Harvest began in the Montes family vineyards in Chile on February 21, 2019. For the first time in 20 years, winemaker Aurelio Montes Jr. wasn’t there. Instead, he was sharing the story of his pioneering family winery with diners in Dallas. I was invited to dinner with Aurelio on the final night of his two-week North American tour. He visited cities from Texas to Florida to promote Montes Wines in partnership with Kobrand, Montes Wines’ new importer. La Duni, one of Montes Wines’ top restaurant accounts, hosted the dinner with warm hospitality.
La Duni at NorthPark Center welcomed guests like we were family. In a private room lit by candlelight, we enjoyed exceptional Latin American food and warm service that paired perfectly with the wines. La Duni owners Espartaco “Taco” and Dunia Borga, along with their teenage son Brandon, were part of the dinner party as well. And a party it was! Diners easily talked and laughed around a communal table. Taco welcomed us and explained how we would begin the meal by breaking bread together. After tearing off a piece of baguette, we followed Taco’s instructions on how to embellish our bread. His suggestion was to use a schmear of imported butter, sliced radishes with herbs, one of three salts (cabernet or volcanic salt, perhaps?), and then finish with a squeeze of lime. This practice marries French and Latin flavors and traditions. Bon appétit!
Established in 1988, Montes is one of the iconic brands in all of South America. Visionaries in the premium category, Montes Wines has led the Chilean wine industry in site selection, viticultural practices, high end wine production, and sustainability efforts. It is a large winery with current annual production over 650,000 cases. Aurelio modestly mentioned many firsts that have been initiated by his father and the Montes team: first premium Chilean wine, first single varietal Carménère, first vintners to plant on slopes, and first certified sustainable winery and vineyards. He explained that terroir means more than just the natural conditions at the site where the grapes grow. He also considers the people who work the land and collaborate on the wine to be part of the terroir.
Aurelio shared information about each wine as it was poured. The wine selections were a good representation of the full Montes production. We tasted one white wine, the Montes Alpha Chardonnay. The three red wines followed including the Montes Alpha Pinot Noir, Montes Cabernet-Carménère blend, and Montes Purple Angel. All of the Alpha wines have received “Top Scoring” and “Best Value” distinctions from Wine Spectator. Further, Purple Angel (92% Carménère, 8% Petit Verdot) is widely believed to be Chile’s best Carménère. Since Carménère is the signature grape of Chile, this is a high honor. The Montes wines, clearly New World in style, are bold, fruit forward, and juicy. The red wines have soft, sweet tannins balanced by explosive fruit. Oak is used, but oak flavors never overpower the fruit. The red wines would stand up well to Texas barbeque, steaks, and other grilled foods.
La Duni and Montes Wines Dinner Menu
Plancha Lime Shrimp on Corn Tostada with Elotes
Paired with Montes Alpha Chardonnay
Salad with Mixed Legumes & Vegetables
Paired with Montes Alpha Pinot Noir
Crispy Chicken Leg and Thigh with Roasted Potatoes & Charred Broccolini
Paired with Montes Cabernet-Carménère Blend
Lasagna with Wild Mushroom & Tomato Ragu
Paired with Montes Purple Angel
Salted Caramel Apple Crostata with Homemade Ice Cream
I was intrigued to know how Purple Angel was named. Since Carménère requires a long growing season to ripen, the deep, dark reddish-purple grape clusters are all that remains on the grapevines late in the season. The vines’ leaves have since fallen off, and only a sea of purple is visible stretching out across the vineyard.
Located 110 miles southwest of Santiago, the Montes winery is a modern building that has been recognized for its environmentally friendly practices. Care for the environment also extends to its vineyards. Montes Wines has been instrumental in leading an industry-wide shift away from heavy dependence on irrigation. Adopting dry farming techniques and other water reduction efforts has allowed Montes Wines to reduce consumption by 65%, an amount equivalent to the average annual water needs of 20,000 people for one year.
After thanking the marvelous Chef Julia, La Duni’s culinary officer emeritus, and hugs all around, guests departed. Aurelio was catching a flight the next day to return home to oversee harvest operations. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about this brand that has been revolutionary in the Chilean wine industry. Now when I see that eye-catching purple angel on a Montes wine label, I’ll know the history, environmental care, and deliciousness that it represents.
I attended the dinner as a guest of Montes Wines’ distributor. All opinions are my own. Montes Wines are widely distributed in Texas. Purple Angel retails for approximately $70 and is the most expensive of the wines we tasted. The other wines poured retail for $15-$20.