56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot
Santa Cruz Mountains
Mountain bramble fruit aroma, red currant, cardamom, vanilla bean, licorice, toasty oak. Velvety, fruit-coated tannins. Balanced, resolved structure. Drinkable now.
A cold winter and heavy rainfall delayed the start of the growing season. Bloom came in late April. An unusually warm summer and mild fall ripened the grapes through October. The clusters were destemmed, but not crushed, for a natural, whole-berry fermentation. Color and tannin were abundant, so pump-overs were reduced, then eliminated by day six; we pressed on day nine. The uninoculated malolactic was complete by year’s end. Thirty-four Monte Bello parcels had been fermented as thirty-six small batches; all began aging in new american oak barrels. The following spring, nineteen were selected for this outstanding Santa Cruz Mountains Estate. It was returned to barrel (half new, a quarter two years old, a quarter three/four years old). Enjoyable now for its dark fruit and elegant structure; it will develop further over the next ten to fifteen years. (EB 6/08)
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; in the late forties a few blocks were replanted. Those cabernet vines-” now sixty 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 Estate.
Rainfall: 42 inches (above normal)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Moderate summer and fall, with some rain towards the end of harvest.
Harvest Dates: 18 September – 25 October
Grapes: Average Brix 24.9
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Small (1-6 ton capacity) fermentors. Natural yeast fermentation. Pressed at six days. Uninoculated malolactic (half in barrel, half in tank).
Selection: Nineteen of the thirty-six Monte Bello Vineyard parcels make up this Santa Cruz Mountains Estate.
Barrels: 100% air-dried american oak barrels (54% new, 28% two years old, 18% three and four years old)
Aging: Twenty months in barrel
Jancis Robinson (9 March 2010): “It is hardly original to claim that Ridge’s top Bordeaux blend Monte Bello is the equivalent of a first growth. The rerun of the Judgment of Paris established that. But Ridge, Santa Cruz Mountains Estate 2006 is the equivalent of a particularly good first-growth second wine, except that it is, conveniently, much more forward than any 2006 first-growth second wine I know in Bordeaux. We also tasted the Santa Cruz Mountains 2007 last week. This is a very fine wine but is still pretty tight while the 2006 is almost ready to drink, tasting like a super-ripe, super-polished top-quality red bordeaux. I gave it 17.5 points out of 20 (super-generous for me) and thought it would drink beautifully throughout the decade to come. This is very sophisticated wine by any measure.”
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010): “A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot, the 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate exhibits a similar deep ruby/purple color as well as less complex aromatics, an attractive, round, rich, full-bodied mouthfeel, sweet tannin, and a long finish. This successful 2006 should drink well for 15 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 (February 2010): Scored four stars however review text not yet available. Please check back early next year for updated coverage. Score: ****
Average Rating: 90.6
No. of Tasting Notes: 178
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