76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc
Santa Cruz Mountains
Color: Saturated deep purple. Nose: Perfumed blackberry and currant fruit, sweet cassis, black licorice, vanilla bean, scented sandalwood spice, toasty oak, cola, clove, crushed limestone rock, dark chocolate-cocoa powder. Palate: Savory mix of black and red mountain fruits, pungent barrel spices, firm acid, expansive mid-palate, elegant chalky tannins, wet stones, black olive, juniper berry, cedar, and sweet toasted oak finish.
138 tons from 108 acres. Winter rains were scarce this year, and total rainfall down twenty-five percent. Budbreak came early, but bloom was late, delayed by cold April weather. Having set a small crop for the third consecutive year, the vines required little thinning. Harvest began on schedule; most parcels were picked in the first two weeks of October. Four days later, heavy rains drenched the remaining grapes – a quarter of the crop. Fortunately, sun and wind dried the clusters fully before the next storm, and we finished harvest with no damage to the fruit. The forty small lots fermented to dryness on their natural yeasts in nine days on average. Two-thirds of them completed natural malolactic in barrel, and remained on the lees for five months. The rest finished in tank, and were racked off their lees to barrel within one month. In a series of tastings conducted from late January through March, we selected seventeen lots for the first Monte Bello assemblage. Another was included in May, one more in December. Eighteen months in barrel has begun to integrate the firm tannins and rich texture of this fine vintage. Unusually appealing as a young wine, it will gain further depth and complexity over the next fifteen to twenty years. EB/PD (3/06)
In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Monte Bello estate vineyard was planted, and the winery constructed. 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: 26 inches (below normal)
Weather: Warm March, cool April, moderate summer.
Harvest Dates: 14 September – 23 October
Grapes: Average brix 24.2
Fermentation: Gentle destemming, no crushing. (I thirty-six separately-fermented lots, roughly half the berries remained unbroken.) Natural-yeast primary and secondary fermentations. Pressed at eleven days on average.
Barrels: 92% new, air-dried american oak, 8% new french oak (for comparison.)
Aging: Eighteen months in barrel
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 92+ Points. “The 2004 Monte Bello opens in the glass with classic aromas of cigar box, spice and crushed red and black currant fruit, revealing little obvious trace of its time in new oak. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied but still quite tightly wound, with a firm chassis of fine-grained tannins and a bright line of acidity that seem to demand further cellaring. I suspect it’s in a somewhat withdrawn phase between youth and maturity. That said, the 2004 isn’t as structured as another backward vintage, the 2006, nor do I believe it possesses as much potential for positive evolution.” – William Kelley
Vinous Media (July 2014): “Readers looking for a Monte Bello that is ready to drink should consider the 2004. Just beginning to enter its early plateau of maturity, the 2004 is in a beautiful spot right now. Sweet tobacco, smoke, cedar, licorice and leather meld into a core of dark fruit. The 2004 won’t last forever, but it does have enough depth to age beautifully for the another decade, perhaps more. A distinctly floral/savory finish rounds things out nicely.” -Antonio Galloni (Rated: 93)
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010): “The 2004 Monte Bello (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc) reveals a similar dark ruby/purple color, but it is not as thick looking as the 2003 or 2005. A lighter, more elegant example of Monte Bello, the finesse-styled 2004 does not possess the power one normally sees in this wine. It offers pure fruit, a pretty, St.-Julien-like style, notes of cedar, spice box, herbs, background oak, and red as well as black currants, and silky tannin. It is capable of lasting 15-20 years.
Ridge’s iconic Monte Bello Proprietary Red (no longer called Cabernet Sauvignon) is one of the candidates for the longest-lived Bordeaux blend made in California. Even vintages from the late sixties and early seventies are still vibrant wines. The winery owns just over 100 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and production varies enormously based on the mountain climate. With respect to this group of wines, the smallest yields were achieved in 2005, and the highest in 2007. The selection process here is relatively severe. For their Monte Bello, the flagship wine, 32% of the production was used in 2003, 38% in 2004, 49% in 2005, 39% in 2006, and 41% in 2007. These wines continue to be anomalies in the sense that the Cabernet Sauvignon component is aged in American oak, a somewhat contrarian procedure since most top producers long ago moved to French oak. The Santa Cruz Mountains cuvees, essentially a second wine culled out from Monte Bello, are also high quality efforts from Ridge. Each of the vintages I tasted reflects the vintage conditions in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Three 2008 barrel samples reveal a consistent, high quality style with slightly more elevated alcohol contents.” -Robert Parker(Rated: 91)
Decanter (July 2008): New World Greats To Lay Down – “Most know Ridge for its Zinfandels, but this Cab-dominant blend has been a California classic for decades. The word I always associate with Monte Bello is long. It takes a long time to come around and has a long finish. Muscular and intense.” -Frank Prial
Vinography (27 March 2008): “Medium ruby in the glass, this wine has an elegant, poised nose of cedar, cherry, and earth aromas. In the mouth it is bright and juicy with excellent acidity and a clean, claret style that lets flavors of cherry, cedar, and wet stones resonate like a plucked guitar string. Beautifully, even musically balanced, this wine resonates beautifully into a long, satisfying finish.” (Rated: 9/9.5) -Alder Yarrow Read
Los Angeles Times (27 June 2007): “This year’s estate red blend is three-quarters Cabernet, with the balance Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It is a seamless, beautifully structured red that leads with aromas of cassis, plum, and is grounded by a finely grained minerality and a dark complement of oak. Its youthful flavors fall into deep blue cassis fruit, but the wine’s texture is masterful, full and powerful. Don’t touch for five years, at least.”
International Wine Cellar (Sep/Oct 2006, Issue 128): “Ruby-red. Brooding aromas of cassis, blackberry, minerals, bitter chocolate, tobacco and fresh herbs. Fat, broad and sweet, with nicely integrated acidity and complex hints of leather, herbs, licorice, chocolate and minerals. This cheek-coating wine is a bit more filled in than the 2003 release. Finishes with superfine tannins and lovely subtle persistence.” (Rated: 91-94) -Stephen Tanzer
Wine Spectator (31 July 2005): “A mix of elegance and power, with deep, dark, concentrated cherry cassis, spicebox and cedar notes. Chewy, rustic nuances of herb, eucalyptus, leather and sage flavors fill out on the finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Score (predicted of finished product): 92-94” -James Laube
Average Rating: 92.4
No. of Tasting Notes: 167
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