At the entrance to Montes Winery stands an angel. It is a symbol of the winery’s commitment to be a positive force and influence. Those wings have also lifted the quality and reputation of Chilean wine.
An Introduction To Montes
Our eye opening introduction to Montes Premium Wines took place in Ohio. We were putting together a special “south of the equator” wine tasting at Zinful Wine Bar.
The owner allowed us to select the lineup from their stock and we had some great selections. There was none better than the Montes Purple Angel, which was a special bonus wine at the end. Purple Angel is the best example of Carmenère I’ve ever experienced.
As the Malbec grape is to Argentina, so Carmenère is to Chile. It is the iconic grape of the country and perhaps nowhere else does it shine so brightly.
We had a chance to revisit Purple Angel and two other Montes wines during a recent Wining Hour Chat online tasting.
The Wine Revolution
Viña Montes was born in 1988, founded by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray. Murray’s survival of two near fatal automobile crashes led to his faith in angels and their images now grace the Montes labels.
Montes and Murray believed that Chile had wine regions capable of producing premium wines, not just inexpensive bulk wines. Montes proved this by crafting high-quality wines that revolutionized the local industry and set a positive course for Chilean wine over the next 25 years.
The granite-filled foothills of the Apalta Mountains in western Colchagua were cleared and they planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot vines grown from pure French clones. They selected the best fruit, aged the wine in new French oak, and in 1988 debuted their first signature wine – Montes Alpha M, a Bordeaux-style red. Purple Angel, a luscious Carmenère crafted from Chile’s top grape, soon followed to wild acclaim.
Montes flagship Alpha range, comprised of single varietal wines, were the first premium value wines from Chile. They have since launched several lines, including Outer Limits wines from an untouched new terroir, Zapallar, located more than 100 miles northwest of Santiago near the Pacific Ocean.
The winery is committed to sustainable farming and maintains local plant and animal biodiversity. Its vineyards are home to foxes, hog-nosed skunks, ferrets, lambs, llamas and horses. Social responsibility is also key, and Montes has a program to help employees with their academic studies and partners with a school in the local village of Apalta.
We sampled three outstanding Montes wines: Montes 2014 Purple Angel Carmenère, Montes 2015 Alpha Carmenère, and Montes Limited Selection 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenère.
The Cab-Carmenère blend is from the Limited Selection line, which aims to provide universally appealing but serious wine. We have to agree with its appeal. This is a wine that should delight just about anyone, with rich fruit flavors of blackberry and plum. It has 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenère. It retails for about $9 but drinks like a much more expensive wine.
The Montes Alpha Carmenère is a step up in quality and oak aging. There is 10% Cabernet in the blend, 55% of which is aged for a year in new French oak. This wine has aging potential for a decade or more. This has a nice smooth texture and notes of cocoa to go with ripe berries. You’ll find it a nice match with a steak or spaghetti. Retail is about $21.
As you know by now, Purple Angel is a favorite wine of ours. The vineyards are in the Marchigϋe and Apalta sectors of the Colchagua Valley, with granite and clay soils. The 2013 growing season was cooler than normal. As a result, the grapes ripened slowly and had a tremendous concentration of flavor.
To add to its heavenly flavor, 8% Petite Verdot is added to the Carmenère. This wine has several layers mingling rich red berries and a dash of toast and tea leaves. The 18 month aging in new French oak contributes the aroma of vanilla. The finish seems to go on forever – and we wish it would!
Purple Angel retails for about $61. We highly recommend it. When you taste it, you experience the magic of Montes and Chilean winemaking at its best.
Full Disclosure: We received this wine as a marketing sample.