By assemblage, on January 16th, both primary and secondary fermentations were complete. To move this year’s assemblage along, I made a core blend of the most “classic” thirteen lots. It was blind-tasted along with eleven other potential lots. The group favorite was the core blend that I had put together, the rest of the eleven wines received varying group scores. Three were eliminated from consideration. The other eight were tried one-at-a-time, added to the core blend. Four of those were kept out, making the first assemblage a blend of seventeen of twenty-four lots. At this early stage, it appears to be an opulent Monte Bello, showing saturated dark berry fruit on the nose as well as the mouth. It has a well-defined structure, tannins are coated by rich fruit yet are serious and chalky in the finish. By pure chance, all four bordeaux varietals comprise the 2017 Monte Bello (78%CS, 11%PV, 6%MR, 5%CF). This is becoming more frequent as the weather conditions have become more favorable for ripening petit verdot and cabernet franc. Merlot has never had ripening difficulties. Instead, it’s now the variety that pushes up to, and sometimes, over 14% alcohol. Thus, our 2017 has a lower percent merlot than usual and a significant contribution of petit verdot, providing wonderful violet and fennel aromas and fullness in the mouth. In early appearance, there is a similarity to the excellent 2013 vintage, both in varietal mix and character. It’s a solidly built wine for long-term aging, but with impeccable balance so as to be drinkable at all points of its life.
E.B. February 16, 2018