After the arduous trip across the Andes, my South American trip with Montes continued. We started the following day bright and early at Kaiken, the Argentinian sister winery to Montes in Chile. I am not sure why, but I was surprised to discover that there are some significant differences between the people of the two countries. In fact, throughout my time in South America with the fine people of Montes and Kaiken, the residents of the two countries were quick to point out the many disparities betwixt the neighbors separated by the formidable mountain range.
- Chileans are quiet and reserved, and Argentinians (while some use “Argentine” as the term to refer to people from Argentina, I am opting for the perhaps more commonly used “Argentinian”) are more emotional and loud.
- The Chilean economy is strong and robust. The Argentinian economy frankly is neither.
- Chileans like to work hard and have retirement plans. Argentinians like to party hard and have sex. (While that last point might seem a bit off-color or even tongue-in-cheek, it was mentioned often by people from both sides of the border.)
There were also many similarities, as one might expect:
- Both were very welcoming and extremely nice (although the Chileans were perhaps more reserved and polite while the Argentinians were more outgoing and emotional).
- Chileans and Argentinians both have a rich culture that centers around food, music, and dance.
- Both countries are making spectacular wines, many of them quite affordable.
Once we arrived at Kaiken (the Caiquen is a rather hardy bird from the Southern region of Patagonia), we immediately set off on a tour of the winery and adjacent vineyards with winemaker Rogelio Rabino. The winery, which was built in 1920 and purchased by Aurelio Montes, Sr. in the early 2000s, has the capacity to produce over nine million bottles annually (although currently produces about a third of that).
Included in the purchase were the adjacent vineyards virtually in the shadow of the snow-capped Andes mountains, as they loomed in the near distance. The vineyards are trained into the pergola system since Argentina is home to many Italian immigrants who brought their wine traditions with them.
Here are some of the wine highlights:
2016 Kaiken Terroir Series Sauvignon Blanc: Retail $15. The vineyards are at 2600 meters. Wow. The acidity here is off the charts, which complements the citrus and peach flavors nicely. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2016 Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontés: Retail $15. 2000 meters. Powerful floral nose of Jasmine. Another Wow. On the palate great floral and citrus. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay: Retail $25. Rogelio was looking to have a cross between Chablis and Napa. 35% new oak fermentation with batonage twice a week for a year. A bit light on acid and too heavy on oak. Good pineapple. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Kaiken Malbec Reserve: Retail $15. 95% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. 30% new oak. Good fruit. Oak noticeable and is there to add some structure as the fruit itself lacks structure, according to Rogelio. But this is tasty with a spicy finish. According to Rogelio, “This wine is for drinking, not for thinking.” Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve: Retail $12. Again, according to Rogelio, “This is the wine to drink when you start the fire for barbecue.” Spicy. Good body. Nice. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Kaiken Malbec Terroir Series: Retail $18. 80% Malbec, 15% Bonarda, 5% Petit Verdot. Great fruit. Excellent structure. Way outperforms at the price. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Kaiken Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $18. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot. Bigger than the Malbec with dark red fruit and spice. This might need some time to settle down a bit, though. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Kaiken Ultra Malbec: Retail $25. 100% Malbec. This wine need a thick slab of beef. Tons of structure, acid, tannin. One of the better malbecs I’ve had recently. Good for years to come. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $25. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. All kinds of pepper: white, black, and green. I like the green. Great fruit and tannin. Wonderful. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Kaiken Obertura: Retail $35. 100% Cabernet Franc from bush vines. Vistaflores vineyard. Only third and fourth-use barrels (i.e., no new oak so as to highlight the fruit). Rich, thick, purple violets and black raspberry. This is Outstanding. Whoa. 93-95 Points.
2013 Kaiken Mai: Retail $60. Malbec from the 125 year old Vistalba vineyard. Oak is heavy on the nose. Big fruit. Big wine. Not for the faint of heart. Not my style but very well done. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
After the tasting, we were treated to a traditional Argentinian barbecue, followed by some incredible goose-bump inducing traditional dance…. Truly a memorable afternoon.