2003 Monte Bello
Ridge 2003 California Monte BelloÂ®
2003 Monte Bello, bottled August 2005
85% cabernet sauvignon, 8% merlot, 7% petit verdot
Vineyard Production: 130 tons from 108 acres
32% selected for this wine
Alcohol 13.2% by volume
Budbreak came early, but cold, wet weather in April and
May delayed bloom. Summer conditions varied more than
usual among the lower, middle, and highest vineyards. The
first were often bathed in morning fog; the second Ã¯Â¿Â½ above
the fog Ã¯Â¿Â½ more sheltered, and the last most exposed to the
ocean's capricious influence. The vines ripened over the
first three weeks of October; for the first time in many years
the middle blocks dominate the selection, making up
more than three-quarters of the wine. After a natural yeast
primary fermentation, sixty percent of the lots completed
natural malolactic in barrel, the rest in small tanks. In
March following vintage, we made a small first assemblage,
using only eight of the thirty lots; two more, a petit
verdot and a cabernet, were added in May. In November,
as the wine evolved, we included six more Ã¯Â¿Â½ a highly
unusual third assemblage. Aging took place over twenty-two
months in air-dried oak barrels Ã¯Â¿Â½ ninety-two percent
american and eight percent french. This elegant Monte
Bello is beautifully balanced as a young wine. It will enter
a more complex stage after ten years, and continue to
evolve throughout a second decade. PD (3/05)
backgrounder (231KB PDF) |
label (96KB PDF) |
label shot (66KB GIF)
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Information on other vintages:
The Monte Bello estate vineyard was planted, and the winery
constructed, in 1886. A first vintage from the young vines
followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard
was not fully maintained; by the 1940s it was effectively
abandoned. Eight acres of cabernet sauvignon were replanted in
1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962).
Since then, the original vineyards have gradually been replanted.
Harvest Dates: 24 September - 20 October
Grapes: Average brix 24.3Ã¯Â¿Â½
Fermentation: Gentle destemming, no crushing. (In thirty-six
separately-fermented lots, roughly half the
berries remained unbroken) Natural-yeast
primary and secondary fermentations. Pressed at
eleven days on average.
Aging: 92% new, air-dried american oak, 8% new
Time in Barrel: Eighteen months.
First RIDGE Monte Bello: 1962
Location: Monte Bello Ridge, in northern California's
Santa Cruz Mountains, overlooking the San Francisco peninsula.
Elevation: 1300 - 2660'
Soils: Decomposing Franciscan rock mixed with clay, laid
over fractured limestone.
Vines: Cabernet sauvignon planted 1949-1993,
merlot planted 1970-1997, 12.8 acres.
petit verdot planted 1970-1993, 2.2 acres.
cabernet franc planted 1972, 1.3 acres
Training: Head-trained. Cane pruned (on vertical trellis).
Irrigation: Non-irrigated. (Exception: new vines receive
drip irrigation until established.)
Climate: Cool, mountainous â€” between the
Mediterranean and Maritime Zones.
Exposure: Principally south/southeast
Yield: 1 to 2.5 tons per acre
Rainfall: 51 inches (above normal)
Weather: Wet and cool spring, moderate summer and
||60 six-packs/pallet (6 per layer)
|3L double magnum
SRP: suggested retail price per bottle (U.S. dollars)
*UPC number/barcode does not appear on Monte Bello label.
Monte BelloÂ® is a registered trademark of Ridge Vineyards, Inc.
in the US and other countries.
Wine Advocate (Issue 207, 27 Jun 2013):
"One of the smallest crops to be included in the Ridge Monte Bello, only 32% of the production made it into the
2003, which is largely Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) and the rest Merlot and Petit Verdot. Out of barrel as well as
post-bottling I liked this wine a lot, and it has changed very little from when I last tasted it in February, 2010.
It boasts an inky/blue/purple color along with sweet black currant, blueberry, graphite, licorice and toasty
vanillin aromas. The tannins are still noticeable in this full-bodied 2003, but seem reasonably well-integrated.
Forget this wine for another decade and drink it over the following 30+ years.
I don't know who keeps saying that Ridge does not use a lot of new oak or the wines are not oaky, but they are.
This 2003 reveals enormous oak (as most young vintages do), but the folks at Ridge expect you to lay it away for
20-25 years, which is often the minimum amount of time necessary for these mountain vineyard Monte Bellos to be
drinkable. I recently had the astonishing 1968 Monte Bello in early May, which did not reveal a sign of oak, but
was incredibly youthful at age 45. There is no way to know how long these wines can last in top vintages."
-Robert Parker (Rated: 94+)
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010):
"The 2003 Monte Bello goes from strength to strength. A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 7% Petit Verdot, it exhibits a dense opaque purple color as well as a big, sweet nose of creme de cassis, blackberries, and subtle smoke and new oak in the background. Full-bodied and concentrated with beautiful texture, purity, and depth, this powerful Monte Bello should be exceptionally long-lived. It will hit full maturity in 10-15 years, and should last for 30 years.
RidgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s iconic Monte Bello Proprietary Red (no longer called Cabernet Sauvignon) is one of the candidates for the longest-lived Bordeaux blend made in California. Even vintages from the late sixties and early seventies are still vibrant wines. The winery owns just over 100 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and production varies enormously based on the mountain climate. With respect to this group of wines, the smallest yields were achieved in 2005, and the highest in 2007. The selection process here is relatively severe. For their Monte Bello, the flagship wine, 32% of the production was used in 2003, 38% in 2004, 49% in 2005, 39% in 2006, and 41% in 2007. These wines continue to be anomalies in the sense that the Cabernet Sauvignon component is aged in American oak, a somewhat contrarian procedure since most top producers long ago moved to French oak. The Santa Cruz Mountains cuvees, essentially a second wine culled out from Monte Bello, are also high quality efforts from Ridge. Each of the vintages I tasted reflects the vintage conditions in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Three 2008 barrel samples reveal a consistent, high quality style with slightly more elevated alcohol contents." -Robert Parker (Rated: 95+)
San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate (23 Nov 2007):
"Because Cabernet commends itself to a few years of age, the only thing better than one
bottle is two - or here, two bottles worth of wine in a single glass receptacle. Magnums age more
slowly than regular bottles (less surface contact with the cork) and make for an instant party.
The 2003 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Monte Bello certainly fits the bill. Paul Draper (The
Chronicle's 2006 Winemaker of the Year) consistently makes one of the finest American Cabernets
from his rugged Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards, massively structured but lean and extraordinarily
complex. The 2003 is one vintage past current, but Monte Bello needs years to blossom and can last
for decades, making for a gift that won't be forgotten come January."
-Jon BonnÃ© Read
article at SFGate.com
- Wall Street Journal (9 Nov 2007):
"Black wine, rich and deep, intense and soulful, yet with good structure, too.
Ripe California fruit, some chocolate and earth and some spice at the back, but all held
in restraint. We also liked the 2004 ($125)." Rating: Very Good/Delicious
- Los Angeles Times (3 Jan 2007):
"Initial scents are of pine fronds and cassis, with an earthy tinge grounding the
scent. The flavors are darker and warmer, blackberry compote and warm dried fig, with an
earthbound mineral component girding the wine and supporting the fruit. That minerality
and the wine's shimmering acidity make it feel lean, light-footed and detailed, with a
finish of grace and precision. Still very youthful, it will benefit from years in the
cellar." -Patrick Comiskey Read article
- San Jose Mercury News (15 Nov 2006):
"The 2003 Ridge Monte Bello, a cab-dominated blend that's sold out at the winery,
is supple and bright, with concentrated black cherry and plum flavors accented by mocha and
spice." -Laurie Daniel Original article at MercuryNews.com
(requires free registration)
- International Wine Cellar (Sep/Oct 2006, Issue 128):
"Full ruby-red. Knockout nose offers blackberry, currant, plus, cedar,
minerals and dark chocolate. Fresh, succulent and quite firm in the mouth, with
brisk acids and a minty nuance lifting the dark berry and chocolate flavors.
Finishes with chewy tannins that come across as a bit less harmonious than those
of the young [unreleased] 2004. But this youthfully closed wine grew sweeter with
aeration." Rated: 92(+?)
- Wine Advocate (26 Dec 2005):
"Ridge's Monte Bello is one of California's most classic, backward wines, and
generally develops a Bordeaux-like personality with extended aging. Contrary to some
reports, the basic character of Monte Bello has not changed, although it now includes
some Merlot and Petit Verdot in the blend. The dense ruby-hued 2003 Monte Bello offers
a tight but promising nose of tar, briery crÃ¨me de cassis, toast, and
smoke. Medium to full-bodied, with abundant tannin, a rich texture, and a deep, persistent
style, this youthful, primary red is best forgotten until 2010. It should drink well over
the following 15-20 years." Rated: 94+