79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
95 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
94 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
Santa Cruz Mountains
Cassis, violets, blackberry. Wet stone, espresso, notes of sweet oak. On entry, ripe mountain fruit, licorice, complex minerals. Youthful and lively, with firm acid and elegant chalky tannins. Captivating finish.
213 tons from 103 acres, 41% selected for this wine. A mild February brought early budbreak, and ideal conditions through spring allowed the vines to set a full crop. In late September, however, cold weather halted ripening. October was wet and wintry; then, on the twenty-third, temperatures soared into the high eighties. The grapes rebounded quickly, developing incredible intensity. When tannins did not extract readily, we shifted from whole-berry to full crush, putting the seeds in contact with the juice. For the first time in years, we continued twice-daily pump-overs until press, at seven to ten days. Most lots finished uninoculated malolactic by year’s end. In late January, we blind-tasted thirty-six lots, choosing seventeen for the first assemblage. In May, six more were included. Despite the unusual weather, this is classic Monte Bello- dark fruit, firm tannins, and lively acidity. It will benefit from a decade of bottle age, and continue to mature for another twenty years.
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: 30 inches (below average)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Moderate summer/fall, long cool growing season.
Harvest Dates: 8 October – 8 November
Grapes: Average Brix 24.1°
Fermentation: Gentle destemming, and full crush in the sixty-three separately-fermented lots. Natural-yeast primary and secondary fermentations. Pressed at seven to ten days.
Aging: 96% new, air-dried american oak, 4% new french oak (for comparison).
Time in Barrel: Eighteen months
Wine Advocate (May 2018): 95 Points. “Reflecting on the 2007 Monte Bello, Eric Baugher describes the year as “a vintage that almost didn’t happen.” Until the eve of harvest, everything was going well, with a large crop ripening in balmy conditions. In late September, however, cold weather retarded ripening, with wet and wintry October weather only relenting on the 23rd, when temperatures returned to the high 80s. Due to such extended hang time, seeds were hard and woody, so it was difficult to extract much tannin, but that tannin was of very high quality. Today, the wine is beginning to show superbly, wafting from the glass with a lavish, creamy bouquet of crème de cassis, ripe plums, blackberries, black truffle and loamy soil. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, fleshy and expansive, its generous core of fruit framed by rich, melting tannins and underpinned by the freshness and energy that this site always seems to capture. As it approaches age 11, the 2007 is an elegantly voluptuous vintage of Monte Bello that bears analogies with the lovely 1991. The blend is 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, and it attained 13.1% natural alcohol and was cropped at around two tons per acre.” – William Kelley
Wine Spectator (June 2019): 94 Points. “The 2007 shows noticeable mature notes of alder and tobacco wafting up from the core of mulled berry fruit, while sage and sassafras notes lend a perfume to the finish. It’s here at age 12 that the wine really seems to start unwinding into its secondary phase.” – James Molesworth
Quarterly Review of Wines (Summer 2011) – Best of the Best – California Proprietary Red Blends – “Big, deep, dense, chewy, utterly riveting, black fruit, roasted nut and coffee flavors.”
JamesSuckling.com (15 February 2011) – “The nose just bursts with blueberries, currants, and flowers. Full bodied, with a round and velvety tannin structure. The palate explodes with currants, ripe strawberries, and black pepper on the finish. This is muscular and toned, structured and balanced. This is still young and needs a minimum of five years of bottle age. Winemaker Paul Draper says that perhaps this is as great as the legendary 1991. Could be. 15+24+24+34.” (Score: 97)
Decanter (February 2011): Five Star Wines – “Discreet but still pronounced mint, blackcurrent, herbs, green pepper and oak perfume. Wonderful structure of elegant, understated fruit, grainy tannins and a minerally, spicy finish. Just perfect! Drink: 2012-2020” (Score: 18.9)
Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages (8 December 2010) – California’s charming 2007 Cabs – “Typically elegant and restrained in alcohol (13.1%), though it’s a tad less intense than the 2005 and 2006 bottlings. Nicely ripened black fruit, smooth tannins, hints of tobacco and barrel spice, and bracing acidity, all seamlessly knit. Pleasurable now, though its history recommends cellaring. Not labelled as Cabernet Sauvignon, though it could be, with 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc.” -Linda Murphy (Rated: 18.5)
San Francisco Chronicle (5 December 2010) – Top 100 Wines of 2010 – “This most iconic of California Cabs was in extraordinary form in 2007 – amply plush and seamless, with tons of aromatic power even at 13.1 percent alcohol. High-toned huckleberry and cassis are bolstered by a smoky, perfumed edge and that quintessential bright mineral signature of this historic site. Beautifully tailored, a Monte Bello for the ages.” -Jon Bonne
Wine & Spirits (December 2010) – Year’s Best Cabernets & Blends – “Relatively fat for a Monte Bello, this wine shows its richness in fruit rather than playing on weight gained from oak. The freshness of the fruit keeps it firm, finely balanced and clean, a more accessible young wine than this vineyard tends to give. There’s a pure cassis flavor running through it, emphasizing the clarity of lovely, ripe cabernet. As approachable as it may be now, it’s substantial enough to age for a decade or more.” (Rated: 94)
Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (November-December 2010): “Opaque ruby. A complex, heady bouquet displays red- and blackcurrant, pipe tobacco, cigar box and rose oil, with suave spiciness gaining strength in the glass. Sappy and sweet, with mineral-laced red and dark berry preserve and cherry-vanilla flavors complemented by smoke and floral pastille qualities. The finish shows sweetness as well as tanginess and leaves a gentle smoky quality behind. Quite open-knit for Monte Bello but there’s a core of minerality and sneaky acidity here that bodes well for aging. This was aged in 100% new oak, 96% of it American.” -Josh Raynolds (94 points)
The Tasting Panel (October 2010): “Fresh and juicy with enormous depth and rich plum and raspberry fruit; silky, supple and showing balance, elegance and finesse as well as great aging potential; another classic from this amazing vineyard.” (Rated: 96)
Wine Spectator Insider (Vol. 6, No. 40 – 29 September 2010): “About as close to Bordeaux in California as you get, from the classic cigar box, cedar, tobacco leaf and dill scents to the tight band of mineral, dried currant, sage, cedar and sandalwood notes. Full-bodied, elegant, and persistent, this is most interesting on the finish, where the flavors are long and lingering. Best from 2014 through 2024.” -James Laube (Rated: 92)
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010): “The 2007 Monte Bello is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. Its dense ruby/purple color is accompanied by attractive aromas of incense, red and black currants, spice, and forest floor. Much lighter in the mouth with less concentration and texture than the 2006, 2005, and 2003, the 2007 is built along the lines of the 2004. There is a slight lack of intensity in this offering (yields were almost twice as high in 2007 as they were in 2005), but it is a very pretty effort made in a lighter, more elegant, restrained style. It reveals lots of blue, black, and red fruits, medium body, good acidity, and a fine finish. The extremely cold weather in late September as well as the wet October has had an impact on the 2007 in contrast to what happened further north in Napa and Sonoma. While it does not represent a great classic, the 2007 will certainly last 15 or more 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: 93.0
No. of Tasting Notes: 300
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