70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Santa Cruz Mountains
Nose: Clove, vanilla, all spice, tobacco, toasty oak, blackberry. Palate: Big, structured wine, sizeable tannins but well coated, minerally black fruit, cassis, firm, balanced acidity, long clean finish.
107 tons from 108 acres. Our estate vineyards high on Monte Bello Ridge are exposed to the Pacific Ocean, fifteen miles to the west. This gives us a climate as cool as Bordeaux, but also subjects us to the ocean’s vicissitudes. In 2005, late rains and cold winds cut yields to a ton an acre, the lowest in ten years. Warm summer days and atypically warm nights brought ripening back on schedule, and a warm October fully ripened each of the thirty-six parcels between October 4 and November 1. Clusters and berries were small, color and tannin abundant. Pressed at eight days on average, forty percent of the wine went through natural malolactic in barrel, the rest in small fermentors. Assemblage began in February. After several weeks of blind tasting, we made a barrel each of three different blends. By March, it was easier to determine the finest. Petit verdot and cabernet franc were added immediately, another merlot and three cabernets in May, some rich first-press wine in December. Seventeen months in new air-dried american oak-” from both french and american coopers-” has contributed spice and texture. This is a superb vintage. Beautifully balanced, it will continue to develop over the next several decades. EB/PD (3/07)
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: 42 inches (slightly above average)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Cool, wet spring, moderate summer and fall, with perfect ripening weather into harvest.
Harvest Dates: 4 October – 1 November
Grapes: Average Brix 25.3
Fermentation: Gentle destemming, no crushing. (In thirty-six separately-fermented lots, roughly half the berries remained unbroken.) Natural-yeast primary and secondary fermentations. Pressed a t eight days on average.
Barrels: 94% new, air-dried american oak, 6% new french oak (for comparison).
Aging: Seventeen months in barrel
The Wine Advocate (October 2015): 97 Points “While in a good year there’s normally 4,000 cases of the Monte Bello, there was a scant 2,200 cases produced of the 2005 Monte Bello. Thick, massive, and concentrated with ample currants, lead pencil, licorice and chocolate aromas and flavors, this full-bodied beauty is just now at the early stages of adolescence, and has plenty of underlying tannic grip still present. It should hit full maturity in another 4-5 years and hold for 2-3 decades after that.” – Jeb Dunnuck
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010): “Composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, the 2005 Monte Bello should be one of the all-time greats made at this estate. It offers a dense purple color, an extraordinary bouquet of spring flowers, blueberries, creme de cassis, black fruits, and a hint of oak. It also has an unctuous texture. As with all rich wines, the oak component plays a complementary role in the wine’s nuances. A seamless integration of acidity, wood, tannin, and alcohol is found in this rich, elegant, pure, dense beauty. There is a certain accessibility to the 2005 that is unusual by Monte Bello’s standards, and it will age effortlessly for 25+a 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: 97+)
Quarterly Review of Wines (Summer 2009): 5-Star California Red Blends – “Big, deep, rich, earthy, powerful, licorice, cassis and roasted nut flavors structured for the long haul. ” (Rated: *****, Co-Best of Show)
Wine & Spirits (December 2008): “The vines at Ridge’s Monte Bello estate vineyard, at altitudes from 1,300 to 2,660 feet above the Pacific, consistently produce one of the greatest cabernet sauvignons in California. In 2005, a cold, wet spring cut yields to one ton per acre, the lowest level in ten years. The summer and fall ripened that small crop into something extraordinary. That season highlighted the factors that distinguish this wine: the maturity of the cabernet sauvignon vines, some that date to 1949; the limestone subsoils that sustain the vines without irrigation; the native yeast fermentations and the skill of the blending team, which selected half of the production for this final blend (in addition to 70 percent cabernet sauvignon, it includes merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc). It tastes like an authentic California wine, with the flavor of mountain-grown fruit tiny berries, very dark in color and not a lot of them. The tannins have the intensity of wild blueberries, a soft power that’s friendly rather than austere. Its fresh, bright floral aspects combine seamlessly with the structure, pointing up the wine’s youthful beauty. The moderate alcohol (13.4 percent) is just one more factor that predicts a long life ahead for this wine.” Rated: 97
Connoisseurs’ Guide (December 2008): “For more than three decades, Ridge Montebello Cabernets have generated their fair share of excitement in the market. In more years than not they challenge for top honors, and when the wine is good, as it is in this vintage, it is very good indeed. This bottling begins with deep and yet very mannerly aromas of cassis, pencil lead and violets and builds with complex, claret-like flavors that combine poise and richness. So finely fit as to be almost seamless, it has the balance and layering to invite a decade and more of cellaring.” Rated: 93 pts.
Average Rating: 92.9
No. of Tasting Notes: 129
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