Dry Farming: A Sustainability Initiative at Montes Wines

I celebrated the first Earth Day by picking up potato chip bags, gum wrappers, and cigarette butts from the high school football and hockey field with plenty of classmates by my side and Crosby, Stills, and Nash tunes in my head.  Many years and more environmental initiatives later, Earth Day means more than just keeping America beautiful. People around the globe have realized that a myriad of conservation efforts are needed to preserve our planet for future generations.  Wine lovers, too, are united in seeking out wines that are produced using sustainable, biodynamic, and organic methods.  One such example is dry farming, a system of water conservation; rainfall takes care of the irrigation process.

Recently I participated in #Sommchat, a weekly twitter chat often featuring a wine aficianado who shares his or her philosophies, notes about wines, and more.  Highlighting the latest #Sommchat was renown winemaker Aurelio Montes, President, Chairman, Head Winemaker (take your pick!) at Montes Wines in Chile, who spoke about the benefits and challenges of dry farming.  Prior to the chat, I received as tasting samples a Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Syrah 2012, and Carmenere 2012 from the premium Montes Alpha Series.  All were sustainably dry farmed in vineyards located in the Colchagua Valley.

Montes explained that under their dry farming philosophy, “we leave nature to do the job of irrigation through rain.  We don’t irrigate unless nature does not provide us with enough minimum rain that we have determined our vines need.  In that case we irrigate to compensate the difference.”  The result? Dry farming helps produce more ripe fruit and decreases the use of water up to 65%.  There are challenges, however. Montes shared that “you sacrifice a lot in terms of yields.”  Further, one of the most demanding aspects is “controlling tannin extraction and balance on the palate” and “not debilitating the vineyards.” In fact, Montes stated that “dry farming Carmenere sacrifices six to ten tons of fruit per hectare.”

The wines I tasted were produced from grapes grown in vineyards located at Montes Wines’ Apalta and Marchigue estates in the Colchagua Valley.  Both areas have granite soils with different levels of weathering and “vary in terms of clay content, depth, and amount of organic matter.”  The Apalta Vineyards are heterogeneous with areas influenced by the river or by mudslides that break from the nearby mountains.  Marchigue is flatter with lower hills, moderate slopes and shallow clay soils that retain water.  Soil in vineyards located in the flat zones consist of fluvial material and are poor in clay.

Aurelio Montes shared that Cabernet and Syrah grapes respond especially well to the dry farming system.  In Bordeaux where rainfall is plentiful, Carmenere is dry farmed.  In Chile, however, Montes stated that Carmenere must be irrigated on occasion for vine survival; there is not as much rain as in Bordeaux.

So how were the wines? Delicious. Each choice I tasted in the Alpha Series is under $20 and the price/quality ratio is going to be difficult to beat…I’m not even going to try!

The Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 presented intense aromas of dark cherries, spice, and pepper.  Rich and bold on the palate, bright notes of black currants, more cherries, tobacco, vanilla, and toasted oak led to a long finish.

Montes Alpha Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
With its mesmerizing aromas and tastes of earth, dark fruit, vanilla, spice, and pepper, the Montes Alpha Syrah 2012 was enticing.  Smooth and balanced with the optimal amount of fruit and acidity, I loved the complex palate profile of this delicious Syrah.

Montes Alpha Series Syrah 2012
The Montes Alpha Carmenere 2012 was a stunning wine.  Raspberries and pepper dominated the nose and complex notes of black and ripe red berries, plums, cherries, bell pepper, chocolate and espresso were delicious. With a silky texture and plenty of structure, the beautiful, lush finish lingered.

Montes Alpha Carmenere 2012

The angel on the label of Montes Alpha series wines “symbolizes the founder’s  guardian angel, but now symbolizes protection for us all” according to Aurelio Montes.  Thanks to Montes Wines’ practices of sustainability, I’m thinking that the angel is protecting the earth as well.

Cheers~ Cindy

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Wine Quiz: Food and Wine Pairings

It’s time for a wine quiz! My last quiz gave you the opportunity to match wines with their tasting notes.  But this is different.  This simple test of your knowledge focuses on food and wine pairings I’ve written about during the last few months.  Look at the list below then find the wine that matches.  Need help?  The number before the selection is linked to the full article that includes its recipe and wine pairing.  The answers are under the last picture!

From appetizers to desserts, from wines from Italy to California, I’m sure that you’ll just breeze through this quiz and perhaps be inspired to create one or more of these dishes soon.  And, of course, pair them with the wines (sent as samples) I’ve suggested.

Cheers and good luck!  Cindy

1.  Herbed Parmesan Crisps

2.  Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip

3.  Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint

4.  Vegetable Lasagna

5.  Spanakopita

6.  Mushroom Risotto

7.  Chicken Breasts with Zucchini and Marjoram

8.  Warm Apple Crisp

Which wines are the matches?

a.  Forgotten Fire Late Harvest Riesling  b.  2011 Avantis Charisma Red  c.  2012 Van Duzer Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

d.  Anna de Codorniu Brut NV  e 2013 Las Lilas Vinho Verde  f.  2010 Cecchi Chianti Classico

g.  2011 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, White Label  h.  2012 Fontana Candida Terre dei Grifi Frascati


1. d     2. h     3. e     4. f     5. b     6. g    7. c     8. a

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Wine and Dine: Las Lilas Vinho Verde 2013 and Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint

Spring is finally here!! I’m more than ready to bury my winter coat, open the windows, take long walks outside, and read a good book on the back porch…I’m in Chicago after all!  The welcome change of season also heralds (for me at least) a shift of recipes and wine pairings.  Thanks to the plethora of spring vegetables becoming available, I’ll be making lighter dishes and choosing wines that are complementary.  Apparently others feel the same way I do (see the links at the end of this post).  Please join me and other wine and food bloggers on Saturday, April 11 at 11am Eastern on Twitter.  Use the hashtag #winePW and share your spring dishes and wine pairings.

Recently I found a lovely recipe for Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint using fresh cucumbers, yogurt, lemon juice, mint leaves and just the right amount of cumin to keep you on your toes. Delicious as a light lunch or first course at a springtime dinner party, it would be just as fabulous in shooters as an appetizer.  With edible flowers in the center of this mint green soup, I can’t think of a better way to open the door to spring.

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint
There were a few wines I could have paired with the Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint.  An unoaked Chardonnay, Cava, or Riesling would have worked.  But I decided to try Las Lilas Vinho Verde 2013 (sample) at an alcohol level of only 10% and the result was just what the soup (and I) needed.  The wine consists of estate grown grapes, Louriero and Treixadura, from a small vineyard of only 14 hectares in the valley of the Duoro River in Portugal.  Pale gold in the glass with a bit of fizz, light aromas of stone fruits, mangoes, and hints of orange led to tastes of peaches, florals, pears, and minerality.  Its high acidity and subtle sparkles tempered the cumin in the soup and floral notes were a refreshing complement to the mint.  The cost is just as approachable as the wine: $10. And don’t you just love the label?

Las Lilas Vinho Verde 2013

Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint Leaves


  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cup Japanese or young English cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • small petals from the center of a rose (for garnish)


Step 1
Place all ingredients except garnish in a blender.
Step 2
Puree until smooth.
Step 3
Season with salt.
Step 4
Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with rose petals.

Cheers to Spring! ~ Cindy

Join the twitter chat on Saturday, April 11 at 11am Eastern.  Use hashtag #winePW to share your recipes and wine pairings!  I hope to see you there!

Spring Pea Risotto with Picpoul de Pinet by Curious Cuisiniere 

Spring-Kissed Seafood Chowder with Pelerin 2011 Les Tournesols by Cooking Adventures with Camilla

Wine and Dine: Las Lilas Vinho Verde 2013 and Chilled Cucumber with Mint Soup by Grape Experiences.

Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Spring Peas and Westrey Pinot Noir by Pull That Cork

Red Wine with Asparagus and Mushrooms by Cooking Chat

Spring Hopes: Asparagus and Rosé by Food Wine Click

Leap into Spring with Pasta Primavera by Vino Travels

Spring Fling with Greek Pizza and Wine by Confessions of a Culinary Diva

Spring Flavors with Hungarian Pinot Grigio by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Welcoming Spring with #WinePW by Rockin Red Blog

Winter’s Hill Pinot Blanc and Warm Arugula, Bacon and Asparagus Salad by Tasting Pour

Roasted Halibut with Potatoes and Lemon and Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc by Enofylz Wine Blog

Beets and Wine Pairing by Girls Gotta Drink

Posted in Recipes, Regional Wines, Wine Reviews | Tagged , 6 Comments


6 Responses to “Wine and Dine: Las Lilas Vinho Verde 2013 and Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mint”
show comments ⇓

  1. What a lovely soup, beautiful with that addition of flowers. I am keeping my eyes open for this Las LIlas.

  2. Such a light and fresh soup. Perfect for spring!

  3. Great pairing! Looks delicious.

  4. You’re a women after my own heart Cindy…an easy to prepare dish! I enjoy vinho verde, and can totally see it working with this dish. Love the garnish (and of of course it matches the pretty label) Well done!

  5. Two of my favorites – Chilled Cucumber Soup & Vinho Verde! Love your recipe and will give it a try, I’m always on the lookout for new chilled soup recipes since we have over 120 days of 100 + weather in Palm Springs.

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5 Pinot Noirs to Love Right Now

Pinot DaysWhat better way to celebrate the first full day of spring than to taste one of my favorite wines, Pinot Noir? Recently I attended the trade tasting at Chicago Pinot Days 2015 held in the Lakeview Terrace of Navy Pier overlooking beautiful Lake Michigan. Over 200 trade and media wine lovers (and hundreds of consumers later) tasted wine from sixty five wineries located for the most part in California and Oregon.

Although Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc are the most popular clonal variations of the Pinot grape, the varietal most represented at Pinot Days was the Pinot Noir. Produced mainly in the Burgundy region of France where it has an uncanny ability to express its terroir, this grape gives winemakers around the world a true challenge if they want to emulate the Burgundian style. The good news is that there are many outstanding examples of Pinot Noir from cooler climate regions in California and Oregon.

I sampled plenty of delicious Pinot Noir each with its unique palate profile. From light, fruit forward to taut, Burgundian to rich and bold, all reflected the nuances of their specific terroir and techniques of the winemaker. This versatile grape is incredibly food friendly and can pair just as well with hearty seafood dishes as it can with roasted meats. As a well known Sommelier once told me, “if you just can’t decide which wine to ask for, Pinot Noir is always a good choice.”

This year I wanted to find wines that may not be on everyone’s radar yet are special and worth a second look. Although it was difficult job (yes, we wine bloggers have challenges, don’t we?), I found five wines, all from small, boutique wineries, that caused me to sip, savor, and…sip again. Three wines are from vineyards in the Russian River Valley, one is from Anderson Valley, and another from the Sonoma Coast AVA – all in California. Talented winemakers there are crafting delicious wines with limited production. Although you can (and probably should) cellar each wine for a few more years, you will want to love them right now!

Promise to check out the websites of these notable wineries for interesting information. I was more than impressed with the backstories of each of these wineries and I’m thinking that you will be, too.

Davis Family Vineyards: 2012 Rosé de Noir – Beautiful, fresh, red berry tastes sparkled my palate as much as those tiny bubbles danced in my glass. Bright and graceful, this is a special bubbly from a cool climate vineyard in the Russian River Valley. $55.

Davis Family Vineyards:  2012 Rosé de Noir
Friedeman Wines: 2013 Pinot Noir – Friedeman is a small boutique winery with a focus on Burgundian varietals in the Russian River Valley. Just released in January, I was mesmerized by its rich black cherries, hint of spice, and smoke on the palate. A wine of depth, the lingering finish was incredible and it was difficult to step away from the table. $44.

Friedeman Wines: 2013 Pinot Noir
Trombetta Family Wines: 2011 Pinot Noir – The site of the vineyard in this striking Pinot Noir is Gap’s Crown located in the Petaluma Gap region. I found wild, dark berries and fruit, vanilla, white pepper, and earth in this luscious, balanced wine. Just wow. $58.

Trombetta Family Wines:  2011 Pinot Noir
Waits-Mast Family Cellars: 2012 Pinot Noir - From the Deer Meadows Vineyard in Anderson Valley, this is an exotic Pinot Noir bursting with black cherries, cloves, allspice, earth, and minerality. Balanced with a firm tannic structure and lip smacking acidity, this was a superb wine. $55.

Waits-Mast Family Cellars: 2012 Pinot Noir
Valdez Family Winery: 2010 Ulises Valdez Pinot Noir – Cherries, currants, and wet earth were aromas that leapt from the glass. On the palate, I found a wine with a true Burgundian profile. Firm tannins, chewy mouthfeel, earthy, and full bodied, the finish was, well, sexy. $50.

Valdez Family Winery: 2010 Ulises Valdez Pinot Noir

Cheers to Pinot Noir~ Cindy

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Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Napa Valley “The Cornerstone” – An Exceptional Wine

From the first swirl to the last sip, the Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Napa Valley “The Cornerstone” can be described in one word:  exceptional.  But I have others, too.

Craig Camp, Managing Partner of Cornerstone Cellars, has once again produced a stellar wine from a challenging vintage year in Napa.  A wet winter, spring, and early June delayed bloom and affected the fruit set.  Yet, a steady temperature throughout the summer months allowed the fruit to ripen slowly and evenly.  Cool and wet weather in September and October delayed harvest, but weeks of beautiful weather followed and provided time for ripening.  Thanks to the patience of growers and the talent of winemaker Jeff Keene, Cornerstone wines from the 2011 vintage exude the classic sophistication and style for which they are known.

I opened “The Cornerstone”, sent to me as a sample, one evening to celebrate my husband’s birthday at a favorite restaurant and realized immediately that this is a special wine.  Graceful and pure, complex and luxurious, Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Napa Valley “The Cornerstone” is everything a wine should be.  It can be held for several decades…but that wasn’t about to happen.

“The Cornerstone” is a blend of selected barrels from Oakville Station Vineyard in Oakville.  A true masterpiece, 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Cabernet Franc join to create intense, lush aromatics of dark rich cherries, licorice, plums, blackberries, and sweet spice. On the palate, sweeping strokes of deep red berries and more spice are framed by well honed tannins and bright, mouthwatering acidity which provide harmony and balance.  Its finish is long, elegant, and intriguing. Cost is $150.

Cornerstone Cellars 2011 Napa Valley "The Cornerstone"

To be honest, I can’t stop thinking about this exceptional wine.

Cheers~ Cindy

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