Most people get star struck over actors, musicians, athletes, or even political figures.
Being a wine nerd, I tend to become a babbling, blushing, gushing mess whenever I meet legendary winemakers (or wine writers… I am already foreseeing shameful moments if, or when, I meet the likes of Oz Clarke, Jancis Robinson, or Natalie MacLean).
I’ve only been put in this situation a few times in my life: When I met Hubert de Boüard de Laforest of Château Angelus, Eduardo Chadwick of Seña, and most recently… Aurelio Montes of Montes.
I have written about Montes in relation to the trip I did with ProChile back in 2014. I remember how the heavenly mountains and vineyards made the angels all over the winery so fitting. I also remember writing about some of my favourite wines during that trip, the pièce de resistance having been the Montes Purple Angel.
This was the reason why I was all too keen on finally meeting the man behind the label over a sumptuous dinner in Finestra, Solaire.
We started off the evening with crisp glasses of Montes Sparkling Angel Brut. Composed of mostly Pinot Noir and a small portion of Chardonnay, the wine was dry, refreshingly floral, and had just the right touches of fruits and bready characteristics (which says that it was made using the Traditional Method, a tedious process where the secondary fermentation is done inside the bottle).
We then had our first dinner wine, the Montes Alpha Special Cuvée Chardonnay. Fun wine fact: While Chile is generally known for good quality, affordable wines, it helps to know a little bit about their best areas. One of the best regions to score a Chilean white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc) is in Casablanca Valley (where the grapes of the Special Cuvée Chardonnay were sourced). The Chardonnay was wonderfully structured and rounded, with a deliciously refreshing quality to it.
The second dinner wine we had was the Montes Alpha Special Cuvée Pinot Noir. My first Filipino food and wine pairing (which ended up being a favourite) was a Chilean Pinot Noir and a pinoy lechon. Incredibly fragrant and fruit forward, the Special Cuvée Pinot Noir paired equally well with the crispy pork belly we had that night.
We proceeded to the powerhouse wines of the event, starting off with an all too familiar Montes Folly. Made from 100% Shiraz, this powerful red wine with notes of dark fruits and dark chocolate (note: It’s so rich that it could benefit from about an hour of decanting) was something I first fell in love with during that day in the Montes winery… So much so that I had to get myself a bottle to take home.
The star of the night, however, was definitely the Montes Taita. I admit that I wasn’t able to try this during my winery tour, so it was such a treat. An incredible mix of red and dark fruits with hints of spices anchored by an undeniably powerful structure, the wine was meant to be enjoyed years down the line (properly stored, of course). People who don’t have that patience, however, could enjoy the wine after about an hour of decanting (trust me though, it seems worth the 15 year recommended hang time). Another note: The recipe of Taita is normally 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the remaining 15% is a blend picked by Aurelio Montes himself (depending on the quality and attributes of the grapes).
As a sweet way to end the dinner, we had something I didn’t even know existed in the Montes line: The Montes Late Harvest Gewürztraminer. To pick the label apart (for the purpose of analysis, of course), a Gewürztraminer is an aromatic white grape that could be botrytised (a difficult process of allowing grapes in a cluster to be infected by the botrytis cinerea fungus, which punctures the skin of the grape and allows most of the water to evaporate, leaving behind the residue sugars. Dessert wine made out of botrytised grapes will produce rich notes of marmalade, and ideally has sufficient acidity to prevent the wine from being cloying). Late Harvest means that it has been left on the vine a little longer (which could lead to either an increased level of alcohol, or a sweet wine). All these put together with Montes winemaking gave us an incredibly balanced, aromatic, delectable dessert wine.
To make the evening’s end even sweeter, I managed to meet the legendary President and Winemaker behind the esteemed Montes winery, Aurelio Montes himself, who was game enough to autograph a bottle of Taita for me (as I blubbered incoherently).
Which winemaker/wine celebrity do you want to meet? Cheers!