They say “like father like son” but in the case of the Montes, they stand for different sides of the Andes. Aurelio Montes, Sr. represents Chile and Viña Montes. Aurelio Montes, Jr. exemplifies Argentina and Kaiken. Although they are different countries and wineries, they have a lot in common, especially their passion for wine.
An exuberant passion for both wine and winemaking are two important components for producing an outstanding wine. This is true for both Aurelio Sr. and Jr. I met Aurelio Montes, Jr., winemaker for Kaiken, a few years ago. When you’re in his company, his enthusiasm for his craft is quite apparent. You immediately sense his fervor for wine, the terroir and the entire winemaking process. This is also true of his father, which I sensed at a father-son tasting recently.
For Aurelio Jr., his love of wine started at a young age. His father made sure of this by dragging his son around the world with him as he was expanding his winery’s reach. Aurelio Jr. also worked in the vineyards starting at a young age.
At the time, Aurelio Montes, Sr. discovered the viticulture and terroir of the region east of the Andes – Mendoza, Argentina. As a result, he was moved to expand his winemaking prowess. He achieved this by having a hand in creating wines in a country very close to his native Chile, yet very different in the styles of winemaking. Hence, Kaiken was established in 2002.
Kaiken’s name represents the wild geese, Caiquenes, that cross the Andes between Chile and Argentina during migration season. The name of the winery not only symbolizes this wild goose but also the Montes team that crossed the Andes to create the marvelous wines that embody the Kaiken label.
The Caiquen is also a very social bird and thereby suggests the social aspects that bring people together over a bottle of wine and food. It also represents the social responsibilities the winemakers feel they have in both Chile and Argentina.
A Passion for Wine Through Sustainability
The Aurelios are very civic-minded, and the community plays an important role in both wineries. Sustainability is important in every aspect of the vineyard. For Viña Montes and Kaiken, this means protecting the environment and biodiversity, as well as attention to operations management and social responsibility. In other words, it is the mission of both wineries to “respect the environment, embrace sustainable practices, work in harmony with the local community and create value for both the shareholders and employees.”
At Viña Montes, the Angels program speaks out in the wines, winery community, and the local surroundings. Aurelio Sr. does this through a learning project he finances that includes complimentary health and life insurance for his employees and their families. As he puts it, “Happy people means happy wines.” The angel is their symbol and also the guardian of the Viña Montes winery. Some of his wines are dedicated to this program, including the Purple Angel and Sparkling Angel.
Another unique aspect of Viña Montes is music. You can always hear it resounding in the barrel room and the vineyards. Often, Gregorian chants echo throughout the winery.
Perhaps to further the importance of a sustainable approach to winemaking, Aurelio Sr. hired a Feng Shui architect to design and construct the winery building in 1990 and ensure that its environment is attuned to the wines. Even the water flows through the winery in a certain way.
A Passion for Wine Through Biodynamics
At Kaiken, the philosophy is different from most wineries in Argentina because its vineyard viticulture is biodynamic. Kaiken also utilizes organic principles and sustainable practices. As Aurelio describes it, “We are coming back to our roots. It is the way my grandparents worked in the vineyard.”
The winery’s philosophy and use of biodynamics are to give to the soil. At the same time, Kaiken is receiving the bounties its grapes have to offer. They are establishing natural ecosystems.
In addition to the grapes, Kaiken grows their fruits and vegetables and raises chickens, sheep, geese and horses, which are all part of the program. Aurelio has found that since introducing sustainability practices, the vineyard has become healthier, and the quality of the grapes is better. Not only are the people who work at Kaiken happy, they’re excited about the work they are doing to make this winery a sustainable community.
The Caiquen also symbolizes Aurelio Jr’s cosmopolitan interpretations of his wines. He loves cooking and combining various spices to enhance the cuisine. His concept for producing quality wines follows this same pattern – blending different areas and flavors together from good grapes, thereby creating unique, wonderful wines.
Highlights of the Wine Tasting
A tasting in Los Angeles at District by Hannah An brought this father and son team together to showcase both the wineries and their passion for wines. It was an opportunity to compare Chilean wine to Argentine wine and see the differences between the countries via terroir and climate.
The Sparkling Angel, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, was the perfect aperitif with its soft, well-balanced, citrusy demeanor.
Montes Alpha Chardonnay appeared to be more rounded and buttery, while the Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay was more acidic and crisp.
Chilean and Argentine Red Wines
The Cabernet Sauvignon from Montes Alpha was fuller bodied and rich, whereas the Kaiken Argentine counterpart Ultra was fresher and softer in the tannins.
Comparing Malbecs, the Montes Alpha from Chile was leaner, rounder and fruitier, while the Kaiken Ultra was more restrained, yet vibrant and spicier.
The Montes Alpha M is the winery’s tribute to Bordeaux’s left bank. It’s big, well-balanced, and earthy.
Kaiken pays tribute to Argentinean Malbec with Mai. The word Mai means “first,” and it represents Kaiken’s first iconic wine. The grapes come from a 125-year-old vineyard in Vistabla. The grapes are hand selected berry by berry, and the wine is silky and velvety with ripe fruits. Mai is the ultimate statement of what Kaiken and Argentinean wines are about.
For Viña Montes, the wine that is classified above all others is the Taita Cabernet Sauvignon. Taita means “father” or “grandfather” and represents the wisdom one gains over the years. In this case, it signifies the best of his Chilean wine. It also symbolizes the wisdom that Aurelio Sr. has given to his son, Aurelio Jr. It’s this knowledge that intensifies their relationship.
The contrasts might seem like the relationship is one of father versus son, Chile versus Argentina, rather than like father like son. After meeting the two, it’s quite obvious this is not the case. The love and passion that the two Aurelios have for each other and for wine make them a team. Their wines show their quest to make the very best of what Chile and Argentina have to offer.
If You Go
As is common in the industry, I was hosted at a wine tasting for Montes and Kaiken.