Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Viña MontGras.

MontGras was a pleasant surprise. We wandered in without an appointment hoping to do a simple tasting. Two hours later, after touring the vineyards, tasting through five wines, and listening to endless stories of the region and the winery from our host Cristián Olate (the brother of our host Josue at Emiliana, strangely enough), we left, thankful that we had made this random stop. And the wines are pretty good, too.

MontGras' Cristian Olate, our fantastic guide for the afternoon 

MontGras was founded in 1992 by Hernan and Eduardo Gras along with Cristián Hartwig (of Laura Hartwig) in the commune of Palmilla. Vinifera grapes had grown at the estate since before the 1850s, mainly País and Garnacha Tintorera. Now the vineyards span more than 900 hectares in Colchagua, Leyda, and Maipo. The Leyda parcels specialize in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc; the Maipo contribution is Cabernet, of course; Syrah, Carmenere, Viognier, and Cabernet are grown in Colchagua along with a little Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Palmilla vineyards are planted on a predominantly clay soil with some influences of volcanic rocks and a little sand close to the river. That being said, the soil profile varies enormously due to the presence of the hills and the river, so many expressions of the wines can be made (see the map above to view the proximity of the vineyards to the river and the mountains). In the valley its texture is fine and the topsoil runs deep due to its slow sedimentation. At the foot of the mountains, clay and loamy clay form the majority of soils. And in the mountains (such as Ninquén), deep granitic soils offer good drainage and the possibility for growing grapes for wines with lots of structure.

The land is irrigated by large wells on the property from which water is pumped to a drip irrigation system. There can be a problem with botrytis in this area which complicates the growing of the Zinfandel grapes on the property. Zinfandel grows in large, tight bunches which provide perfect incubators for mold spores and mildew. For this reason the Zinfandel is picked early for the Pink Sin wine.

MontGras has beautiful vineyards with an interesting structure in the middle: a small semicircular set of benches covered by a lattice entwined with some of the old remaining Tintorera vines. The benches and vines make an accidental sound lens, and if you stand at the center and talk strange echoing effects can be observed. It may not sound particularly captivating, but it is remarkable in person. And we spent probably too long having a great time playing with it! You can also observe the teinturier properties of the Tintorera grape here.

Here are the wines we tasted with Cristian:

2009 MontGras Reserva Sauvignon Blanc

Hailing from Leyda, this wine exhibits the characteristic saltiness of the region. Tropical fruits dominate the nose and palate, with a bright acidic grapefruity finish. But watch out: its refreshingly light feel belies its 14% alcohol content. This would be great with seafood.

2010 Pink Sin

An “early harvest” (for reasons discussed above) Zinfandel rosé. Light salmon in color with aromas of rosewater, candy strawberries, and red licorice. Slightly sweet and simple, but a nice aperitif or pairing for sushi.

2009 MontGras Reserva Merlot

These grapes were grown in Colchagua. Aging in mostly American oak gives a cinnamon spiciness. Lots of red fruit and plum. Paired with a bacon-wrapped prune… delicious!

2010 MontGras Reserva Carmenere

Spicy, intense perfume. Ripe blackberries and cherries make a great pairing for a spicy Spanish chorizo.

2008 Antu Ninquén Syrah

My favorite of the lineup. The grapes for this one come from the hillsides of Ninquén Mountain. Considered MontGras’ ultrapremium wine, the focus here is on structure. Floral notes and blackberry shine through the sturdy but soft tannins. I think this shouldn’t be opened for another year, though.

Overall the wines were excellent and have great quality to price ratios (they are virtually a steal). I definitely recommend picking up a few bottles of MontGras, which are readily available in US markets. For more information visit MontGras’ website here.

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