2002 Monte Bello

2002 Monte Bello

Wine Information

74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot

98 – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
96 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator




Monte Bello


Santa Cruz Mountains

Alcohol By Volume


Winemaker Tasting Notes

Color: Opaque ruby Nose: Ripe black currant/black cherry. Coffee/chocolate, mint. Mineral/flint/wet limestone. Vanilla, toasted oak. Palate: Rich berry, sweet cassis. Substantial yet integrated tannins, good acid/tannin balance. Opulent finish. Great depth.

Vintage Notes

131 tons from 108 acres. After an unusually early start to 2001’s growing season, 2002 settled back to normal. The merlot crop was reduced by May rains during set, but cabernet yields – making up for last year – were extravagant, and we thinned rigorously to ensure ripening. We harvested the thirty parcels as flavors developed, dividing them into thirty-six separate lots of three to six tons each. Color and tannin developed easily, so in order to prolong the natural-yeast fermentations, we radically reduced circulation of juice over the cap. Delaying the first assemblage until March allowed the wine to stabilize. We initially chose ten of the most intense lots for the Monte Bello, adding four more in May, at the second assemblage. Eighty-seven percent of the wine aged in new, air-dried american oak barrels; as our ongoing control, thirteen percent – an uncommonly large proportion – aged in new french oak. To moderate the firm tannins, we made numerous experimental fresh-egg-white finings, deciding only this month that the unfined wine was more classically Monte Bello. Beautifully structured and balanced now, it will reach another level of complexity with six to eight years in bottle, and age fully over the next twenty. PD (1/04)


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.

Growing Season

Rainfall: 36.7 inches.
Bloom: June.
Weather: Frost in April (rare). Cold, rainy May. Fine summer.


Harvest Dates: 30 September – 22 October
Grapes: Average brix 24.7; average pH at crush 3.38.
Fermentation: Gentle destemming, no crushing. (In thirty-six separately-fermenting lots, roughly half the berries remained unbroken.) Natural-yeast primary and secondary fermentations. Pressed at eight days on average.
Barrels: 87% new, air-dried american oak, 13% new french oak
Aging: Eighteen months in barrel


The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 98 Points. “The 2002 Monte Bello is stunning, bursting from the glass with an expressive nose of ripe blackcurrants, crème de cassis, dried cherries, burning embers, pencil lead, loamy soil and a perfumed top note of lavender. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, lavish and expansive, cutting a broad swathe across the palate, with a deep, concentrated core of succulent fruit that’s framed by ripe, plush tannins, concluding with a lingering finish. At age 16, the 2002 is truly singing, so anyone with bottles in their cellar is due for a treat. The blend is 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot, and it attained 13.3% alcohol. Unusually, fully 13% was matured in new French oak—with the balance, as usual, in new American oak.” – William Kelley

Wine Spectator (June 2019): 96 Points. “The 2002 Monte Bello is fully in its second phase, with a gorgeous core of mulled red currant and boysenberry fruit, long, supple threads of singed alder and sage brush, all backed by a subtle chalky minerality through the finish. It’s very perfumed, without losing its sense of power.” – James Molesworth

Wine Advocate (Issue #201, June 2012): “The 2002 Monte Bello Proprietary Red is a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot. It tastes as if it hasn’t changed since I first sampled it in late 2003 and then again in bottle two years later. The color is healthy ruby/purple, and the wine displays some dusty, oaky, vanillin notes that jump out of the glass along with a touch of white chocolate as well as red and black currants and hints of cedar and forest floor. Extremely young and full-bodied, with some wood char still present, it is unevolved and tastes like it could be a barrel sample, except that it has been in bottle for nearly ten years! This is a blockbuster Ridge Monte Bello that still needs a minimum of another 10 years of bottle-age and should keep for 50+ years. Only for the young and patient!

As most passionate amateurs of California wine know, this is one of the longest-lived red wines produced in California. Having reviewed close to 40 vintages of their flagship wine, the mostly Cabernet Sauvignon blend from their Monte Bello vineyards, I can only concur that this wine ages as well as a great first-growth from Bordeaux. It can often need a good 20 years minimum before it sheds its overlay of wood and tannin. Anticipated maturity: 2022-2072″ -Robert Parker Rated: 95+

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 2002 Monte Bello exhibits aromas of tar, cedar, damp earth, white chocolate, black cherries, and sweet black currants. This full-bodied, dense, tannic 2002 is even more closed this year than it was last. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2037” Rated: 94

Wine Advocate (28 Feb 2005): “The 2002 Monte Bello Proprietary Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, with more of the Cabernet component than the 2001 possesses. Aromas of white chocolate, charred oak, black currants, tar, cedar, and earth are followed by a full-bodied, tannic red that is not as fleshy or fat in the mid-palate as its older siblings. This structured, age worthy 2002 should be consumed between 2011- 2030.” Rated: 94+

International Wine Cellar (Jul/Aug 2004): “Deep, full ruby. Explosively perfumed nose combines black raspberry, violet and dark chocolate. Wonderfully layered and penetrating, with expressive flavors of raspberry, currant, bitter chocolate, spices and tobacco. Still an infant, but already offers a rare combination of sweetness and inner-mouth energy. Finishes very fresh and very long, with big, dusty tannins and great lift. This is high in alcohol for Ridge at 13.3%, but a full degree or more lower than virtually any other collectible California cabernet from this vintage.” Rated: 94

Consumer Tasting Notes

Average Rating: 93.1

No. of Tasting Notes: 163

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