Crazy over Chile!
A moment in time, frozen in our minds forever. The vision we saw from ten thousand feet above the spectacular Andes mountains as we approached the capital city of Santiago, Chile. Breathtaking in a rainbow of colors, we inhaled the magnificence of the largest mountain range in the world. Chile, at last, we’d so been looking forward to this day! On the worldwide stage of wine, Chile has an enviable position!
Welcome to Chile! It may be long and skinny in size and shape, but it’s big and fat when it comes to fabulous wines and food!
As a wine producing country Chile has been dealt a winning hand thanks in large part to its natural barriers, the Atacama Desert in the north, the magnificent Andes Mountains to the east, Patagonian ice fields to the south and of course the Pacific Ocean to the west. These geographic barriers serve Chile well, protecting the vineyards from pests and disease, while also facilitating organic and even biodynamic viticulture. Chile, in fact was never affected by the root eating louse phylloxera that decimated the winegrowing regions in the mid to late 1800’s. As a result grafting was never necessary and the great majority of Chile’s vines are planted on their original rootstocks unlike the majority of grapevines in the “old world” planted on the hearty North American rootstocks. Many experts maintain Chilean vines are at a huge advantage with vines better able to express their character and their terroir.
On our visit we experienced several incredible wineries and have chosen to share with you the time we spent with one in particular MontGras a leading wine producer founded in 1993 by brothers Hernán and Eduardo Gras together with their business partner Cristian Hartwig. MontGras is situated in the Colchagua Valley in Chile’s Central Region the heart of Chile’s most prominent wine zone.
MontGras’ mission was to create world-class wines that reflected Chile’s best terroir.
Today, “mission accomplished” with MontGras enjoying tremendous success with their line-up of wines being produced in the main wine regions of the country – Colchagua, Maipo and Leyda. MontGras embodies the perfect blend of state of the art technology with the talent and passion of a very special group of people.
Our introductory evening to MontGras was in the capital city of Santiago at the much touted restaurant of Astrid & Gaston fame, La Mar. Our hosts Hernán and Juan Pablo Quijada, the Export Manager, with their “personalities extraordinaire” treated us to an evening that totally rocked, La Mar was everything it promises to be, one of the best, most happening, colorful and amazing restaurants in town. The music played, the mouth watering apps arrived and the wines flowed.
From the ocean we enjoyed an assortment of ceviche, dressed in varying treatments, amazingly delicious! Main courses included scallops, sea bass, conger and more. We enjoyed a bottle of MontGras’ Amaral Sauvignon Blanc, produced from the Amaral vineyards located in the coolest wine region of Chile, Leyda Valley where some of the best whites in the country are made. Crisp, fresh and elegant with aromatics of grapefruit, tropical fruit and hints of white flowers, this wine delivered beautifully on the nose and on the palate.
What a night, and then it was time to bid “buona noche” as tomorrow a full day is planned at the winery with head winemaker Santiago Margozzini.
We arrive at MontGras and quickly see that the “work” is now about to begin!
At the tasting table, overlooking the stunning vineyards of MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon, Santiago is at the helm…before too long we are totally engrossed in passionate and enlightening conversation and tastings. Over a dozen of MontGras’ brands, Ninquén, Antu, Intriga, Amaral, are swirled, sniffed and slurped to our delight, each one with a story as recounted by Santiago. (put link here to all the wines)
So you think being a winemaker is an easy gig? Think again, as we are ushered down to the cellar where we are faced with creating our own wine! This is what they offer the visitors, trying your hand at being a winemaker. From the blend, selecting varying proportions of Cab Sauv, Carmenere and Merlot, to bottling, corking, labelling and picking a name! Loads of fun, it’s back to chemistry 101, with test tubes, measuring apparatus and calculator, throw in the nose and taste buds! We are put to the task!
Susanne’s blend takes the votes, with a 15% higher proportion of Carmenere, it is softer, Georgia’s blend is a touch more austere with Cabernet Sauvignon taking on a leading role.
Next on the agenda it is time for us to ascend the first mountain vineyard in Chile, MontGras’ “Ninquén”. We mount our horses, and are off, a breathtaking trek up the mountain, through the stunning vineyards, the Andes dutifully our compass. This is Ninquén, the mountain vineyard. Planted with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, the ultra premium reds that these vineyards produce are now iconic and have set a stage for further vineyards climbing “to the top”.
At the top now, glasses of a rich ruby red wine with purple nuances are passed around. We are about to enjoy one of Georgia’s favorite varietals a Syrah, the MontGras Antu Syrah. We learned from Hernán that the grapes for this wine are sourced from the vineyards of this mountain Ninquén , one of MontGras’ emblem estates which became a pioneer vineyard in Chile when the mountaintop was planted taking the vine to its maximum rigor, in a wild terrain. Our Antu Syrah is juicy, elegant and loaded with ripe black berries, plum and notes of spice on the palate, is well rounded and has a delicious lingering affect just like the beauty that surrounds us, a moment in time that will not soon be forgotten.
We’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone at MontGras for welcoming us and sharing their enthusiasm and passion for their wines, the incredible wine regions, the cuisine and the joie de vivre that surrounds it all in your beautiful country Chile! It was truly a magical visit and we departed “Crazy for Chile” and for MontGras!