56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot
99 Points – The Wine Advocate
98 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
97 Points – Wine Enthusiast
96 Points – Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media
95 Points – Wine Spectator
95 Points – Wine & Spirits
Santa Cruz Mountains
Sweet oak complements opulent, dark cassis/loganberry fruit. Cocoa/chocolate notes. Dense and exotic, with integrated tannins, long finish.
134 tons from 108 acres. In 1962, the Ridge partners reopened a nineteenth-century winery on Monte Bello Ridge in California’s Santa Cruz Mountains; their first wine came from the eight acres of mature cabernet sauvignon vines. The 2001 vintage – our fortieth – began with a cold winter and abundant rain. Spring was early and summer temperatures generally moderate, with brief periods of intense heat. The early start and lack of rain in April and May stressed these un-irrigated vines by late August. Sugar levels rose ahead of flavor, but we waited for mature flavor before picking each small parcel as it ripened. As in 1997 – with its early spring and easily extractable tannins-harvest was over in the second week of October, and the wines were well structured and rich. Yields, however, were a mere one-and-a-quarter tons per acre – half those of ’97. Merlot played a more important role than ever before. During assemblage tastings, twenty-two of the thirty-four lots were chosen for inclusion; an additional press wine was added later. Its firm tannins carried by opulent fruit, this exceptional wine is enjoyable even now. Five to eight years of bottle age will bring generous rewards, twenty years full maturity.
The Monte Bello estate vineyard was planted, and the winery constructed, in 1886. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; by the 1940s it was effectively abandoned. Eight acres of cabernet sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962). Since then, the original vineyards have gradually been replanted.
Rainfall: Less than normal. Most in mid-winter, little in spring, water stress by August.
Bloom: May (normal).
Weather: Warm spring, summer, fall.
Harvest Dates: 10 September – 9 October
Grapes: Average brix 24.7°; average pH at crush 3.38.
Fermentation: Each parcel was hand-harvested, and destemmed without crushing, allowing roughly forty percent of the fruit to ferment as whole berries with the seeds buffered by skins and pulp, which makes tannin extraction easier to control. The parcels fermented separately, on the natural yeasts, in small stainless-steel tanks. Pressed at dryness, the wine was racked to barrel, where it completed a natural (uninoculated) malolactic fermentation.
Barrels: Ninety percent new, air-dried american oak, ten percent new french oak.
Aging: Eighteen months in barrel
Vinous Media (June 2020): 96 Points. “Full, bright ruby-red. Initially reserved, youthful nose opened slowly to reveal aromas of blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate, graphite, tobacco and spices. Wonderfully ripe, almost liqueur-like on entry, then plush and thick but vibrant in the middle, with highly concentrated black fruit, bitter chocolate, tobacco and mineral flavors framed by perfectly integrated acidity. A wonderfully complete, sweet, youthful wine with the added creaminess–but no loss of energy–from a strong dollop of Merlot. This was the 40th anniversary bottling for this California classic. Finishes with big, ripe tannins and outstanding persistence. In the context of Monte Bello, this wine is remarkably ripe, sweet and rich, and it should still go on in a cool cellar for at least another couple decades.” -Stephen Tanzer
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 97 Points. “The 2001 Monte Bello is a very atypical vintage for Ridge, attaining a record high alcohol of 14.1% and containing an unprecedented 36% Merlot. Baugher remembers that the grapes retained green, unripe flavors while sugars soared, so he was forced to wait to pick. It’s hard not to be seduced by the resulting wine, which wafts from the glass with lavish aromas of ripe plums, black truffles, dark chocolate, cigar ash and loamy soil. It’s full-bodied, ample and dramatic, with a broad, expansive attack and a voluptuously layered mid-palate, its sweet fruit complemented by plenty of savory nuance. At this stage, I prefer the 2002, which is almost as generous but better balanced and more Cabernet Sauvignon-driven in personality, but I suspect many tasters will favor the more opulent, sun-kissed 2001.” -William Kelley
Wine Advocate (30 June 2011, Issue 195): “A resoundingly great effort from this iconic producer, Ridge’s 2001 is a spectacular, still young but promising wine. Interesting, 60% of the production from the winery’s 108 acre Monte Bello Vineyard made it into the 2001’s final blend (their 40th anniversary, by the way). The unusual blend is 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, a whopping 36% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. It also carries 14.2% alcohol, which is high for this estate. On the back label, the conservative Paul Draper writes that “5-8 years of bottle age will bring generous rewards, and 20 years will bring full maturity.” At age 10, it is still an infant in terms of development, and I would not be surprised to see this 2001 last 40 years. A dense ruby/purple color is accompanied by extravagant, generous aromas of pen ink, lead pencil shavings, spice box and black fruits. The wine is full-bodied and silky textured, but secondary nuances have not yet begun to develop as it is still very primary, tasting more like a 3-4 year old Monte Bello than one that is ten years of age. Nevertheless, it reveals spectacular concentration, a voluptuous texture, a rare opulence for a Ridge Monte Bello, and an incredible finish. The upside is enormous and this cuve may prove somewhat atypical due to the huge percentage of Merlot in the final blend and the higher than normal alcohol. But make no mistake about this Monte Bello; it is a great wine. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2040.” Rated: 99
Vinous Media (July 2015): “What a pleasure it is to taste the 2001 Monte Bello. A wine that is just beginning to enter the early part of its plateau of maturity, the 2001 is magnificently complete. The flavors remain quite fresh, but there is plenty of aromatic complexity in the glass. Sweet dark cherry, plum, spice and licorice meld into the super-expressive finish. At nearly fourteen years of age, the 2001 is still remarkably young and intense. Readers who own the 2001 are in for a real treat, to say the least. Incidentally, this is the only vintage of Monte Bello to top 14% in alcohol. Opulence and classicism can indeed coexist, as the 2001 makes it abundantly clear.” -Antonio Galloni (Rated: 98)
Wine Advocate (26 Dec 2005): “Ridge’s Monte Bello is one of California’s most classic, backward wines, and generally develops a Bordeaux-like personality with extended aging. Contrary to some reports, the basic character of Monte Bello has not changed, although it now includes some Merlot and Petit Verdot in the blend. The 2001 Monte Bello (which marked Ridge Vineyard’s 40th anniversary) is undoubtedly sold out, but a bottle I tasted in my office revealed a stunning wine. Boasting abundant amounts of sweet black and red fruits intermixed with tobacco leaf, white chocolate, charred wood, and espresso roast, it is a full-bodied effort with superb purity, high tannin, and an austere finish. It is built for 30 years of longevity.” Rated: 95+
Wine Enthusiast Best of Year 2005: “Without doubt this is a wine to cellar. It’s massive in flavor, with the purest black currant and cassis fruit you can imagine, and the huge plaster of sweet oak is perfectly balanaced. Then there are the tannins. They’re fine and complex, but gritty. There’s an astringency throughout that a great steak will cut through, but it would be infanticide to open this before, say, 2010. Should improve through 2020 and beyond.” Top 100 Wines of 2005. Rated: 97
Wine Enthusiast (April 2005): “Powerful and massive, with tons of sweetly delicious blackberry, cherry and mocha fruit combined with oak, smoke and vanilla. Wonderfully rich, ripe tannins and firm, bolstering acidity. Fabulous young wine. Drinkable now if you must but just beginning its voyage of decades.” -S.H. Editor’s Choice & Cellar Selection. Rated: 97
Wine Spectator (Oct 2011): 95 Points. “Gorgeous. Dense, rich and concentrated, with a tight core of blackberry and wild berry with floral and berry jam touches. Tight yet expressive, softening ever so slightly and ending with a persistent push of mineral and berry. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.—2001 California Cabernet blind retrospective (June 2011). Drink now through 2022.” – JL
San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate (10 Mar 2005): “Very nice aroma of strong cherry and blackberry with hints of lavender, raspberry, violet, milk chocolate, vanilla and licorice. Initially tannic and closed; when decanted for 20 minutes, it reveals juicy blueberry and cherry fruit with good acidity, and blueberry and vanilla on the medium-length finish. Blend of 56 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 36 percent Merlot and 8 percent Petit Verdot.”
Wine Advocate (28 Feb 2005): “A candidate for one of the longest-lived Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in California is Ridge’s Monte Bello. The 2001 Monte Bello Proprietary Red is this historic vineyard’s 40th anniversary cuve. It boasts a saturated purple color in addition to a luxurious perfume of smoky oak, plums, cedarwood, espresso, black cherries, and cassis. As the wine sits in the glass, a hint of tar also emerges. This full-bodied, broad, expansively flavored offering exhibits high tannin along with a huge finish. In blind tastings, I consistently mistake these cuves for French Bordeaux, and also underestimate their age since they last for 30+ years. Over 90% of this offering is aged in new American oak, yet it never displays that sappy American oak character thanks to the superb cooperage of the barrels. This top-notch 2001 Monte Bello should be at its best between 2012-2035.” Rated: 96
Wine & Spirits (Dec 2004): “When I taste this Monte Bello, I think of the Pacific. The flavors approach like a wave, a rise of pure black currant flavor allowing light through to the seabed below. It’s the work of old cabernet vines grown on a sunny ridge 2,600 feet above the Pacific, their roots deep into limestone that was once the ocean floor. There’s something voluptuous about the wine they give, a stylish drink that bears the history of the place where it grows in its flavors.” Rated: 95
International Wine Cellar (July/August 2004): “Bright medium ruby. Highly complex aromas of currant, lead pencil, tobacco and chocolate. Rich, lush and deep, with full-blown, super ripe flavors of cassis, black raspberry and chocolate. This has considerably more merlot than the 2002 (36%), and it shows it in its extravagantly creamy texture. Finishes with sweet tannins and outstanding length. I don’t recall ever having tasted a Monte Bello as close to overripe as this one. But a compelling wine that’s utterly voluptuous drinking already.” Rated: 93
Wine Advocate (23 Dec 2003): “The great classics here are the proprietary reds from the Monte Bello Vineyard, which are now aged in 90% American and 10% French oak. The 2001 Monte Bello Proprietary Red Wine (the 40th anniversary of this cuve) is a stunning blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. A saturated purple color to the rim accompanies gorgeous aromas of charred oak, black currants, and lilacs (or is it acacia flowers?). In the mouth, there is more of a roasted richness than is found in the 2000, as well as deep, classically structured, full-bodied, broad, expansive flavors of black and red fruits, espresso, and chocolate, and a spectacular finish. This Ridge Monte Bello is a tribute to a great winery that has never gone through an unsatisfactory period of winemaking, largely because of the perpetual brilliance of Paul Draper. This wine will require considerable patience. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2030.” Rated: 95+
Average Rating: 94.2
No. of Tasting Notes: 219
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