85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdo, 4% Merlot
Santa Cruz Mountains
Each year we make two distinct estate cabernets from our vineyards on the ridge: Monte Bello, and Santa Cruz Mountains. The differences in style are determined primarily by soil, exposure, and the rootstock on which the vines are grown. Monte Bello—built around a more tannic core—is intended for long aging; Santa Cruz Mountains is rounder, spicier, and more supple. In 1995, a long growing season brought fully ripe flavors at moderate sugar levels. Ten distinct parcels were set aside; a significant amount of petit verdot was included for added spice and depth of color. Aged sixteen months in one-year-old air-dried american oak, this full—yet elegant— wine is approachable now. It will develop beautifully over the next ten to twelve years.
On Monte Bello ridge, there are three major plantings of cabernet and merlot. The first is between 1300′ and 2000′ on the Jimsomare ranch, where cabernet has grown since the turn of the century. The second, between 2100′ and 2300′, includes vines from which the first Ridge cabernet was produced in 1959; the third and highest—between 2500′ and 2600’—is the site of several thirty-year-old vineyards, and the old Monte Bello winery built by Osea Perrone in 1886.
Each of the three plantings includes from five to twelve distinct parcels that are harvested and fermented separately. Each displays a particular character and style, which defines it as either Monte Bello or Santa Cruz Mountains. The softer, more racy wines are included in the latter; the tougher, more structured ones, requiring longer aging, go into the Monte Bello. The Santa Cruz Mountains wines are pressed, typically, after ten to twelve days on the skins. The Monte Bello
remains on the skins for fourteen to eighteen days, further
underscoring the differences between the two.
In 1995, unusually cold winter and spring weather delayed the growing season on Monte Bello ridge. The first buds appeared in early April—almost a full month later than usual—and cool weather (plus unseasonable rainstorms) persisted through spring and early summer. The vines began to bloom in mid-to-late June, raising the possibility that the fruit might not ripen until very late fall. As harvest approached, the warm summer—some days up to 90º, nights in the mid-60s—provided ideal ripening conditions. As has been typical on the ridge, the lower vineyards matured earlier—almost two weeks earlier—than the two vineyard areas toward the top of the mountain. Early pressing of the majority of Santa Cruz Mountains parcels ensured soft, approachable tannins that balance the concentrated fruit and spice flavors.
In assemblage tastings, almost thirty percent of the wines chosen came from the upper vineyards, adding structure and complexity. For the first time, a significant portion of petit verdot was included, bringing with it the spicy, peppery fruit characteristic of that varietal. As has become traditional, after malolactic the wine was dropped to brand-new, air-dried american oak barrels. Three weeks later, it was racked to one-year-old american barrels for sixteen months of aging. Press lots were aged separately, fined with fresh egg whites, and included later for depth and additional spice. Lovely as a young wine, this full, complex cabernet will soften and develop with eight to twelve years of bottle age.
Average Rating: 91
No. of Tasting Notes: 12
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