85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
97 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate
96 Points – Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media
96 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
Santa Cruz Mountains
Welcome spring rains set back the growing season by several weeks, but replenished the water in our soils. The crop was abundant, and a long, warm October fully ripened all the fruit. We made a rigorous fiftypercent selection, producing a complex, elegant wine with deep color and round tannins. Though approachable now, five years of bottle age will integrate the fruit and spicy oak; another ten to fifteen years will bring full maturity.
With the 1991 vintage, we celebrate the 100th year of the Monte Bello vineyard and winery. The vineyard was first planted, and construction of the underground cellars begun, in 1886. The first commercial Monte Bello vintage was in 1892. Prohibition closed down production in the twenties and early thirties. The winery was again operating in the late thirties and forties, only to close for the decade of the fifties. The Ridge partnership purchased the lower vineyards in 1959, producing its first commercial Monte Bello vintage in 1962. So 1991 represents a double anniversary—100 years for the Monte Bello, 30 for Ridge. In 1991 two miracles—a month of much-needed rain in March, and warm summer temperatures through September and October—fully ripened an excellent crop at Monte Bello.
We made eighteen separate fermentations, picking each of the distinct blocks—or even half-blocks—of the vineyard as the fruit matured. The first and second press were kept separate, allowing us to control the quality and quantity of tannin in the wine. To make as intense and complex a vintage as possible, fifty percent of the Monte Bello grapes were held out of the final wine. We included five percent petit verdot, ten percent merlot, and virtually all the first press. This exceptional vintage was aged entirely in new barrels—the majority in air-dried american oak, and the remainder in barrels from three different french coopers. American oak has been our favorite over the years, but we continue our experiments with french oak to be certain that our bias for the american is producing the finest wine possible. The ’91 Monte Bello shows deep blackberry fruit and lively spice. Young as it is, the tannins are balanced—if still quite chalky. This is clearly one of the finest vintages of the last ten years, and a great wine with which to celebrate our two very special anniversaries.
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 96 Points. “Saturated ruby-black in hue, the 1991 Monte Bello is still a young wine, only entering its youthful plateau of maturity. Offering up a decadently jammy bouquet of ripe blackberries, crème de cassis, acacia flowers and creamy American oak, the wine is expansive and full-bodied on the palate, simultaneously open-knit but densely concentrated, with a decidedly voluptuous, textural profile. Supple and comparatively low in acidity and tannin (a perception Baugher tells me is confirmed by chemical analysis), this is a Monte Bello characterized more by exuberant generosity and drama than complexity. Interestingly, the 1991 is also more obviously marked by its time in new American oak than either the 1990 or 1992. The product of a warm September and October, the 1991 is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot that attained 13.1% natural alcohol.” – William Kelley
Wine Spectator (June 2019): 96 Points. “The 1991 Monte Bello is in a beautiful spot right now, with lightly steeped red currant, damson plum and blood orange infused liberally with incense and dusty chalk hints. It has a very elegant feel, with a very fine-grained structure guiding the finish.” – James Molesworth
The Wine Advocate (October 2015): 97 Points “Absolutely spectacular, the 1991 Monte Bello comes from a low tannin year where the estate was wondering how well the wine would age. I’m happy to report it has aged brilliantly! Fully mature, yet still youthful and lively, it offers tons of cassis, underbrush, spice and dried herbs to go with a full-bodied, utterly seamless, sexy feel on the palate that just keeps you coming back to the glass. Given the balance, it will hold nicely going forward, but there’s no upside to further cellaring.” – Jeb Dunnuck
Vinous Media (July 2018): 96 Points “Bright, dark, fresh red with virtually no amber. Musky raspberry, redcurrant and spice aromas are lifted by a floral element. Extraordinarily silky and intense on entry, conveying outstanding spicy lift and definition to its redcurrant, spice, dried herb and underbrushy soil flavors. At once fully mature and distinctly firm in the middle palate, this impressively dense and clearly delineated wine gives no impression of undue weight. Wonderfully concentrated but not outsized or thick, this beauty stands out for its finesse, complexity and uncanny energy. Its endless finish features fully resolved tannins but still plenty of structural support. This has been one of my favorite California Cabernet-based bottlings since it was released and even today it’s hard to scrape it off the palate!” – Stephen Tanzer
Average Rating: 94
No. of Tasting Notes: 159
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