Santa Cruz Mountains
The growing season began on schedule for the first time in three years, though the crop was modest. Fine fall weather fully ripened the fruit, but not until the first weeks of October. Berries and clusters were smaller than usual, contributing to the low yields while increasing intensity. Four estate parcels were selected for this Santa Cruz Mountains. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed, the wine barrel fermented and held on its lees for ten months. Aged in air-dried american oak (sixty percent) and french oak (forty percent), the lots were first racked in early August, held for further settling, and bottledwithout filtration in late November. This lovely chardonnay, typical of our cool region, will be at its best over the next five years. PD (10/01)
Ridge produced its first Monte Bello Chardonnay in 1962 from fully mature vines planted in the late nineteen-forties. In the sixties, we extended the old cabernet vineyard, but not the chardonnay. Production never exceeded ten barrels; the wine was sold principally from the winery. Several great vintages, among them the ’73 and ’74, showed that our cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to the varietal.
In the seventies we encouraged our neighbors at Jimsomare, the Schwabachers, to plant chardonnay as well as cabernet and merlot. These vineyards (and all others on the ranch) are now leased to, and farmed by, Ridge. Chardonnay presently represents about five percent of our total production.
Chardonnay budbreak in vintage 2000 took place at the end of March—fairly usual for Monte Bello Ridge. Despite several heat spells—in May, August, and September—the growing season, overall, was cool. The May heat spike was sandwiched between two cold, wet weather systems, with winds blowing directly off the Pacific. This juxtaposition of heat and cold slowed vine growth and affected set; berries and clusters were small, which concentrates flavors and speeds ripening. For a time, we anticipated an early September chardonnay harvest. But the year’s predominantly cool weather delayed maturation; the modest crop ripened fully and was picked a month later, between October 2 and 13.
The fruit was entirely whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented in our climate controlled cellar; juice temperatures were kept below 60°F. On average, the duration of primary fermentations was forty days. Secondary (malolactic) fermentation lasted from late November to May 2001; weekly stirring kept the lees in suspension. Upon completion of malolactic, and after assemblage, the wine was allowed to settle for an extended period, enabling us to bottle without filtration. The vintage’s long growing season played a major role in the depth and complexity of this elegant, cool-climate chardonnay. The wine has excellent structure, firm acidity, and beautifully developed fruit—highlighted by the mineral component so typical of Ridge chardonnays. Enjoy this lovely wine now, and over the next several years.
Average Rating: 87
No. of Tasting Notes: 1
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