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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grape Expectations, The Montes Live Taste!

Check SpellingThe Montes Live tasting and Webinar, it was just a couple of weeks ago now and after going through my tasting notes and sorting out some of my other projects, I thought it was high time I got the write up done for Montes as they were kind enough to extend an invitation for me to sit on this very informative multi-media webinar.

The Napa Connection: Montes Winery who, as many of you know has been producing wines of distinction from Chile for many years now, has branched out and has established a few new labels. One is in Napa, with grapes being sourced from Coombsville, Yountville, Oak Knoll and the very well known Oakville area. The label for this project is in keeping with their "Angel" theme calling it Napa Angel and Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection which represent their 2006 realease. These wines were produced at the Artesa Winery in Carneros, with the help of a consultant a Mr. Larry Levin, who was formerly the winemaker of Franciscan Vineyards. Many wonder why with all the success in Chile, why would they want to come to Napa to make wine? Good question, Aurelio Montes Sr (Chief Wine Maker) explained their reasoning this way, "to create our own Napa wine has been a long cherished dream as Napa Valley is the wine jewel of the New World's Northern Hemisphere." Aurelio Sr, also describes Napa this way, "it's one of the cathedrals of winemaking" along side the likes of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Piedmont. Those are both interesting quotes representing his profound respect for other wine making regions in the world and one I can fully appreciate.

The 2006 Napa Angel Aurelio's Selection: This wine represents their premium label and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with the fruit sourced from Oak Knoll and Yountville and retailing in the neighborhood of $90 with Michelangelo-like art on the label. Micro Review: I found this wine to be a deep dark well of ruby color, well structured, nice mouth feel and layered with rich red berry fruits and a hint of smoked tobacco, leading to a plush long finish. I would recommend some more to time in the bottle, for further benefit and total case production of just a little over 4000.This is not your everyday drinker but could be purchased for special occasions or as a gift to good friends or special clients.

The 2006 Napa Angel: This wine represents a more immediately approachable wine and is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the fruit sourced from Coombsville and Oaknoll in Napa. The other 10% is Syrah from the Knights Valley in Sonoma. Retailing in the neighborhood of $50 and featuring a playful Cherubic face with wings. Micro Review: This wine also had a very deep dark ruby colored core, in the mouth layers of ripe red plums and cherry's, broad shoulder in structure, with subtle notes of cedar and roasted vanilla notes mingling ever so nicely on the long smooth finish. This could be a weekend wine that you open when you have friends over or just want to celebrate the end of a long week, with something from the BBQ. No need to rush out and find this wine with over 8000 cases being made, but a wine of this caliber won't last too long either, so do yourself a favor and grab a few soon.

The Argentinian Connection: So what led Montes to Argentina? Could it be perhaps the search for a new and improved excellent terroir sites outside the borders of Chile or is it perhaps the lure of the rising tide of Argentinian Malbec in the US, as reported by the The Wine Economist which stated, "In the same issue the results of the Nielsen company wine market survey for the period ending 2/7/2009 are reported and goes on further to report that "Argentinian table wine imports were up 40% by dollar value for most recent year." This compares to a 10 percent increase for Chile, one percent for Italy and a one percent decline for Australia in US markets. That being said, and I sure some of both were a factor in the decision making, Montes is committed to "preserving the true intent and expression of the terrior and climate" of Argentinian wines. Montes is producing three labels from Mendoza which are the Reserve Malbec and Ultra Malbec and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines reviewed for the webinar are the 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec and the 2007 Kaiken Ultra Malbec.

The 2007 Kaiken Ultra Malbec: This wine represents the 20 plus year old vines from the Uco Valley, just outside the city of Mendoza. Micro Review: In the glass there is lots of color - dark inky hues of purple dominate, then give way to shades of violet on the rim. The nose has a roasted, sweet coffee and caramel aroma mingled with bright fresh floral notes and ripe berry fruit. The 2007 Kaiken is a full-bodied Malbec just bursting with red and black fruit flavors, predominately cherry and blackberry, from the first splash to hit the palate to the well-honed finish it is just wonderful. The flavor profile is full of fruit - dark berries and plums, softly restrained with delicate tannins and enveloped in spicy cloves. This Malbec lovely and is perfect for year round consumption and can be found just under $20 most places which makes this wine easy on the wallet as well. Your food pairing options are really endless, as this wine offers many things to many people.

The 2007 Kaiken Reserve Malbec: This wine represents what I would call a QPR winner! It's a blend of 90% Malbec and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were sourced from 15 year old vines in the first zone just outside Mendoza. Micro Review: In the glass you find a deep violet color, warm oak nuances and spice in the nose, with notes of ripe red fruit. In the mouth it displays a wonderful attack of fleshy tannins; while at the same time it's silky mouth feel, followed by a long caressing finish. Overall impression this wine represents a harmonious connection with the wood, which makes this wine a fine example of the Mendoza terroir. Kaiken Malbec - KAIKEN WINES can be found at many local retailers and this wine sells in what I call the bargain range, coming in around $10-14 dollars depending on where you shop. This is a wine to purchase by the case.

The Re-Discovery of Carménère: Often referred to as the long-lost grape, carmenère had all but disappeared from its original Bordeaux home in the late 1800s during the rise of phylloxera. In fact, it took another century after it was originally imported from Bordeaux before carmenère was rediscovered flourishing, albeit covertly, in Chile. It wasn’t until 1994 that French professor of Oenology Jean-Michel Boursiquot determined that some of the Merlot growing in Chile wasn’t Merlot at all but rather the long-thought-gone Carmenere. Four years later, the Chilean government officially recognized Carmenere as its own separate varietal and it’s been thriving ever since.

Carménère it used to be big, really big one of the six “noble” red grapes allowed in Bordeaux wines, which is no small feat. Okay Carmenere wasn’t quite as big as I've eluded to here and it didn’t command its own 100% varietal wines just yet, but it did hobnob with other famous grapes like Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot and it cozied up to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon like peanut butter did to jelly. Carmenere has enjoyed quite a renaissance in Chile. Despite the fact that Cabernet is the most widely-planted grape in the country, Chile has become synonymous with Carmenere, as it is the only country that grows the grape in any volume of note, although you will find it other places, but not in signifcant quanities. Which brings us to third part of this "live" online tasting which included the 2006 Montes Purple Angel and the 2007 Montes Alpha Carménère, which is the first time and I had the great pleasure to be reviewing these two wines side by side.
Montes Purple Angel 2006: This wine is composed of 92% Carménère and 8% Petite Verdot from the Colchagua Valley. Half of the Carménère fruit and all the Petite Verdot was sourced from the La Finca De Apalta Estate, while the other half of the Carménère comes from the Montes Archangel Estate in Marchigue. After aging in new French Oak barrels for 18 months, it was bottled and laid down a year before release. Micro Review: In the glass it's dark as night in the bottle (the bottle itself weighs at least 2lbs) and glass, darting to a violet colored rim. In the nose you find, red currants and big hairy red raspberries with definite notes of Creme de Cassis in there as well mingling with scents of bittersweet chocolate. After the first sip, black currants, blackberries and pomegranate pulse upon the palate. The dark fruits dissolve and then evolve upon your palate into even darker flavors as the wine sits in your mouth: more semi-sweet chocolate, tobacco, fennel. The richness of Carmenere won’t and can't be denied, although there will be one notable thing missing from the profile, tannins. That’s the beauty of a well made Carmenere: you never know what you’re going to get, but you’re going to want to come back for more and more again and again. With a $59 dollar price tag it maybe an indulgence not often experienced, but definitely not ruled out!

The 2007 Montes Alpha Carménère: This 2007 is said to be one of the best in the last 25 years. It's has a slightly different profile than the Purple Angel, with a blend of 90% Carménère and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from the Archangel Estate located at the western end of the Colchagua Valley and only 11 miles inland. One of the best things about this wine is the very approachble price tag, weighing in at the $19-$23 price range which makes this wine another QPR winner. I even liked this wine better than its more expensive cousin, it could be that this wine had the highest residual sugar of any wine that day at 2.85 and total acidity of 3.42. Micro Review: In the glass this wine had a deep red core, nearly opacue and a violet colored rim. In the nose you could almost feel the black berries and spice notes tickling your nose, while on the palate, well integrated truffles, red fruit and tobacco skating upon a very soft and smooth finish. This is a winner and one to stock up on for sure, if you have never had one of this wines, do yourself a favor and get on down to your favorite wine shop and confidently ask for a Carménère, you may just get a blank stare. Until next time cheers everyone!

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