When I last left off on recounting my trip to Chile and Argentina earlier this year, I was in the midst of a rather large tasting at Montes Winery in Chile of the roughly equivalent wines from Montes and its sister winery, Kaiken Wines, located across the border in Argentina.
Aurelio Montes Sr. and Jr. were leading the tasting and we had just finished with the widely available wines, and had moved on to the more “select” offerings from the respective portfolios.
2015 Montes Outer Limits Wild Slopes Red Wine: Retail $20. 50% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre. The Outer Limits series of wines are called such since they are planted outside the normal limits of viticulture: close to the ocean, on treacherous slopes. A bit of a candied cherry nose. Great fruit and acidity with lengthy finish. Yummy. And a steal at $20. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Kaiken Obertura: Retail $20. 100% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged in only used oak so as to minimize the amount of wood imparted into the wine. Classic Cab franc nose with three kinds of pepper: white, black, green. With violets. On the palate, luscious fruit, but balanced with acidity and earth. Ok. This gets a whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
We then moved to what Aurelio Sr. called the “premium” wines, which are intended almost exclusively for the export market and retail at 2-3 times the price of the wines we had been sampling up until that point.
2012 Montes Alpha M: Retail $90. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot. Wow. This wine is both elegant and majestic, refined yet bombastic. First layer upon layer of fruit followed by spice and then multiple layers of tannins on a lengthy finish. Best Chilean wine I have had? Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.
2012 Kaiken Mai: Retail $75. Stated as 100% Malbec but the vines are so old, it is difficult to tell, so it’s technically a field blend. “Mai” comes from the indigenous language around Mendoza, meaning “first”—this is Kaiken’s first icon wine. Inky dark with blackberry and red currants. Big fruit and tannins. Needs time, but in a few years, this will be ready to sing. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
We then moved on to Taita (“daddy” or “mentor” in Spanish), what Aurelio Sr. called Montes’ “Super Icon” wine. First produced in 2007, the fruit comes from Marchigüe in the Colchagua Valley, from a particular spot that has a geological makeup far different from any other in the vineyard. It is the spot where millions of years ago a glacier finally stopped advancing, depositing massive amounts of alluvial soil, deep sections of rounded stone that cause the vines to weave their way in search of water and nutrients. This results in dry-farmed Cabernet that is much more textured, naturally higher in both acidity and complexity, and imbued with intense aromas.
In an attempt to save as much water as possible, Montes tented the vineyard, resulting in slightly bigger berries, but only about 500 pounds of fruit per acre (which is really, really low—about 2 tons per acre is considered pretty low yield). The wine spends 24 months in new French oak barrels and then another four years in bottle before release. About 3,000 bottles produced each year.
There have been three vintages released, and we tried all three:
2007 Montes Taita: Retail $300. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% “Winemaker’s Choice.” A deep intense color, with big intense fruit on both the nose and the palate. To say there is a lot going on here might be an epic understatement. The palate introduces a cedar note that waves in and out all the way to the finish. This is nothing but luscious. Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.
2009 Montes Taita: Retail $300. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% “Winemaker’s Choice.” Initially much more austere and not as fruity as the 2007, this clearly needs a lot more time. A well structured wine with healthy tannins and plenty of vibrant acidity, the feeling around the table was that this wine was in a bit of a dumb phase. Still, this is an impressive, powerful wine that will continue to improve over the next two decades. Right now? Outstanding. 91-93 Points. In 15 years? Could easily reach Outstanding Plus. 94-97 Point Potential.
2010 Montes Taita: Retail $300. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% “Winemaker’s Choice.” Even before tasting, this wine easily gets a Whoa. Maybe two. A baby, yes, but intense floral and perfumed notes accompany the ripe red fruit and tart blackberries. On the palate, I can’t imagine this wine could get better, but the still noticeable tannins suggest otherwise. If only I had the money…. Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 96-98 Points.