In the November 2021 Issue of Wine Spectator, you’ll find James Molesworth’s Tasting Report. In it, Molesworth explores the region’s successes and challenges.
“The 2018 vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon is a rare bird. It melds the powerfully expressive fruit that California is known for with an underlying terroir-driven persona that sets the wines apart. This is a year with the quiet confidence of maturity and experience, rather than the irreverence and rambunctiousness of youth.”
After tasting nearly 800 wines this year, he compares 460 wines from the 2018 vintage against the 2016 benchmark. The 2018 vintage produced 61 wines (13%) earning classic ratings of 95 points or higher, including Ridge’s 2018 Monte Bello at 97 points. Nearly 300 more scored 90 to 94 points.
“For the year’s combination of both fruit- and terroir-driven elements as well as its amazing consistency across the board, I give the 2018 vintage for California Cabernet a 99-point rating overall. This puts 2018 a step ahead of 2016, making it the highest-rated vintage ever for the region.”
While the article above gives weather and viticultural details relative to the Napa region, we’ve included notes below from our previous harvest and assemblage articles, which are specific to our Monte Bello vineyard and winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“This growing season was marked by unusually erratic and unpredictable swings in temperature and rainfall. January and February are typically the coldest and wettest months of winter, except in 2018. Both were warm and rain-free. Winter was saved by a dramatic shift in the jet stream that brought sub-tropical moisture north to California. This “atmospheric river” delivered substantial rainfall in a series of powerful storms during the month of March. A few smaller ones passed through in April and May, wetting the upper root zone of the soil. Temperatures remained below average through much of spring, which slowed vine growth.
“The first assemblage tasting was held on January 23. Sixteen of the most complete lots, with Monte Bello character, were blind tasted with fifteen ultimately chosen. We began the second assemblage by comparing two glasses, with and without one of the remaining nine lots added to the first assemblage. Through this rigorous selection process, we ended up choosing only six. To conclude the assemblage we compared it to the prior three vintages. Not only was the 2018 showing excellent Monte Bello character, but it also had the most wonderful flavors and sensuous textures of the three. Appealing and elegant, this Monte Bello will drink well over the next several decades.”