WINE: Winemaking often is a family business, even when some of the family move to other countries.
That was the case with Aurelio Montes Jr., who took over as chief winemaker at Kaiken from his father, Aurelio Montes Sr., who founded Viña Montes in Chile in 1988. Aurelio Sr. crossed the Andes Mountains to visit Mendoza in Argentina in 2001 and was so impressed by the people and the land that he founded Kaiken there in 2002.
The signature wine for Kaiken is malbec, Argentina’s most famous grape.
Aurelio Jr. took over the Kaiken operation in 2011, and he continues to improve the quality of malbec and the other Kaiken wines.
This malbec is a beauty, an outstanding example of why malbecs are so popular right now. In the glass, it is a deep red with purple notes and rich, distinctive aromas of black fruit, spice and flowers. On the palate, it is silky smooth with notes of red fruit and blueberries, with spice undertones. This is a complex wine with a long finish.
I would chill this wine slightly and open it 30-60 minutes before drinking. I have started decanting all the red wines we drink, and it makes quite a difference in opening up the flavors in the wine.
The fruit came from three sites in the Uco Valley of Mendoza at three different altitudes, which adds some complexity to the wine. The grapes were hand-picked and then sorted in the winery to remove anything that could affect quality.
The grapes went through a cold maceration for seven days. The must was fermented in small tanks, and after a month (including maceration) the wine was decanted into French oak barrels, one-third new, and aged for 12 months.
Kaiken also produces a cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay under the Ultra label. All three of the wines have great structure, complexity and a long finish. The winemakers and the growers for the Montes team like to share their experiences and knowledge of high quality wines on both sides of the Andes.
It seems to be paying off.
WINERY: The winery is named after the Caiquen (wild geese) that fly over Patagonia between Argentina and Chile, crossing the Andes as Aurelio Sr. did, and as the team of professionals from both countries do.
When he crossed the mountains Aurelio found a wine industry open to innovation. He saw the potential for the region and knew Argentine wines would be accepted around the world.
When Aurelio Jr. joined the team nine years after the winery opened, he brought not just family credentials, but a lifetime of wine knowledge he gained around the world. He traveled to more than 40 countries, working in a variety of vineyards to develop his own style and technique.
He worked closely with wineries in prestigious regions such as Napa Valley, Burgundy, Australia and Argentina. He left the world of wine in 2005 to spend a year completely dedicated to working intensely with street children through a charity organization called María Ayuda.
He worked at Viña Ventisquero in Chile in 2006 and joined Viña Montes in 2007. He developed new wines and conducted a terror study with Pedro Parra, the world-renowned terroir expert. Parra encourages growers to pay attention to their soil and let the wine be an expression of that soil and not just another generic wine.
At Kaiken, Aurelio has been experimenting with new terroirs and sustainability practices such as biodynamics.
Aurelio and his wife Ximena Vial, a commercial engineer, have three children, Emilia (4), Aurelio (3) and Blanca (1). He is a former boxer, an off-road motorcyclist and a passionate skydiver with more than 300 jumps and counting. He also is a fervent cook who loves country music. He leads a young team, whose average age is 30.
The winery itself was built in 1920 in the district of Vistalba, Mendoza by Italo Calise and acquired by Kaiken in 2007.
Today the capacity is almost 1.85 million gallons distributed in small vats from 3,100 to 3,400 gallons, which allows limited productions to be individually vinified, thus maintaining high quality. They produce nearly 400,000 gallons a year, and use 1,524 barrels to age the wine. The winery also owns three vineyards at varying altitudes, producing 50 percent of the grapes they use.
Besides Ultra the winery produces a reserve label with cabernet sauvignon and malbec; a Mai (meaning first) label malbec from old vines; a terroir series with a cab-malbec-petit verdot blend, a malbec-bonarda-petit verdot blend, and a torrontés; and malbec, a cab and a rosé of malbec under the Kaiken label.
GOES WITH: My son, Michael, and I had just returned from a long road trip, and I wasn’t back into the cooking habit yet, so one night he, my wife, Teri, and I ate frozen chicken pot pies and a salad. To dress up the meal I opened a special bottle of wine, which always makes the meal better.
You might not immediately pick chicken pot pie to go with malbec, but it was a perfect combination. The savory chicken and vegetables were a great complement to the silky, fruity wine.
The winery recommends this elegant wine be served with a casserole, simple meat dishes or ripe cheese. I also enjoyed sipping this wine by itself while I watched the microwave oven create its magic with the pot pies.