75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, 11% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Santa Cruz Mountains
In each vintage we release two different cabernets from the Monte Bello Vineyard, whose many small parcels are harvested, fermented and barrel-aged separately. Typically, the more structured, age-worthy wines are assembled as Monte Bello—the softer, more approachable ones make up the Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet. In 1997, however, all thirty-three parcels produced ripe, dark, structured wines. Portions of Camp Hill, West Horseshoe, and Old Foster (Middle Vineyard), along with Gate and Twenty-five Acre (Lower Vineyard) were chosen for this full, earthy cabernet. Its firm tannins will begin to soften over the next few years; the wine will be at its best with five to ten years of bottle age.
There are three major plantings of bordeaux varieties on the Ridge Monte Bello estate. Between 1300 and 1990 feet of elevation is the “lower” vineyard, where cabernet has grown since the late nineteenth century. The “middle” (2070′-2390′) includes the fifty-year-old vines from which our first forty-eight bottles of Monte Bello were made in 1959. The third is the “upper” (2550′-2660′), home to a number of thirty-year-old parcels and the 115-year-old Monte Bello winery that is the production facility. Each of the three plantings is divided into a number of small parcels that are harvested and fermented separately. Each parcel will display a particular character and style, defining it as either Monte Bello or Santa Cruz Mountains. Softer, more elegant wines are included in the latter; those more intense and structured, requiring longer aging, go into the Monte Bello. We look closely at every lot as it ferments, tasting to see where it might fit. We then vary fermentation techniques, so as not to over-extract tannins on wines clearly destined for the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In this vintage, winter rains began earlier than usual and were quite heavy, but ended early as well. Except for a few showers in May, there was practically no rain from February through harvest. Budbreak came by the first week of March; warm, even summer temperatures further advanced the season. With such favorable conditions the vines set a large crop. To ensure intensity, we dropped over fifteen percent of the clusters at veraison; final yields were about two tons per acre. Harvest began on September 16—the earliest in our history. Grape sugars were high, flavors full, and color intense. 1997 produced such full, well structured wines from all thirty-three parcels that choosing specific components for this cabernet was more difficult than usual. We finally set aside portions of Camp Hill, West Horseshoe and Old Foster (Middle) as well as Gate and Twenty-five Acre (Lower).
During fermentation, color and tannin were easily extracted. To help round out the tannins we fined with fresh egg whites and included a soft lot of petit verdot. After natural primary and secondary (malolactic) fermentations, the wine was racked to air-dried american oak barrels, fifty percent of which were new. Full and well-balanced, the wine’s enticing fruit will make it enjoyable over the next few years. It will be at its best, however, with five to ten years of bottle age.
Average Rating: 89.8
No. of Tasting Notes: 11
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