51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc
Santa Cruz Mountains
Red currant, red licorice, cocoa, chalky tannins with austere finish.
A surprisingly warm spring triggered early budbreak on Monte Bello, but cool summer temperatures extended the growing season. Several weather systems passed through during harvest, bringing anxiety, but little moisture. Three-quarters of the grapes were in when, on the weekend of October 18, heavy rain brought harvest to a halt. Fortunately, the following week was sunny and windy. The fruit dried, sugars recovered, and we continued picking each parcel as full flavor developed, finishing on October 23. After natural primary and secondary fermentations ended, we began assembling the Monte Bello and this outstanding Santa Cruz Mountains. Based on blind tastings, we included selected portions of the early-ripening merlot and the last-picked cabernet, all of the first press, and the richest of the second. By April, assemblage was complete. Twenty-two months in air-dried american oak has integrated the wine. It is beautifully balanced, and can be enjoyed now, yet will develop still greater complexity with five to ten years of bottle age. EB/PD (5/06)
The Monte Bello vineyard was first planted when the winery was built, in 1886. In the early 1940s, the last of the old vineyard was abandoned; a few blocks were replanted in 1949. Those cabernet vines – now over fifty years old – produced the first Ridge Monte Bello in 1962, and subsequent vintages until the mid-seventies. By then, blocks replanted during the sixties were maturing, and their fruit considered for use in the Monte Bello. A number of those consistently produced a softer, more accessible wine and were combined as the stylistically distinct Santa Cruz Mountains.
Rainfall: 26 inches (below normal)
Weather: Warm March, cool April, moderate summer.
Harvest Dates: 13 September – 23 October
Grapes: Average brix 23.4
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Small (1-5 ton capacity) fermentors. Pressed at nine days. Natural (uninoculated) malolactic (half in barrels, half in tanks).
Selection: Eight of the thirty-six Monte Bello vineyard parcels make up this Santa Cruz Mountains. These lots were fined with fresh egg whites, and given eight additional months of barrel age to develop complexity and soften tannins.
Barrels: 100% air-dried american oak barrels; (73% new, 27% two year old).
Aging: Twenty-two months in barrel
Los Angeles Times (27 June 2007): “This year’s blend is 51% Cabernet and 47% Merlot. It leads with a dark and briary scent, supporting fruit aromas of black currant and blackberry. Its flavors are fresh and immediate, with a dark, juicy currant fruit flavor giving way to an intensely vinous mouth-feel and firm, earthy tannins.”
California Grapevine (Vol. 33, No. 2, April-May 2007): “Medium-dark ruby; attractive, rich, intense, spicy, red berry fruit aroma with notes of leather and coffee bean; medium-full body; herbal, somewhat green, cranberry and cherry fruit flavors; medium-full to full tannin; tight, lean finish; lingering aftertaste. Relatively easy to drink now. Grapes from select blocks of their Monte Bello Vineyard. Highly recommended.”
(Group Score: 15.4 of 20 points, 0/0/0; My Score: 16.5 [85/100])
Average Rating: 89.7
No. of Tasting Notes: 109
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