16 January, 2018
Cabernet Sauvignons from the Andes: Montes and KaikenComments : 1 Posted in : Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Wine, Wine on by : The Gourmez
My first experience with Montes and Kaiken wines came from the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes. That’s quite a long way from the Andes Mountains; the wineries’ extensive vineyards can be found the greater Andean regions of both Chile and Argentina, and both were founded by Aurelio Montes, Sr. At the conference, his son, Aurelio Montes, Jr., gave a presentation on the family’s wines, particularly focusing on their terroir and their extensive sustainability efforts. I remember being quite impressed by how distinct each wine was, especially pondering how vineyards at high altitudes and/or in cool climates affected them.
I was so impressed, I named the Montes 2015 Sauvignon Blanc one of my most memorable wines from that trip, and in a weekend where I tasted near a hundred wines, that’s no easy feat. From the Casablanca Valley, it had conjured up images of cacti and tumbleweeds on the high desert, though compared with the Kaiken wines of Mendoza, it’s not very high up at all.
With that pleasant memory in mind, I was delighted to take part in a Twitter tasting of Montes and Kaiken’s cabernet sauvignons last November. Obligatory disclaimer: These wines were provided free for my review.
The 2012 Montes Alpha M Red Wine Apalta Single Estate is by far the most expensive of the wines we tasted, and by expensive, I mean by a factor of 3.6 at $90. But if you’re a collector, this one is worth it. A nose of pepper, lavender, and bing cherry invites a deep dive in. This is a lush wine, and it’s not just the price point speaking: a syrupy mouthfeel yields tons of layers in the glass with those bright and bold, sticky cherries hugging vanilla bean, clove, and green bell pepper. It delivers lavender and wistfulness for what might yet be in the finish. 5/5
Next is the 2014 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Terroir Series. This is the most affordable offering at $17, but I find it the second-most worth pondering. I smell fresh greenery, cement, and lemon balm. Its delightfully sharp tannins, with cassis and tart cherry, summon that sense of adventure when one’s about to talk a walk. 4/5
At $23, the 2014 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley isn’t much more expensive, but it is much more lively in a barnyard way. Though it doesn’t smell of goat, it reminds me of the fun of taking care of them with grass and hay notes. Very rich raspberry and strawberry are smoothed by a sprinkle of mace. It’s quite lovely and should complement any number of foods. 4/5
Finally, the 2015 Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon Ultra Mendoza, at $25, struck me as too tannic, but perhaps that’s just a need for a long decanting. Or it may be that this one is 100% cabernet sauvignon, and I am a big fan of the magic properties of blending, even in small percentages. Regardless, limestone and granite come to mind with a fresh wash of cranberry, plum, and cool bed sheets. I’d let it put me to bed on a hot summer night. 3/5
Clearly, I felt the Montes cabernet sauvignons had a bit of an edge on the Kaiken offerings, but I’m not sure throwing the Alpha M in there is a fair fight. I am sure that two years is too long between tastings of these intriguing offerings, and I shan’t let that happen again.
For information on purchasing, check out Guarachi Wine Partners distributors. This tasting took place 29 November 2017.