is really delicious so I was excited to try their Cabs. They like to call themselves the “Kings of Cabernet.” After tasting three of the four bottles above, I think the moniker fits. They are crafted by one of the founding fathers of Modern Chilean wines, Aurelio Montes Sr. Today, his son, Aurelio Jr., is chief winemaker for their Argentina winery, Kaiken. However, Aurelio Sr. is still a driving force behind Chile’s place in the international wine scene and particularly the U.S. and our hunger for really great Cabs. Fortunately, these wines pair fine quality and value superbly, making them happily accessible to everyone.
While at university, a young man takes an elective class and winds up changing the path of his life forever. It’s a common story for many of us. You make plans and end up going an entirely different direction. This particular story is of Chilean winemaker, Aurelio Montes Sr. and how he took a wine making class and went on to impact Chile’s wine industry over the next thirty-five years.
Upon graduation with a degree in Agronomy engineering and a specialty in Oenology, Aurelio traveled and worked as a chief oenologist until 1987 when he partnered with friend, Douglas Murray to found Montes Winery. They shared the dream of elevating the quality and reputation of Chile’s wine beyond low quality, serviceable table wines. This desire meant challenging many of the prevailing wine making conceptions of Chilean wine. They started by picking a dramatically different terroir location for their Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Merlot vines moving from the traditional valley vineyards to planting on the granite foothills of the Apalta mountains in western Colchagua. Montes believed that Chile possessed regions capable of producing high-quality wines if the wine making was also tailored to each area.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was invited to join a virtual lunch with Aurelio as he discussed the philosophy behind his successful wineries in Chile and Argentina and particularly their Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Montes and it’s sister winery, Kaiken, in Mendoza, Argentina have received international recognition and honors for their wines.
“Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon was the 1st premium wine from Chile; the ground-breaker and remains the brilliant wine it has always been. Now a legend, the Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 1987 was our first vintage; the pioneer that showed the way to all others in Chile.” – Aurelio Montes Sr.
Over the years, as with any business, there have been significant changes; Montes wines now own 70% of the vineyards, a winery, and they have a greater intentional focus on environmental conservation efforts. However, in the area of wine making, very little has changed due to their strong belief in tradition and their style.
Not satisfied with merely elevating the quality and scope of Chile’s wine, Aurelio set his sights across the Andes mountains to neighboring Argentina. He used the same frame work to produce wine that expresses the terroir as well as culture. Interestingly enough, Argentina is culturally a polar opposite of Chile. Chile is like a proper, organized older brother while Argentina runs like a passionate, gypsy sister. However, their success comes from remaining true to Montes’ vision of cultural expression and high quality standards.
“The biggest challenge today is that now you compete with all the world, so there is no space for mistakes, precision in wine making is very important. The expression of our terroir is the key to success, making this wine very complex.” – Aurelio Montes Sr.
Montes Cabernet Sauvignon
You can taste the granite soil in the 2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is elegant, spicy, and loaded with fruit and herbs giving it an earthy quality. Well balanced with long tannins. Delicious with roasted meats and hearty dishes. Solid older brother. Very affordable too. I haven’t opened the award winning Montes Alpha M yet because one: it can age for another 20 years, two: I ran out of time to open it and three: it holds a special-ness about it that I want to savor for a while longer! I’m sure you can relate.
2012 Montes Alpha M Red Wine Apalta Single Estate SRP: $90
2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley SRP $22.99
Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon
Unlike the more spicy Montes, Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon is softer balanced, ripe red fruit and softer tannins. Both the Ultra and the Terroir Series were pleasantly elegant but my favorite was the Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra. Powerful red fruit with soft rounded tannins. Yum. I enjoyed it immensely. The Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Terrior Series was bolder. Just as good with strong floral and plums, soft, silky and with a touch of vanilla at the end.
2015 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra Mendoza SRP $24.99
2014 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Petit Verdot Terroir Series Mendoza SRP $16.99
Unique Facts about Chile and Argentina
According to Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible (2001) both countries share a few qualities not seen in other wine regions. Both possess geographical isolation – hemmed in by ocean, mountains, desert and icebergs of Antarctica, their vineyards have been protected from destructive diseases such as Phylloxera and pests. Irrigation is plentiful from the melting snow masses of the Andes despite dry soil allowing for high fruit yields. This was one of the causes of low quality wines in the past but modern practices temper the abundance with a focus on lower yield, finer quality. Today, much of their wine is crafted for an international audience and largely exported i.e. the United States and Great Britain.
Next year, Montes wines has their sight on expanding into a new wine with the launch of their Outer Limits Cinsault from Itata Valley. It is the first Cinsault made by them. It will be interesting to see what happens from these “Kings of Cabernet.” Cheers!