Santa Cruz Mountains
Translucent gold. Braised pear, citrus, dried fig, ginger, toasted brioche. Elegant entry, bright acidity. Apple, browned butter, flint. Lemon peel and honeysuckle in a long finish. (8/11)
A mild winter, short on rain, brought bud-break by mid-February. Cool weather in March slowed growth, but summer’s warmth ripened the small crop for an early-September harvest. Whole-cluster pressed, each parcel was barrel-fermented separately on naturallyoccurring yeasts. Weekly stirring during the uninoculated malolactic fermentation maintained freshness and provided further richness. Four lots in particular showed exceptional quality and character. These were combined, and returned to older barrels for four months’ settling. Clarity was achieved naturally, and we bottled without filtering. Complex fruit, mineral notes from the limestone sub-soil, and firm acidity set a classic style. The 2008 will develop more fully over the next eight to ten years.
In 1949 William Short, retired theologian and then-owner of the Ridge “middle” vineyard (2070′ – 2390′), planted several acres of ch ardonnay, which provided the 1962 estate Monte Bello Chardonnay for the Ridge partners’ first vintage. From 1962 to 1984, limited amounts of chardonnay were produced each year under the Monte Bello designation. By 1985, younger, replanted vines had begun to supplant the older vines, whose yields had dropped to a quarter-ton per acre, and we changed the designation to Santa Cruz Mountains. As of this vintage we have changed it to Estate Chardonnay to make it clear that the grapes are from Monte Bello vineyard, not the AVA in general. By 1999, the young vines had matured; we were able to select several exceptional parcels for a Monte Bello chardonnay, a practice that continues to the present in most years.
Rainfall: 30 inches (just below average)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Moderate summer and fall
Harvest Dates: 2 September – 8 September
Harvest Conditions: Average Brix 23.4
Fermentation: Whole-cluster pressed. Juice aerated and racked to barrel for natural primary and secondary.
Selection: Two of the ten Monte Bello Vineyard chardonnay parcels.
Barrels: 90% air-dried American oak (10% new, 66% one and two years, 24% three years old) & 10% French oak barrels.
Aging: Sixteen months in barrel
Vinous Media (July 2016): 95 Points. “It may sound hard to believe, but the 2008 Chardonnay Monte Bello is still remarkably young. With time in bottle the wine has begun to acquire weight and more tropical notes that have taken on greater expression in bottle. Ripe pear, pineapple, honey and chamomile give the 2008 much of its exotic, weighty personality. This broad, structured Chardonnay has enough depth and freshness to drink well for another decade. Winemaker Eric Baugher opened the 2008 next to the 2013 because he views the vintages as similar. Two thousand eight was the middle year in the previous drought cycle.” -Antonio Galloni
Wine & Spirits (February 2012) “Ridge grows compelling chardonnay on their limestone-rich mountaintop above the Pacific. In this vintage, the texture is smooth as river pebbles, the wine rolling from potent almond to velvet-fleshed apple flavors. It balances freshness, buttery richness and rich sweetness in a firm, golden mouthful of fruit. For the cellar.” (Rated: 93)
California Grapevine (Vol. 37, No. 5, October-November 2011): “Medium-light golden yellow color; very attractive, nutty, pear and baked apple pie aroma with mineral notes and a trace of butterscotch; medium-full body; tightly focused, refined, nutty, earthy, pear and green apple flavors with prominent minerality and a silky mouthfeel; well balanced with crisp acidity and finishes with a slightly austere impression; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended.” (My Score: 93/100)
Wine Advocate (Issue 196, August 2011): “The 2008 Chardonnay Monte Bello emerges from the glass with layers of rich, varietal fruit supported by firm minerality and just a touch of French oak. The Monte Bello spends an additional three months in neutral oak and therefore also sees more stirring of the lees, yet it remains fresh, vibrant and beautifully focused all the way through to the finish. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2018.
I tasted a breathtaking array of wines during my recent visit with Paul Draper at Ridge. Draper is a true American icon, so it’s great to see him doing well after a bout with illness. I also tasted a number of older wines, including several Monte Bellos going back to the 1970s. Heretical as it may sound, I think the wines Draper is making today will prove to be far superior to the wines of decades past, many of which are rightly considered legendary. For ease of reference I have also included notes on all of the Ridge wines made outside the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Chardonnays are fermented with native yeasts and go into barrel with their gross lees, which are stirred once a week. The malos usually start the following spring. The wines are assembled just before the following harvest and go back into neutral oak. Aging is about 15 months for the Estate and 17 months for the Chardonnay Monte Bello, with a maximum of 25% new barrels. The reds are fermented with ambient yeasts, undergo malolactic fermentation in tank (except for the Monte Bello which is mostly done in barrel) and stay on their gross lees until the following spring.” -Antonio Galloni, (Rated: 95)
Average Rating: 91.8
No. of Tasting Notes: 65
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