Tasting the wines of Montes Alpha

Now I said Montes Alpha like that was the name of the winery. It is not. Vina Montes makes wine under a variety of “Montes” labels including the Classic Series, Limited Selection, Folly, Cherub and more. The Alpha, as the name implies, is their top rated offering and certainly it’s most well known. Now I’ve been lucky enough to try many quality offerings from Chile and given that when these samples arrived I was anxious to give them a try. How did they stack up?

Montes Alpha Wines

  • 2008 Montes Alpha Syrah ($18) – (14.5%) Bit of green on the nose with dark fruit (black cherry) notes and briar spice. Initially creamy and juicy, and a bit sweet, with loads of blueberries on the palate but quickly met with nice acidity and tight, tart tannins. Barrel oak and spice lead the finish followed by tart cranberry flavors and tingly tannins that linger on. As it is drinking today I can’t quite get to the 90 points this one garnered from the Wine Spectator. That said with a few more years to integrate this one has the potential to punch well behind its weight…
  • 2008 Montes Alpha Carménère ($18) – (14.5%) 90% Carmenere, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon – Nice deep purple fruits, floral notes and spice on the nose. On the palate a superb structure is readily apparent on entry to the palate and lasts throughout. Warm, plush blueberry and plum flavors greet you on the palate. This one is a fruit forward but balanced offering as some acidity emerges before creamy barrel spices take over and lead to a smooth, effortless finish with black pepper and gentle tannins that lingers nicely. Certainly not your typical Carmenere (lacking the green pepper and smoky components I am so used to) but an enjoyable wine to say the least. Drinking very well right now and will certainly last for quite a few more years should you have the patience.
  • 2008 Montes Alpha Chardonnay ($18) – (14%) 100% Chardonnay – Pale gold in the glass the nose here started muted which is always a sign that the wine is too cold to move forward. Returning after giving it ten minutes to warm I found buttery notes with fruit; predominantly banana with muted lemon notes. The palate starts creamy from the get go and the white fruit flavors (pear and apple) are hard pressed to emerge through. A decent acidic structure does manage to maintain balance here until late in the mid-palate when it briefly spirals before subsiding to a creamy, vanilla finish that lingers with lemon notes and a tinge of floral spiciness. This is certainly made with a new world chardonnay palate in mind. If that is you (it’s not me) I would trust in the 88 points this one got from both the Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast rather than this review…
  • 2008 Kaiken Corte ($12) – (14.8%) 80% Malbec, 12% Bonarda, 8% Petite Verdot – Kaiken is the Argentine off shoot of the Montes Alpha team from Chile and this one in particular is a relatively new offering. Super dark purple in the glass with cherries and floral notes on the nose. The initial weight and mouth feel are quite nice. This one starts juicy then turns earthy and dry on the palate. The edges are hot and slightly harsh with some mineral, graphite notes emerging before a barrel driven finish of cedar and spice emerges. While a unique blend and drinkable there are many better offerings out there for the money.

These stacked up quite well! Even better they seem to be broadly available so your chances of finding these should be pretty good. You can start at your local Costco where these seem to be regularly stocked. I know I’ll be looking for the Carmenere next time I am there! How about you? Have you tried any of the Montes Alpha wines? Any other Chilean favorites to share?

*as indicated above these wines were indeed received as press samples

2006 Pascual Toso Maipu Valley Malbec

Price: $8.99 @ K&L Wines imported by TGIC Importers

What They Said:

Per K&L Wines ”91 points and the #1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast: “A year or two ago when Paul Hobbs began consulting for Toso things changed for the better. This is the rare Best Buy that can swim with the big fish and give them a run for the money. Pop the cork and enjoy lusty dark aromas of Turkish tobacco and berry compote. In the mouth, there’s a riot of fruit flavors to ponder followed by a smooth, lusty finish.” (12/1/2007) 90 points and a “Best Buy” in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. (no tasting note given, Dec. 2007) That’s right we can actually offer you a #1 wine from someone’s list. Those end of the year best lists are so frustrating for us. We usually have our stock answer, “Sorry, it sold out months ago.” But not this time, this time we can say, “How much would you like?” And I couldn’t think of a better wine to give to any customer looking for sheer value. This Malbec is attached to Paul Hobbs and it shows. His trademark velvety texture and boisterous fruit flavors are all on display here. The solid tannins keep everything held together while the sappy boysenberry fruit, clove spice and vanilla laced finish are sure to please. (Bryan Brick, K&L)”

What I Think:

I had been meaning to grab this one for a while. Ever since K&L sent out an email proclaiming this the “Best Red Available under $10” it has been hard to come by. Couple that with being ranked the “#1 wine on the “Top 100 Best Buys of 2007″ from Wine Enthusiast and you can imagine it is getting difficult. The third feather in the cap was Paul Hobbs involvement who made this “Cocodrilo” that I just had to grab a case of. And I still haven’t mentioned a price tag of single digits ($9). And uh, oh yah, it is a single vineyard offering. It’s been a struggle but recently a friend of mine scored me a bottle and it was worth the wait!

Loads of dark fruit and smoke on the nose, on the palate the fruit delivers with hints of vanilla and barrel spice making the finish as velvety as can be. The combination makes this a hands down winner. To be fair, value wines are plentiful coming out of Argentina. I’ve had offerings from Alamos and Terrazas de los Andes that blow the quality to price ratio straight out of the water. That said those two were enjoyable based on the forwardness of their fruit and didn’t display near the complexity of this one. Wonder if I can find anymore! I’ll sure be looking…

Rating: Bulk Buy