58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot
Santa Cruz Mountains
Opaque, dark ruby. Ripe cassis, black currant aromas; licorice, fennel, black olive, cedar, juniper berry, black tea. Opulent entry; rich cassis, blackberry, olive, tobacco, forest floor. Integrated tannins, long sweet-toasted-oak finish.
An unusually early spring brought bud-break in February. Cold weather in late September and much of October delayed harvest, but sun and warmth returned at the end of October, ripening the grapes fully. When tannin proved difficult to extract, we changed our partial-whole-berry approach to full crush, for greater seed/juice contact. Frequent pump-overs during the natural primary continued until pressing. Secondary fermentation was uninoculated. In February, we chose eighteen beautifully-balanced lots from the Monte Bello vineyard for the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate. At summer rack, we added three more merlot lots. At the fourteenth month, tastings indicated that the rich press wine contributed greater complexity; it, too, was included. This fine wine shows ripe mountain fruit, integrated barrel spice, and elegant structure. Though enjoyable now, its tannins will resolve further as flavors mature over the next eight to ten years.
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: 30 inches (just below normal)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Moderate summer/fall; a long cool growing season.
Harvest Dates: 28 September – 8 November
Grapes: Average Brix 24.4
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 60% full crush, 40% whole berries. Small (1-6 ton capacity) fermentors. Natural yeast fermentation. Pressed at seven days. Natural (uninoculated) malolactic (half in barrel, half in tank).
Selection: Twenty-one of the thirty-six Monte Bello Vineyard parcels make up this Santa Cruz Mountains Estate.
Aging: 100% air-dried american oak barrels (48% new, 30% one to two years old, 22% three and four years old).
Time in barrel: Seventeen months
Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (November-December 2010): “Deep ruby. Black raspberry and cola on the nose, made more complex by notes of vanilla, pipe tobacco and cracked pepper. Firm, mineral-accented red and dark berry and bitter cherry flavors become sweeter with air and pick up a suggestion of mint. Sweet and focused on the finish, which repeats the vanilla and cherry notes. This wine is made from the younger vines of the Monte Bello vineyard.” -Josh Raynolds (91 points)
Wine Advocate (Issue 187, 27 Feb 2010): “The lightest of these offerings, the deep ruby/purple-tinged 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate (58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Merlot) displays a straightforward nose of crushed, jammy red and black fruits, earth, and spice. More narrowly constructed with less richness and intensity than either the 2005 or 2006, with slightly higher acids, this wine finishes a bit sharply. Drink it over the next 7-8 years as it does not have the depth necessary to hold up to extended aging.
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: 88)
Average Rating: 90.7
No. of Tasting Notes: 251
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