74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
98 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
97+ Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
96+ Points – The Wine Advocate
96 Points – Wine & Spirits
96 Points – Decanter Magazine
Santa Cruz Mountains
Intense briary mountain fruit, firm acid, black tea, chalky tannin, with mineral/wet rock in a long finish. EB (3/12)
A long winter gave way to a cool growing season. The vines bloomed a month late, but caught up by September, and all twenty-four parcels were harvested in October. Fruit was destemmed, but not crushed, the whole berries sorted to remove stem fragments. Natural fermentations were vigorous; we pressed at day seven, on average. Uninoculated malolactics began in tank, and finished in barrel within three weeks; sixteen lots were selected at first assemblage in March. At second assemblage, an excellent cabernet parcel was added. Balanced tannins, firm acidity, and defined fruit distinguish this sensuous wine, which will continue to develop over the next thirty years.
In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the initial plantings of the Monte Bello estate vineyard were set out, and winery construction begun. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; some vines survived into the late 30’s, but by the 1940s they were 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 historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.
Rainfall: 33 inches (average)
Bloom: Late June
Weather: Cool, late spring, cold summer; long, mild fall.
Harvest Dates: 3 October – 1 November
Grapes: Average Brix 24.1
Fermentation: Destemmed, but uncrushed. Automated berry sorting followed by hand sorting. Natural primary and secondary fermentations. Pressed at seven days.
Barrels: 96% new air-dried american oak; 4% new french oak (for comparison)
Aging: Eighteen months
83.5 tons from 58 acres, Seventeen of twenty-four Monte Bello parcels selected. Estate-grown Monte Bello grapes, hand harvested. Destemmed and sorted. Fermented on the native yeasts, full malolactic on the naturally-occurring bacteria. 0.11 g/L calcium carbonate to moderate the unusually high natural acidity in four of the seventeen parcels; minimum effective sulfur (30 ppm at crush, 99 ppm during aging). Pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
Wine Spectator (June 2019): 98 Points. “The 2010 [Monte Bello] is a highlight of the flight, with rocking energy, dense black currant and blackberry fruit and loads of singed wood thoroughly embedded throughout. Juicy bramble, alder and bay notes chime in, with a mouthwatering mineral spine buried deeply on the finish.” – James Molesworth
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 96 Points. “The 2010 growing season was long and cool, reflecting the influence of an El Niño year, defined by a short but intense heat wave in late August. But whereas Ridge’s Sonoma County vineyards experienced a high of 117 degrees Fahrenheit for two days, Monte Bello ridge only reached 105 degrees. The ensuing 2010 Monte Bello is very classic in profile, offering up aromas of crushed cassis, plums, cigar tobacco, rich loamy soil, black tea and dark chocolate. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, with a deep and concentrated core of vibrantly crunchy fruit framed by velvety tannins, concluding with a long, tangy finish that’s still youthfully chewy. Though the two vintages are very close in quality, the 2010 is very different in profile from the somewhat larger scaled 2012: it’s less expansive, but built around a brighter vertical line. I’d recommend cellaring it for an additional three or four years and don’t expect it to truly hit its stride until after 2025. ” – William Kelley
Vinous Media (July 2015): 97+ Points.“The 2010 Monte Bello is just as stunning as it has always been. Today, the 2010 appears to be entering a closed phase, so it is best left alone for at least another 5-10 years, perhaps longer. The signatures are super-ripe, exotic fruit, sweet aromatics and firm tannins, all of which ensure the 2010 will be utterly magnificent in a few decades. The growing season was characterized by mostly cold weather, with an unexpectedly intense heat spike in mid-October that gave the fruit a final push. One of the things that makes this vintage so compelling is the interplay of firm structural elements from the cold year and a high level of ripeness that was achieved late. In my view, the 2010 is one of the most thrilling recent Monte Bellos, however it won’t be ready to drink for a number of years and it won’t peak for quite some time beyond that.” -Antonio Galloni
Wine Advocate (Issue 202, August 2012): 96+ Points “The just-bottled 2010 Monte Bello combines pure structure and power in a rich, full-bodied style for this wine. Waves of dark red fruit, crushed rocks, flowers, mint and grilled herbs wrap around the long, insistent finish. Today, the 2010 is slightly more reticent than it was last year, but the wine comes to life the more it sits in the glass. Always classy, the 2010 Monte Bello impresses for its impeccable balance. Count me among those who will be thrilled to own this magnificent California classic. The 2010 is a decidedly virile, powerful Monte Bello, qualities winemaker Eric Baugher attributes to a year with a very cold summer and periods of heat that arrived only towards the tail end of the growing season. In 2010, the blend is 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2040. -Antonio Galloni
Decanter (26 February 2014): 96 Points, 8 exciting California wines worth seeking out: “If the US had a formal classification of estates or vineyards, such as those in Bordeaux or Burgundy, Ridge would be at the top of the list. This iconic property has been turning out spectacular wines for several decades under the inspired leadership of Paul Draper. The 2010 Monte Bello is set to be one of the great wines in Ridges history. Persistent graphite-infused notes support layers of expressive dark fruit in a powerful, structured wine built for cellaring. Those seeking more immediate gratification should try the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which has been terrific in recent vintages. Monte Bello remains one of the worlds most singular expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Decanter (January 2019): 95 Points. “Ridge can trace the first vintage of wine being made from the Monte Bello site back to 1892 and this rich history of production is certainly matched by the esteem in which the wine is held today. The expert hand of Chief Winemaker Paul Draper, Decanter Man of the Year (2000), ensured another successful vintage from this iconic Californian estate in 2010, which concluded with the wine spending 18 months in US oak barrels. Stephen Brook: Refined blackcurrant and garrigue nose. Herbal but not herbaceous. Quite rich, and solid, concentrated and firm, with a good tannic backbone. This is robust and structured, with refreshing acidity on the long finish. Still plenty of life in it. Delicious! Alex Hunt MW: Masterful composure on the nose here. Some tannin (possibly wood-derived) to resolve, but there is abundantly classy and precise blue and black berry fruit, and a real richness of flavour achieved without resorting to high ripeness and alcohol. Still very young, this wine is a strong long-term bet. Piotr Petras MS: Fruit-driven, spicy and chocolatey aromas. The palate is generous and dense, yet showing firm tannins and characterful, stone character. Very well-made.” – Stephen Brook, Alex Hunt, and Piotr Pietras
Wine & Spirits (December 2013): 96 Points, Year’s Best Cabernets & Blends “Eric Baugher and Paul Draper select this wine from 58 acres at Monte Bello, predominately cabernet sauvignon (74 percent in 2010), with merlot (20 percent), petit verdot and cabernet franc. They shape the wine through careful sorting of the grapes, fermenting without added yeast, pressing to new American oak barrels after seven days. The wine then ages two stories down in the 19th-century limestone cellar carved out of the ridge 2,600 feet above the Pacific. The wine, rooted in that same limestone, provide a massive wine, substantial in its structure, generous in its vibrant fruit flavors, gracious in its tannins. While fruit is at the center of the wine, it’s savory and sophisticated rather than overly sweet. The flavors touch on small berries–black currants, wild blue berries–and also hint at herbs (tarragon, tobacco). This is a terrific vintage of Monte Bello: It feels healthy and sound, with tension and drive that will sustain it for decades in the cellar.”
San Francisco Chronicle (2 December 2013) – Top 100 Wines of 2013: “Paul Draper is now the rare vintner opting for full disclosure on cellar work. Here he reveals a smidgen of deacidification in a cool, sleek vintage – and one of the best Monte Bellos of the decade. If just a touch behind the timeless 2009, this is still a nearly perfect wine: dense, meaty and retaining the ethereal quality Ridge does so well. The savory sides – celery, beef broth, a mineral tang – combine with zesty blackcurrant fruit that always marks this historic site. Expect to enjoy it for at least another 20 years.”
Average Rating: 93.6
No. of Tasting Notes: 140
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