For the Feast, Pinot Noir Fits the Bill

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir, 2014
Aconcagua Coast, Chile. $11.99

There are a number of wines — reds, whites and rosés — that go well with the Thanksgiving dinner, but over the last few years, Pinot Noir has emerged as my favorite red to pair with the traditional feast, and Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir from Chile is an excellent, inexpensive choice.

Pinot Noir is a light, yet flavorful, red that is versatile enough to accompany the wide variety of foods on the Thanksgiving table. It doesn’t overwhelm lightly flavored vegetables, such as green peas with butter, or such perennial favorites as creamy garlic mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole. It’s an excellent match with turkey, both white and dark meat, and it holds up to giblet gravy and oyster stuffing and accents the flavors in cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving celebrates both gratitude and excess, so it’s in keeping with the holiday’s spirit to uncork a variety of wines to suit the many flavors on the table, and the many tastes of the guests around it. But if you have to choose one wine, Pinot Noir is it.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir with its distinctive label featuring an angel in flight, a bunch of grapes in one hand and a wine glass in the other, is produced by Aurelio Montes, who along with three partners started the winery in 1987.

Aurelio Montes is recognized as one of the best and most innovative producers of premium and super-premium wines in Chile, and he has served as an ambassador for Chilean wines. From 2013 to 2015, he was vice president of Wines of Chile, the country’s industry trade group. During his term, Montes approached the job with evangelical zeal, taking the message around the globe that Chile is producing diverse wines that are among the best in the world.

“In addition to producing good wine for the money, Chile is capable and is producing some amazing wines,” Montes said during a 2015 interview with Decanter Magazine. He should know because some of his wines have garnered top awards around the world and are consistently highly rated.

When he started the winery that bears his name, Montes was 39 years old and had five children, ranging in age from 8 to 15. He had decades of wine experience, but launching his own venture without a guaranteed income kept him up at night, he said during an interview with Grape Collective, an online wine magazine: “I couldn’t sleep for the whole first year.”

But it worked out for Montes and his co-founders. The business has expanded to Argentina, where they started Kaiken wines, and to California, where they produce Napa Angel wines. Montes wines are available around the world, and some are among the most expensive from Chile.

“We are proud that Montes is the successful result of a 100 percent Chilean effort,” Aurelio Montes writes on the company’s website.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Chilean wines first earned global acclaim in 2004 when two of the country’s offerings topped Chateau Lafite, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and the highest-rated Italian wines in a blind tasting in Berlin. The event was organized by wine writer Steven Spurrier — not to be confused with the football coach — who also created the 1976 Judgment of Paris, a similar taste test that put California wines on the world map.

Aurelio Montes believes that 80 percent of a wine’s quality derives from the vineyard and only 20 percent from the cellar. Vineyard care is essential to the Montes formula, which focuses on low yields, less irrigation and picking when the fruit is completely mature, the website says.

Grapes for the Pinot Noir are grown in the Casablanca Valley, a part of the Aconcagua wine region north of Santiago. The vineyards are cooled by breezes off of the Pacific and the grapes are able to develop slowly. Some of the wine is aged in French oak barrels for six months and the rest in stainless steel tanks. The result is a wine with strong varietal character and great complexity, the tasting notes say.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir has a deep ruby color, a little darker than most Pinot Noir, but the aroma is true to the grape with hints of violets and berries. The wine has a long, smooth finish. Decanting a few minutes before serving is recommended.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir is widely available in New Hampshire, where I recently found it on sale for $8.99. Vermont distributors don’t offer Montes Pinot Noir, though the label’s Cabernet Sauvignon is available. However, many Vermont wine stores have a broad selection of wines that pair well with the Thanksgiving meal. Check them out, and if you’re shopping in New Hampshire, try the Montes.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at

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