58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot
Santa Cruz Mountains
Color – Saturated ruby. Nose – Blackberry, cassis, licorice and cola, chai, wet-flint minerality, cedar, vanilla bean, clove, toasted oak, violets. Palate – Serious depth, dark flavors, roasted espresso beans, dark chocolate, black licorice, mountain briar fruits, coated tannins, sensuous, elegant chalky tannin finish. Intense, long finish.
A late winter held the vines dormant longer than usual. During bloom, northern California was hit by a particularly strong weather system, disrupting fruit formation, and the estate yielded its smallest crop since 1996. Warm summer weather helped to avoid a seriously delayed harvest; picking began on schedule in early October, and was complete by early November. Small berry size resulted in rapid color and tannin extraction. This, in turn, required special handling-” as the whole berries fermented on their natural yeasts, only a limited amount of juice was circulated through the cap. Early pressing-” at day six, on average-” helped maintain balance. Press wine was aged separately, allowing excess tannin to precipitate, then added at eighteen months. Abundant fruit and richness permitted us to use a greater percentage of new and one-year-old airdried american oak in aging. Twenty-one months in barrel and six racks off the settled lees have brought integration and clarity. Elegant structure and the rich, briary fruit typical of our Santa Cruz Mountains estate combine to give the wine immediate appeal. An excellent vintage, it will continue to develop over the next twelve to fourteen years. EB (5/07)
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: 42 inches (above normal)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Cool, wet spring, moderate summer and fall, with perfect ripening weather into harvest.
Harvest Dates: 3 October – 2 November
Grapes: Average Brix 25.1
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Small (1-6 ton capacity) fermentors. Natural yeast fermentation. Pressed at six days. 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 (40% new, 60% one year old)
Aging: Twenty-one months (three additional months beyond the typical eighteen to develop more fully) in barrel
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010): “The sensational 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate (58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot) reveals a dense purple color as well as a big, sweet nose of black currants, black cherries, earth, and spice. It possesses good structure, beautiful density and richness, and is already drinking reasonably well. It should continue to evolve for 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: 92)
Average Rating: 91.2
No. of Tasting Notes: 104
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