I'm now 21st-century-qualified in terms of wine writers. I took part in a webinar last week, didn't spill any wine, followed directions and instructions, tasted six wines, asked a question and received an answer. I didn't see the pictures that came as a visual aid, but later discovered that the problem was in the transmission and not my fault.
Webinar? That's a made-up 21st-century word combining "worldwide web" and "seminar," and though I'd heard about this particular apparition, I had managed to avoid participation until now.
Montes, the 21-year-old Chilean wine producer that has been expanding to other parts of the world, showed off wines from three different countries and three different grapes, which took it out of the ordinary wine-tasting experience. Aurelio Montes Sr. and Jr., the father-son team who are the winemakers, were visible as they tasted, talked and answered questions from those of us on the other side of the computer screen.
like the classic French wine grapes. "Lost grape" legends abound.
Both wines are rich and dark in color, with the Angel's hue a little deeper because of the Petit Verdot. The Alpha, harvested fairly late in the Chilean autumn (our spring in the Northern Hemisphere), comes from grapes that receive little water. It shows a little black pepper in the aroma, good spice on the palate, would benefit from another six months of bottle age before drinking, a tactic to allow the tannins to soften a little more. It would be an excellent wine with barbecue or grilled meats.
The Angel, a year older, is a more elegant wine, with splendid acid-alcohol balance. Both wines spend a year in French oak barrels, but the extra year of bottle age has softened the tannins to the point where the wine is closer to perfect maturity. Hearty notes of plums and red fruit roll through the mouth, and the finish is long, smooth and elegant. It's an outstanding wine, and probably will improve for another decade.
Montes expanded across the Andes Mountains into Argentina a half-dozen years ago, settling in the Mendoza area, home to most Argentine wineries. The area, with a Continental climate, is warmer than the Colchagua Valley in Chile, and fruit is grown at higher altitudes. Warm winds and plenty of sun combine for a long growing season, just right for the Malbec grapes that are the mainstay of Argentine wineries, though many other varieties are grown there, too.
The Malbec is a bit lighter and more delicate than the Carmenere, slightly lighter in color as well, with berry influences in the flavor. It would work very well with roast lamb, or with churrascaria, the South American barbecue that involves several different cuts of meat grilled on skewers.
Montes moved into the Napa Valley in 2006, sourcing Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes from growers in Coombsville, at the San Pablo Bay end of the Carneros region, and from Yountville, farther north. Coombsville is a cooler area, with breezes from the bay and through the Petaluma gap to the west having a major effect. Yountville, on the Napa Valley floor, with its higher summer temperatures, creates more tannin in the grapes. Some grapes are from the Knight's Valley area of Sonoma County, bordering on Napa, and the wine was made at the Artesa Winery in Carneros.
The Napa wines are expensive, too. NapaAngel, 90 percent Cab, 10 percent Syrah, is priced at $55, and the Aurelio's Selection stamp brings the cost to $90.
They're very tasty, too, aged long enough to be extremely smooth and drinkable, though they will improve for a decade or more. The addition of Syrah makes the NapaAngel more approachable now, with a hint of tannin and a big, plummy nose. Aurelio's Selection has a dark cherry aroma and hints of the same fruit in the flavor. It's delicious, with a solid structure, excellenct acid-alcohol balance, considerable complexity and a long finish. Both are fine companions to beef, or to game.
And the Montes folks aren't finished with their expansion mode. Europe is next, with a first outpost planned for Spain or Portugal.