Having endured the widespread fires during the 2020 harvest, we were optimistic that the 2021 harvest would not pose a similar challenge. Fortunately, in 2021, fire was not a concern. Instead, winter rains, crucial to replenishing the groundwater for the vines, never came. By spring budbreak, it was clear we were entering a drought season. With limited moisture in the soil, the vines struggled to find water and nutrients. We dropped crop early to lighten the load.
During fermentation, lower yields coupled with small berry size meant intense concentration across all varieties. By December, we identified 28 separate lots to consider for the 2021 Monte Bello.
On March 1st, the vineyard and production teams gathered to blind taste these individual wine lots to decide which best represent Monte Bello. Nine lots were of clear Monte Bello quality and were combined to make up the “core” or base blend. From there, the team tasted another 15 lots broken up into four flights. Each wine was individually rated by the panel. Six stood out showing clear Monte Bello potential, including the Lone Tree block from Perrone and the very rich and brooding Sunrise Petit Verdot from Rousten. These six lots were then considered for the final blend by conducting blind in and out comparisons to the core blend. After two days of tasting, the panel chose five of the six to become part of the 2021 Monte Bello first assemblage. We then blind-tasted this first assemblage blend in a vertical lineup of the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 Monte Bello to see how the new wine compares to the most recent vintages. Fortunately, we all agreed that the 2021 Monte Bello assemblage blend is in line with the quality we have come to expect from this amazing vineyard.
I am excited for the second assemblage tasting which will be held in May of 2022. We noted six additional lots as potential blending candidates that we will examine at that time. These remaining lots show potential for filling out the mid-palate with both structure and density.
-Trester Goetting, Monte Bello Winemaker (March 29, 2022)
On May 17th the Ridge Monte Bello production and vineyard team gathered to assess the individual wine lots that were not included in our first assemblage. The goal of this tasting was to identify any lots that were worthy of making it into the final blend of the 2021 Monte Bello.
The first assemblage tasting took place on March 1st and resulted in a blend consisting of 12 lots. This “core” or base blend was used as our control for the second assemblage tasting. We looked at ten lots using our “in & out” method of tasting. We tasted each of the ten lots against the control with one glass having the potential lot in the blend and one glass with the potential lot out of the blend (control wine only). These wines were tasted blind and rated by each of the eight tasters on the panel. Six of the wines stood out showing clear Monte Bello potential, including three Merlot lots and three Cabernet lots from different blocks on the estate. At the end of the day, we had decided on our final blend which consists of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 4.5% Petite Verdot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc.
In order to confirm that this blend is consistent in style and quality to past vintages of Monte Bello, we constructed the new blend at a bench trial level and blind tasted it against a vertical of the 2018, 2019 and 2020 Monte Bello. We all agreed that the final 2021 Monte Bello assemblage blend is in line with our high standards and is consistent with the quality we have come to expect from this amazing vineyard.
-Trester Goetting, Monte Bello Winemaker (June 15, 2022)