A half dozen cars clog the driveway in front of Aurelio Montes's Santiago home. Out back, the winemaker's entire familyhis wife, Bernardita Del Campo Correa, their five grown children with their respective husbands, girlfriends, kids and nanniesassembles for a leisurely lunch. As the group gathers on sofas around the quincho (barbecue hut), Montes uncorks a few wines from his 2,000-bottle cellar, starts the fire, preps multiple platters of meats, then takes a moment to balance a glass of the 2001 Montes Reserve Malbec in one hand and a crostini topped with grilled chorizo in the other. As he cooks, eats and chats, he never once stops moving.
Montes's friends call him "El Dorado," The Golden One, a nickname derived from, depending on whom you ask, his name (aureolus means "golden" in Latin), his blondness or his seeming Midas touch. After 30 years in the wine industrythe first 17 as a winemaker for the value-conscious Viña Undurraga and the enormous Viña San Pedro, and the rest for his eponymous labelhe has, at the age of 53, earned worldwide fame for his superlative wines: Bordeaux-style Cabernet blends, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
In the 1980s, when wineries in Chile were happy producing inexpensive mass-market winesand when exports, under the Pinochet regime, were virtually nonexistentMontes and his partners decided to aim higher. They harvested a pair of vineyards in Curicó and Colchagua, two adjacent valleys about 100 miles south of Santiago in the heart of Chile's Central Valley. Then, in 1988, they released 7,000 cases of, well, forgettable Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Montes was 39.