Sunday, March 23, 2014

Naked Vine South American Triple Delight: Montes/Kaiken

Let’s nip back down to South America for a quick sampling of a few tasty Chilean delights. I haven’t written about Chilean wines in awhile, so I appreciate the good folks at Feast PR for giving me the opportunity to try a few bottles from Montes, one of the leading producers of Chilean wines.

Montes began producing wine in 1987, and their Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon was, according to their website, the first “premium” wine to be exported from Chile. They followed that with Chardonnay, Syrah, and Merlot – then began producing an “Icon” series of higher-end wines as well as some more affordable options. Eventually, the Montes operation expanded across the Andes into neighboring Argentina, where they began producing wines under the “Kaiken” label (“Kaiken” is a wild goose, native to the area, often seen flying over the Andes…)

I received three bottles from the Montes collection to sample:  

Kaiken 2012 “Terroir Series” Torrontes – This wine, from the Argentina side of the mountains, is a decent sipper if you like wines with a pretty bouquet. I found it very strongly fragrant without being so perfumey as to be overpowering. It’s got a lovely nose of pears and apple blossoms. The body is medium-weight, and it wasn’t as fruity as I expected after the big ol’ nose. In fact, I thought it was almost bitter at first taste with a flavor of lemon rind, but that quickly passes into a softer fruit middle of limes and green apples. The finish is a little grapefruity and it lasts for quite awhile. It reminds me a bit of a viognier, except a little more acidic.  It’s OK, especially with lighter meals or to file away for when the temperatures pick up. $13.

Montes Alpha 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – The latest vintage of the wine that started it all for Montes. I’ll just state up front that I liked this wine a lot. It’s a much more Old World styled cabernet than I was expecting. I got a nose of vanilla and smoke that led into a palate of dark plums, leather, and graphite. There’s a bunch of tannin here, but it’s balanced, smooth throughout to the finish, which is graphite-y and hangs around for a long time. It’s very elegant and nicely balanced. When I poured it, The French-funk loving SPinC was expecting a real fruit bomb, and was pleasantly surprised to get this instead. With both a dinner of flank steak and roasted sweet potatoes and with evening chocolate, a very solid bottle. Recommended. It’s a little higher in price than usual, $25, but it’s worth it if you're looking for a nicer bottle.

Montes 2012 Cherub Rosé – Easy to find on the shelf with its Ralph Steadman-designed label. (If you’ve read anything by Hunter S. Thompson, you know Steadman’s work.) If you’ve come looking for a light, crisp rosé, you’ve come to the wrong place. This pink one made from 100% Syrah pours bright sunset pink and has full, solid weight on the palate. The nose is very light and slightly floral. The flavor reminded me of a dry version of cranberry juice, right through the midpalate and into the finish, which has a bit of a tart cranberryish note to it. There’s also some considerable acidity. This combination of slight bitterness and acidity makes it a much better food wine than one to sip on its own, but it’s a good match for a wide range of food, including some that might overwhelm whites but get buried by reds, like spicy Asian or Mexican dishes. If subtlety and balance is what you want in a pink wine, head for Provence. If you want one that drinks like more like a red, try this. $15.

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