Our Mountain Home
Monte Bello is first and foremost a wine of place. That place - high atop the Santa
Cruz Mountains underlain by decomposing limestone and Franciscan rock - produces
a wine unlike any other. It is our belief that this vineyard with its very low-yielding
vines (less than two tons per acre) is capable of creating a wine of great significance,
depth, complexity and aging potential - but only if we take care in sustaining it.
Our vineyard practices, therefore, do not intervene; rather they use and preserve
the existing eco-system through techniques such as sowing cover crops and utilizing
integrated pest management to nurture and protect the vines. We do not add anything
to the vineyard that is not natural. We are currently pursuing organic certification
for Monte Bello.
A Cool Micro-Climate
The Monte Bello vineyard, located only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, is part
of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, California's coolest cabernet producing area. It
is our practice to let this unique vineyard site create the wine rather than try
to steer it toward a particular style in the cellar. We accomplish this through
a combination of natural, low-tech, hands-off winemaking techniques: keeping all
grape varieties and all parcels separate, fermenting in small fermentors using only
natural yeasts, and transferring the separate lots into air-dried American oak barrels
to undergo full, natural malolactic fermentation. At many points along the way,
we taste each lot and assess its individual qualities. This selection process is
crucial to creating Monte Bello, a wine that consistently reflects the character
of the vineyard and not the whim of the winemaker.
Traditional Bordeaux Blend
Monte Bello has often been called America's First Growth, as it is the finest domestic
example of a classic Bordeaux blend in which cabernet sauvignon predominates. Exhaustive
tasting of test blends during the assemblage process determines how much, if any,
merlot, petit verdot, or cabernet franc will be included
in the finished wine. Each grape variety makes a contribution to the flavor and
structure of the wine -- with cabernet sauvignon often showing cassis and adding
tannin, merlot giving plum character and a bit of softness, petit verdot contributing
dark color and earthiness, and cabernet franc adding fragrance and a hint of spice.
Each vintage is different, but year after year Monte Bello proves to be a consistently
outstanding wine with great structure, complexity, and balance. And, in terms of
ageability, it has been known to lay down for several decades with elegance and
A Unique California Vineyard
The Monte Bello vineyard ranges in elevation from 1300' to 2700' above sea level
and is composed of unique green stone and clay soils layered over decomposing limestone.
Limestone is not found in the well-known Cabernet producing areas of Napa and Sonoma
Valleys, making the soil composition at Monte Bello a unique and important contributor
to the wine's distinctive character. The combination of elevation, cool climate,
and soil produces a wine that is impeccably balanced and destined for long-term
aging, with firm acidity and a consistent streak of minerality.
Begun in 1959
In 1959, four Stanford Research Institute engineers bought acreage on top of Monte
Bello Ridge, a site that had first been planted to grape vines in the late 19th
century. In the early years, Dave Bennion took the reigns as winemaker, and in 1962,
after three years of producing small amounts of some of the finest wine in California
of that era, the four owners re-bonded the winery and released the first commercial
Ridge Monte Bello. Production was now located in the old stone winery built by Dr.
Osea Perrone in 1892 and acquired from the Trentadue family. Paul Draper joined
Ridge in 1969, took over production of red wines the next year, and in 1971 became
winemaker, a position he continues to hold today. Dave and Fran Bennion, Hew and
Sue Crane, Charlie and Blanche Rosen, and Howard Zeidler never dreamed that their
private weekend retreat with its spectacular views of the Bay Area would steadily
develop into a world-class winery. But thanks to the distinctive, one-of-a-kind
wines produced from this particular piece of earth, it has done just that.