Getting to know Montes wine

When you are invited to spend a day in the Colchagua Valley, tasting food from recently opened Bistró Alfredo and drinking practically every Montes wine in existence, you don’t ask questions. You go. That’s how I ended up escaping Santiago’s recent heat wave (if I’m saying it’s too hot, trust me, it’s too. damn. hot.) in favor of the delicious breezes and fresh tastes of Montes Wines’ Apalta estate.

Montes wine

I was able to visit Montes once before and was impressed but not blown away. I blame our tour guide, who got an A for effort but not for information or intelligibility. This time, however, none other than the head agronomist and head wine maker led our group, a serious perk of being a guest of the vineyard.

Montes wine tour

We climbed aboard our chariot, also known as an open truck, and headed up the hill. This is part of the standard tour, and the views were in fact hazier on this second visit. But it’s still pretty impressive to look out over the valley at rows and rows of perfectly ordered grapes.

Colchagua valley

We first stopped to taste a new Montes wine from their Outer Limits label, which focuses on unique terroirs. This blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre combines three grapes I’d never tasted, and Carignan is the only one I’d heard of being grown in Chile – definitely pushing those limits! The label also offers a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir from the beach resort of Zapallar which is not a traditional wine-growing region.

Montes wine Outer Limits

Next up: Kaiken Brut, a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sparkler from Montes’ Argentine outpost. This festive little number paired perfectly with our first taste of Bistró Alfredo’s Patagonian cuisine: smoked salmon, pecorino, wild boar salame, octopus carpaccio and orange-ginger scallop carpaccio.

Bistró Alfredo appetizers

The fruity tastes in the latter tied in with the standout Cherub Syrah Rosé. This was one of my favorites of the day and could end up being very dangerous with how easily it goes down. Nothing if not thorough, I made sure to have a sip of the Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon Twins blend before returning to the truck, but my mind was still on the Cherub.

Montes wines

Noticing my love of Syrah, wine maker Gustavo played it cool asking if I’d tried Folly, Montes’ icon Syrah. When I said “no, but I hope to get the chance someday!” – because that stuff costs $150 a bottle, and there are limits – he gave no indication that someday was about to arrive.

Apalta valley

First we learned how Montes wine is made. The grapes are received and processed on the roof, allowing the use of gravity instead of pumps. This keeps oxygen out, making for better vino. And of course, no visit to Montes would be complete without seeing the barrel room, which is beautifully lit and echoes with Gregorian chants to soothe the wine.

Montes wine reception patio

Montes wine barrels

Finally, the tasting. Of SEVEN wines. The Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc is complex and acidic, not wimpy, and I liked the not-too-jammy Montes Alpha Malbec. Apparently for my tastebuds Montes wine breaks stereotypes. We also tasted Outer Limits Pinot Noir (yum) and Kaiken Malbec (not so yum in my anti-Malbec opinion).

Montes wine tasting

I felt very privileged to try all three of Montes’ icon wines. M, which I’d had before, is too old school and strong for me. Purple Angel, the Camenere, is smoother but still big. Folly is fruity and modern. The label is done by the artist behind Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” art and changes each year to reflect Chilean landscapes. While I wouldn’t pay $150 for it, I did very much enjoy it.

Montes wine glasses

To soak up the alcohol round out the day, we feasted at Bistró Alfredo. I admit to confusion with the disparity between the set menu and what arrived. I love pastel de centolla, a king crab pudding typical to Chile, but where was the king crab salad? The Magellanic lamb was tasty if not photogenic – perhaps an effect of too much wine – but the sauce was not made of plum. I saw no potatoes, but I was happier with their replacement, a salad of greens, strawberries and cherry tomatoes. My chocolate orange mousse was delicious, but someone ate it before I could take a picture! Ok, maybe that last one was my fault.

Bistró Alfredo king crab

Nothing was confusing about the wine pairings though. Yes, MORE WINE. Thirteen wines in a day! The Alpha Chardonnay started us off well, the Alpha Syrah rounded out my Syrah bliss, and the Gewurztraminer Late Harvest was so good my table stole a second bottle “for photos.” It somehow ended up in our glasses. This wine has been a favorite of mine since 2011, and if you think Late Harvest is for people who don’t drink wine, you need to try this.

Bistró Alfredo dessert

As I said way back at the beginning of this post, my experience was a very special one. It doesn’t reflect a typical tour, but it wasn’t intended to. This was a chance to really get to know the Montes wines with the help of their creators. Any doubts I had from my previous visit have been put to rest – this vineyard is traditional, but it’s also innovative. Bistró Alfredo serves up quality food, and diners should definitely take advantage of the suggested pairings.

Montes winery

Even if you can’t visit the Colchagua Valley, thanks to booming exports you can probably head down to your local wine shop and grab a bottle of Montes wine. If my marathon day of tasting is any indication, it’ll be hard to go wrong.

28 Responses to “Getting to know Montes wine”

  1. Ayngelina says:

    I am not a Malbec fan either but it is so popular in Toronto. I’ll have to see if I can get their wine here to try it – just not the Malbec!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      You might be safe with the Alpha Malbec because it’s fresher than most. The jammy, too-ripe blackberry taste is what gets me with Malbecs in general, and this didn’t have that.

  2. Abby says:

    Heat wave??! I am sooo jealous!! It is freezing here. That’s so funny. Malbec is one of the few wines I have a am not crazy about. I think a good tasting and education could fix that. This last photo is particularly gorgeous!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Yup, we were having temps in the mid-90s every day! I won’t complain though because I much prefer the heat, and I figure if I complain all winter the least I can do is shut up on hot days :)

  3. What gorgeous photos my love!!! When I come back to Santiago I want to spend the day there with you drinking rose! What a fun experience!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      We can definitely arrange that! I think Rosé gets a bad rap, a lot of them these days are actually really good, and that Cherub was delicious.

  4. Jared Romey says:

    Montes is one of my favorite wines. Not only did I first learn to appreciate wine while living in Chile, Montes Alpha was one of the first wines I learned to enjoy. I even remember at the time that it was a bit beyond my budget.

    A few years ago I was able to visit a friend in Santa Cruz and one of our excursions was to Montes for some wine.

    Thanks for sharing the visit. The pictures are great! Hopefully I make it back this year!

    Jared

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Thanks for sharing your memories! I’m glad that after all those years of enjoying Montes wines, you were able to visit the vineyard.

  5. Andrea says:

    Mmmmm – Chilean wine – my absolute fav country when it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. I want to come back and try them all!!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I support this plan because it means you would have to live here for several years in order to get through all the wines Chile has to offer.

  6. Federico says:

    What can I say, of all those wines I prefer the food I see on the table!!

  7. Cairne says:

    First off, Fanstatic shots! Your photography skills are seriously improving :)

    Now, everytime I have gone to Chile, I have driven past this vineyard as we have family close to San Fernando, but never stopped there yet.

    How do you become a guest of the vineyard? I am really interested in knowing:)

    Reading your review, I’ll just have to plan this next time. I had heard of the Gregorian chants and had seen some great shots from a friend who had also visited there.

    O.K. your review was fantastic Emily and I just want to try all the wines and the food you have described. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Thanks, Carine! You should definitely stop by next time you’re visiting your family, it’s well worth it as are several other wineries in that area.

      You become a guest of the vineyard on a trip like this by being a journalist/blogger and catching the right person’s attention…maybe it’s time for you to start your own blog?

      • carine says:

        Thanks Emily :)

        I have been thinking about starting my blog but the problem is the language…should I do it in French and then have another one in English or sometimes write a French blog and at other times an English one. What do you think? You might inspire me of starting one really soon :)

  8. Alex says:

    I’m not much of a wino but I still love the entire vineyard/tasting experience enough that I’ll never say no! This looks like a special day, thank you for sharing!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      The whole day out at a winery is definitely fun even if you’re not that into wine (or just don’t like the wines of the place you go). Though it was an added bonus that most of these were so good.

  9. Admittedly, I knew very little about Chilean wine until now. Great piece…

    • Emily in Chile says:

      I realize I may be a little biased, but Chilean wine is good quality and usually a great value for money. Let me know if you need any ideas of which ones to try!

  10. Charu says:

    Wow, this really makes me want to visit Chile. I am actually a huge fan of Malbec…I’ll be introducing this gem to the little wine club I started here. I can’t wait to experience Montes. Sounds like a slice of heaven and I love the fact they use gregorian chants in their cellar!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      Come to Chile! Or for now, just enjoy some Chilean wine…love that you started a wine club, it sounds like a fun idea.

  11. Sarabell says:

    I am not really a wine person… but maybe I’ll have to go any ways, just to see what that orange chocolate mousse looks like. ;]

  12. I didn’t get to visit the winery, but I definitely drank a good bit of Montes. Good stuff!

    • Emily in Chile says:

      With all the wines you tried during your travels, I’m not surprised you managed to get some Montes in. I need to catch up on some of the more obscure labels you’ve talked about that sounded good.

  13. Looks like you had some great wine (and food)!

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