The September 7th issue of Wine Spectator’s Insider Weekly is the final installment of James Molesworth’s reviews of California Cabernet. In this piece, Molesworth rates the 2019 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon and emphasizes the importance of a sense of place.
This has a densely packed core of vivid red and black currant and mulberry fruit, which is encased for now in a mix of charcoal, cast iron, singed mesquite and apple wood. Shows terrific drive, though, and everything is in proportion, with an echo of violet hinting at some inner purity. This will just need time to unwind. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2024 through 2040. —J.M.
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.
“[Napa’s mountain AVAs] only account for approximately 6,000 of the valley’s total 43,000 acres of vines (14 percent), but they are widely considered to be some of Napa’s highest quality Cabernet sites. With their higher elevation, low-vigor soils and wider diurnal swings (the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures), these mountain sites naturally produce lower yields, resulting in wines typically marked by strident tannins and racy acidity. That structure and mouthfeel differs significantly from the valley floor’s richer, plusher style.” —James Molesworth
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.