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#SommNextDoor: Two Generations of Winemakers Innovating in Chile and Argentina, Montes Wines and Kaiken
A few weeks back, the family at Kaiken gave us some insight on their farming methods, migration, and inspiration. Well, their story is so fascinating that we wanted to give a deeper look into their history and outcomes: Chilean roots Montes Wines was started in 1988 by a group of four men - a winemaker, a marketer, a viticulture engineer, and a financial expert. These four set out on a mission to create the finest, ultra premium wines that Chile had ever produced. The idea was scoffed at and considered ridiculous at the time of its conception. However, the Montes team proved it could be done. Montes' founding winemaker, Aurelio Montes, Sr., is considered the "father of Chilean wine" for all of his contributions to the Chilean wine industry. He studied agronomy in college and later concentrated on enology, often experimenting with different winemaking methods and techniques. He always searched for a better, more innovative way to do things. Aurelio was one of the first winemakers in Chile to use commercial yeast. This was an alternative to the reliance on native yeast for fermentation. Since the beginning of Montes Wines, Aurelio focused on sustainability in the vineyard and winery; not simply on organics. The Montes brand believes in being stewards of the land and taking care of the people who work the land and produce the wine. Aurelio Montes Sr, winemaker of Montes Argentinian chapter In 2002, Montes expanded its borders by starting Kaiken, a new wine project in Mendoza, Argentina. "Kaiken" comes from the Patagonian geese that fly across the Andes from Chile and Argentina - similar to how the Montes family flies from one side of the Andes to the other. Aurelio Montes, Jr. was "born in a barrel" and began working in the winery at ten years old. A trip to Napa Valley at fifteen years old ignited a desire to follow after his father's path and continue the family winemaking legacy. Junior studied enology at Chile's Catholic University and worked harvests in France, Argentina, Australia, and Napa Valley to learn how other regions and winemakers approach winemaking. He eventually joined the Montes team in 2011 as head winemaker of Kaiken wines. Aurelio Montes Junior, winemaker of Kaiken Like father like son, Junior experimented with varieties not commonly planted in Mendoza. His goal was to prove that Argentina is more than just Malbec. Junior developed an appreciation for Cabernet Franc and decided to test out how Cabernet Franc performed in Mendoza. The results Kaiken's Obertura Cabernet Franc was a success. It demonstrated the Kaiken spirit of innovation and exploration.The fruit comes from the highly regarded Valle de Uco within the Vistaflores designation. It's all hand-picked and sorted and rests for twelve months in neutral French Oak barrels. The 2014 Obertura ($35) is fleshy, sensual, and inviting with aromas of licorice, blueberry and blackberry jam, cloves, and floral perfume. In the mouth, it retains freshness and acidity with hints of minerality. This wine is heavenly and will make your eyes roll back like a much needed deep tissue massage. Send us your quesions to be answered by our resident girl-next-door who happens to be a Certified Sommelier, Alex Sanchez – Twitter, Facebook, or email cheers@ilikethisgrape.com Connect with Alex on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
Sommelier Recommended Halloween Candy & Wine Pairings
Sommelier Recommended Halloween Candy & Wine Pairings It's that time of the year again where it's totally acceptable to dress up crazy, get college-kid wasted, and binge on "fun size" candy just because it's around. Whether you're stealing your favorite candies from your kid (or nephew) or indulging in the Halloween treats from work, here's a guide on what wines to pair with your Halloween sweets! Rice Krispy Treats and Domaine Pichot Vouvray 2015 $18 Chenin...Oh Chenin (Chenin Blanc is the grape in Vouvray) -- so beautiful, fresh, bootylicious, and perfumey! Domaine Pichot Vouvray has notes of honey, nectarine, green apple, ginger, and orange blossom with racing acidity and a luscious mouthfeel. This off-dry white wine pairs with the sweet gooey marshmallow flavor of the Rice Krispie without overpowering it. Milky Way Midnight and J.Lohr Tower Road Petite Sirah 2014 $35 Tower Road Petite Sirah is loaded with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, mocha, caramel, and dark chocolate. This inky, full-bodied wine matches perfectly with the dark chocolate and caramel flavors of the milky way midnight. Both the candy and wine enhance the flavors of each other harmoniously. Candy Corn and Domaine Weinbach Vin D'Alsace Gewurtzraminer Altenbourg 2013 $40 Candy corn is known for its honey, marshmallow-like flavor. Almost any sweet or off-dry white wine would pair well with candy corn, but since Gewurtz doesn't get much playing time, let me introduce you...Gewurtztraminer has a honey character along with lychee, pineapple and spice. The candy corn-and-Gewurtztraminer combination instantly adds impressive complexity of flavors to an otherwise one-dimensional candy. Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins and Zynthesis Lodi Zinfandel 2013 $15 This is the PB&J effect! The fruit-driven, jammy zinfandel acts as the jelly/jam component in a PB&J. It just works! Salty and rich Reese's Peanut Butter with a Zynthesis Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel is a no-brainer pairing. You will be wildly surprised; you might even be convinced to pair this wine with your Goober sandwiches. Caramel Apple lollipops and Jacques Bourguignon Chablis 2013 $12 Easy one, green apple lollipops with caramel and a wine that has apple and lemon as its main fruit flavors - duh! This Chablis is a steal and will keep your mouth watering and thirsty for more. Chablis is a region in the north of Burgundy. For those that can do without the cougar-juice Chardonnay go for a Chablis. You're mouth will love you and the sommelier at the restaurant will want your lollipops! As your getting juiced up jam to our totally strange Halloween playlist in the background. Enjoy! Best $3 corkscrew with free shipping! Can't go wrong. Buy Now.
#SommNextDoor: Sustainable, Biodynamic, Organic
This week's question via email from Brandon in Vacaville, CA What's the difference between sustainable, biodynamic, and organic wine growing? Organic is a term legally regulated by the USDA. Organic wines must be made with organically grown grapes, organic additives, and no added sulfites. Wines labeled "made with organic grapes" can have added sulfites but are otherwise made in the same way. There are also other philosophies and practices in grape growing. It's not limited to either conventional or organic farming, like how we view the produce in grocery stores. Biodynamic and sustainable farming practices take into consideration much more and are not differentiated solely by the use of pesticides or herbicides. Sustainable farming focuses on environmental stewardship, economic viability, and social equity. The purpose is to preserve and protect the natural environment, treat employees and community with care, and have sound business practices that are sustainable in the long-term. There are different certifying bodies that deem a vineyard or winery sustainable; one of the most recognized in California is the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certification. The SIP Certified seal found on a wine label is only given to producers who pass strict requirements to prove they are making sustainable choices for the environment, their employees, and the economy. Biodynamic farming, the fun one! Biodynamic farming is probably the most interesting and controversial because it's more spiritual than scientific. It was developed in the 1920's by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. The focus is to create a diversified, balanced ecosystem with healthy and fertile soils. Farming decisions are scheduled around the lunar cycle and the four categories of Biodynamic days: Root, Fruit, Flower, and Leaf days. Special soil preparations are made with herbs and manure, stuffed in a cow horn, buried, and then later dug up to be made into a compost tea. The winemaking approach is natural, without any additives or commercial yeast. Send us your quesions to be answered by our resident girl-next-door who happens to be a Certified Sommelier, Alex Sanchez – Twitter, Facebook, or email cheers@ilikethisgrape.com Connect with Alex on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
#SommNextDoor: Oak
This week's question from Laura in Tuscon, Arizona Why is wine aged in oak barrels? Traditionally, oak was used for wine storage because it's sturdy and easy to shape, waterproof, and transports well. The oak grain allows a small amount of oxygen into the wine, softening the tannins over time. It also adds flavor and structure to the wine by giving it a heavier mouthfeel, fuller body, and increased tannins. The flavors the oak imparts are vanilla, caramel, baking spices, and smoked/toasted flavors. However, after two to three years of use, the barrel is considered "neutral," meaning it no longer surrenders any flavor. There's a variety of oak to choose from; the three most widely used are French oak, American oak and Hungarian oak. French oak is the most subtle and elegant of the three. American oak is more aggressive and imparts coconut, dill, and intense vanilla flavors. Hungarian oak is somewhere in between French and American oak, it's not too aggressive or subtle and imparts nutty flavors. Barrels are toasted with fire at different levels ranging from light, medium, medium long, medium plus, to heavy. The toast levels have a large effect on the flavor profile as well. Light toasts have earthy, mild, toasted/baked flavors. Medium toast shows sweeter flavors like butterscotch, caramel, chocolate, coffee, baking spices, vanilla and baked bread. Medium long has more subtle hazelnut flavors since it's toasted on a low level for a long period of time. Medium plus shows flavors of brown sugar, mocha, hazelnut, spice, and intense vanilla bean. Heavy toast imparts flavors of smoke, roasted coffee, espresso and a touch of black pepper. Another factor that affects the wine is where the oak came from and which cooper (barrel manufacturer) made the barrel. The oak forests in France considered the best are Troncais, Alliers, and Nevers. Just as grapes reveal the character of the place they came from, so do oak trees. Many winemakers prefer to use a variety of different types of oak, coopers, and toast levels to add dimension and complexity to the wine. It's similar to a chef using different spices to add diversity and flavor to a dish. Wineries that don't want to spend on pricey new oak barrels can implement less expensive oak treatments through the use of oak chips, oak staves, or oak tannin products. Oak chips come in cloth bags that are placed into a tank of wine for a period of time.The wine extracts the oak flavors and tannin from the oak chips. It's the same idea as teabags steeped in water. Oak tannin products can be added to the wine by liquid or powder. These methods of oak treatment are fast and cheap ways of treating wine like a fast food meal you get at a drive through. Barrel aging is like slow, home cooked meal with quality ingredients that may cost you more money and time to make. What are your thoughts on oak in wine? Do you like wines with a dominant oak influence? Are you willing to spend more on a bottle of wine that's been aged in oak barrels versus a wine that hasn't been? Let us know what you think via– Twitter, Facebook, or email cheers@ilikethisgrape.com Connect with Alex on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter BUY best $5 corkscrew on the market! 
#SommNextDoor: Native, Wild, Natural
This week’s question via email from Ted in Sonoma, CA I'm hearing more about "natural" wines and the wild yeasts used, can you explain what this means and its affect on the wine? Traditional winemaking was based on native yeast fermentation, meaning no commercial yeasts were used as it commonly is today. Natural, wild yeasts are present in the air and on vegetation everywhere. When grapes are harvested and left alone, they will start fermenting on their own because of the native yeasts found on the grape skins, fermentation vessel, and in the air. However, some winemakers prefer using commercial cultured yeasts because it allows them to control and select which strains of yeast they prefer. Every strain of yeast has a different affect on the fermentation process, and subsequently the wine. Certain yeasts perform faster and complete the fermentation in a shorter amount of time, usually within a week or two. Other yeasts work at a slower rate, which makes for a slow and steady fermentation that can take up to years to complete (this is on the extreme end). Some winemakers prefer the "get it done fast" approach so they don't have to worry about the yeasts dying or not completing fermentation. When faced with a "stuck" fermentation (a fermentation that does not finish) it is extremely difficult to get it started again. The yeast strain not only affects the rate of fermentation but also enhances certain flavors and aromas in the wine. If a winemaker wants a Pinot Noir to express more cherry, red fruit characteristics, they can select a specific strain for that. Basically, there's a yeast strain for every style of wine and flavor/aroma character. Native fermentation, limits a winemaker from controlling anything. The winemaker's role is to sit back and let the wild yeasts do their thing. Wineries are usually unaware of which yeast strains they have floating around in their space unless they've had it tested; but even then the native yeasts in the vineyard are unknown because it varies each year. The benefit of a native fermentation is that there are usually many different strains working. Think of a painting with many different colors rather than just one---it's usually more interesting and complex. When there are many different wild yeast strains contributing to fermentation, it adds complexity and layers to the wine. Native yeast advocates believe that it allows the wine to express the terroir fully. Wines that go through native fermentation tend to have a special "funk" to them. This could be from Brettanomyces, a type of yeast that produces "off flavors" like barnyard, horse stable, band-aid, and medicinal; or from another type of yeast. Brettanomyces is generally considered a flaw and when a winemaker chooses to use native yeasts, they take the chance of Brett being one of them. If you're open to funky, interesting wines give native ferment wines a try! They will for sure stir up conversation and have you trying to identify the unfamilar aromas and flavors you sense. These are a few of my favorite wines that are made with wild yeasts: Broc Cellars Valdiguie Solano Country, Green Valley 2015 ($24) -The wine that made Valdiguie popular again; supple and lush with notes of sour cherry, watermelon, violets, rose, and green apple jolly rancher. Ultramarine Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir 2011 ($135) -Considered the "cult" sparkling wine of California with notes of cranberry, raspberry, blood orange, and baking spices. Cain NV12 Napa Valley Red Blend ($36) -Blend of 2012 and 2011 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with notes of juicy black plum, blackberry, forest floor, white pepper, and black currant. Send us your quesions to be answered by our resident girl-next-door who happens to be a Certified Sommelier, Alex Sanchez – Twitter, Facebook, or email cheers@ilikethisgrape.com Connect with Alex on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
#SommNextDoor: Terroir
This week's question comes via email from Aaron in San Jose, CA. What is terroir? Not to be confused with terror or terrier dogs, the term "terroir" is something special in its own right. You may have heard this term used among “winos” and wondered what in the world it meant. The word was first coined by the French and is used to describe a sense of place. It’s derived from the Latin word terra meaning earth or land, and there is no English equivalent for this word. It’s common to hear someone say, “this wine really shows the terroir," meaning the wine reveals the place it came from. This can be tasted as minerality, earthiness, funk, vegetal qualities, and more. If you taste or smell a lot of chalkiness and minerality in a wine from Chablis, you could say that the wine is expressive of its terroir because it's expressing the chalky, Kimmeridgian clay present in the soils of Chablis. Even within a single vineyard there is varying terroir from one block to the next. Two different winemakers can source fruit from the same vineyard and the same block but the resulting wines will have different terroir. Terroir is not limited to the vineyard where the grapes came from but the sum of all the factors contributing to the wines unique taste. This includes the soil, macro/meso/microclimates, weather, topography, farming practices, region, winemaking process, and the people involved. The French so strongly believe in the idea of terroir that they say the mood of the people who work with the grapes and wine have an effect on the wine. If a person is angry while they work on the vines, the plant can sense that energy and it will have a negative effect on the vine's health and growth. Some wineries in the Old World won’t even remove the mold or natural flora found in their wine caves because it contributes to the distinct character of the wine. Terroir is as unique as an individual; you cannot copy or recreate a sense of place. Napa Valley will never be Bordeaux. Instead of trying to manipulate the environment to mimic another place, these differences should be celebrated. Each region and site has its own character that distinguishes it from any other. This is what makes wine special! Send us your quesions to be answered by our resident girl-next-door, who happens to be a certified level 2 Sommelier, Alex Sanchez – Twitter, Facebook, or email cheers@ilikethisgrape.com