69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot
95 Points – J. D’Angelo, International Wine Report
93 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, The Wine Advocate
Santa Cruz Mountains
83 tons from 62 acres. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, welcome spring rains delayed the start of our growing season. We thinned the already moderate crop, and warm October weather brought the fruit to ideal ripeness. Fifteen of the twenty five parcels were chosen in February as most intense and most typical of the vineyard’s character. They were assembled in three stages over the following months. Tannins are the biggest to date in the nineties, yet the fullness and complexity of the wine render them supple. Aged almost entirely in new, air-dried american oak,
this is classic Monte Bello. Though approachable now, the great ’95 vintage will develop fully over the next fifteen to twenty years.
Winter and early spring rains totaling over fifty-six inches swept Monte Bello ridge in 1995. Combined with cold temperatures, the inclement weather delayed bud break at our upper vineyards until mid-April— dangerously late for the 2600′ elevation. The bloom of the vines, already late, was drawn out from mid-June through mid-July, setting the stage for another high-quality harvest. In early September, the grapes turned color. Beautifully warm days and moderate evenings in October steadily ripened the fruit; by harvest, intensity and balance were exceptional. We began harvesting merlot at Monte Bello in the second week of October. By October 18, the cabernet harvest was underway. The weather remained warm and dry as we picked small amounts almost every day through October—over twenty separate lots were fermented separately in small stainless steel tanks. The last of the Monte Bello grapes were picked October 31, only hours before a cloudburst brought fall’s first rains.
Natural yeast fermentations started easily within two days; it was immediately apparent that this would be a year of very highly-colored cabernet—the wines were black-purple one hour after crushing. We pumped over twice daily, aerating the juice slightly as it was drawn off into a tub and circulated gently over the skins. While still in the fermentor, the wines showed exceptional promise: flavors, tannins, acidity—all in balance. Once they are close to dryness, we taste the fermenting wines daily to ensure this balance remains. Each lot was pressed after fourteen to eighteen days on the skins, depending on flavor and tannin extraction. Natural malolactics finished by early December, when we again began tasting the more than twenty wines —this time to determine which were typical enough, and fine enough, to warrant inclusion in the Monte Bello. The best lots—identified by taste as potential Monte Bello components—were initially kept separate, allowing the color and tannin levels to stabilize. In February, we confirmed our selection of those wines (now fully stable) and assembled them. All but a small portion of the wine was aged in new, air-dried american oak barrels. The remainder went to new french oak, continuing our annual comparison of the two. As in the previous two Monte Bello vintages, a significant quantity of petit verdot was included for complexity and spice. Most of the press wines were held out to age separately. We tasted the first press— fined early with twelve egg whites—after it had spent a year in barrel. During the final assemblage, we decided unanimously that it should be included for its contribution of liveliness and firm structure. After a total of seven racks, the wine was bottled in late spring of 1997. This vintage stands as one of the biggest-structured and most complex in the exceptional decade of the nineties. Balanced and approachable when young, it will reward bottle aging with increased depth and complexity. It is easily a twenty-year wine.
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 95 Points. “The product of a late-October harvest, the 1995 vintage was Eric Baugher’s first vintage as Ridge’s winemaker alongside Paul Draper, and I remember him telling me in 2012 that he was afraid extraction had been pushed too far and that the wine might always be somewhat monolithic. In the last three years, however, the 1995 Monte Bello has began to shed some of its formidable tannins, and it’s clear that those fears were unfounded. The nose offers up rich aromas of cassis and red plums that mingle with nuances of sweet, loamy soil, cigar box and subtle leather. On the palate, the 1995 is full-bodied, deep and super concentrated, with its powerful core of fruit framed by melting tannins and underpinned by tangy acids, concluding with a long and distinctly stony finish. Today, the 1995 ranks as one of the highlights of the decade. Think of it as a somewhat more rustic cousin of the 2005.” – William Kelley
International Wine Report (January 2019) 95 Points – “The 1995 Monte Bello is drop-dead stunning after nearly 25 years in bottle. It instantly begins with seductive aromas of plum and red berries which are woven together with exotic spices, smoked meat and tobacco along with dried soil and cedar nuances that burst from the glass. Fully mature, the ’95 contines to dazzle as its tannins have softened beautifully resulting in a gorgoeus fine, silky texture with remarkable overall finesse. It still possseses a core of bright acidity which resonates through the finish. Simply sensational now, and it seems like this still has a few more wonderful years left to give, however readers should be cautious about letting it going beyond 2025.” – J. D’Angelo
The Wine Advocate (October 2016) 93 Points – “The first vintage where they kept each of the varieties separate for a longer period of time, the 1995 Monte Bello still smells like a three-year-old wine with its Bordeaux-styled notes of graphite, cedar, blackberries, currants and leafy herbs. Still fresh and focused on the palate, with bright acidity and fine tannin, it has another two decades of longevity.” – Jeb Dunnuck
Average Rating: 93.1
No. of Tasting Notes: 160
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