2012 Monte Bello

2012 Monte Bello

Wine Information

64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot

98 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
96 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
96 PointsDecanter




Monte Bello


Santa Cruz Mountains

Alcohol By Volume


Winemaker Tasting Notes

Saturated ruby. Ripe cassis, blackberry, violets, licorice, wet stone, oak spice. Strong blackberry fruit on entry; superb full body; structured, velvety tannins; toasty oak; crushed-limestone minerals; long, intense finish.

Vintage Notes

A dry winter ended abruptly in February, as we raced to finish pruning before new growth emerged. That early start to the growing season, and late September heat, threatened to over-ripen the fruit. With help from our Sonoma crew, we harvested in a record sixteen days. Despite limiting pump-overs and pressing early, tannins were quick to extract, producing one of our most structured vintages. In tastings, 19 of 24 parcels were selected for this exceptional wine. Balanced and appealing now, it will come into its own with twenty years of age, and show well at fifty. EB (2/14)


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.

Growing Season

Rainfall: 18 inches (below average)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Moderate summer and fall


Harvest Dates: 21 September – 16 October
Grapes: Average Brix 25.1
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting followed by hand sorting. Fermented on the native yeasts. Pressed at seven days. Natural malolactic (15% in tank, 85% in barrel).
Barrels: 98.5% new air-dried american oak; 1.5% new french oak
Aging: Sixteen months in barrel.
Ingredients: Hand harvested, sustainably grown estate grapes; indigenous yeasts; naturally occurring malolactic bacteria; 2.4% water addition; calcium carbonate; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective SO2.

81.3 tons from 60.6 acres, Nineteen of twenty-four Monte Bello parcels selected. Sustainably farmed, hand harvested, estate-grown grapes; destemmed and sorted; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 9.8 g/L calcium carbonate to moderate the unusually high natural acidity in four of the nineteen parcels; 2.4% water addition to twelve of nineteen lots during fermentation; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur 25 ppm at crush, 115 ppm during aging; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.


The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 96 Points. “The 2012 Monte Bello is a beauty, wafting from the glass with complex aromas of plums, blackberries, bitter chocolate, black truffles, cigar tobacco and hints of crème de cassis. Its new oak is already well integrated. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, richly tannic and very deep, with a layered, concentrated core of fruit framed by chalky, fine-grained tannins. The 2012 is still quite youthfully chewy at this early stage, but there’s a certain lavishness to its ripe blackberry fruit that suggests this will be a dramatic, even decadent Monte Bello in the style of the 2002 when it reaches maturity. Late September heat made for a record-setting harvest in only 16 days. The 2012 is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, and it saw a small water addition to finish at 13.8% alcohol.” – William Kelley

Wine Spectator (June 2019): 94 Points. “The 2012 Monte Bello is also providing a tantalizing look at its development. Sappy in feel and tightly grained in structure, it’s a bit taut overall, but the black fruit core is evident, and the long mineral edge is a bit brighter and more detailed in what was the first of California’s recent drought run of vintages.” – James Molesworth

Wine Spectator (February 2016): 94 Points. “A beautifully structured wine, with firm acidity and tannins that show grip and grit amid a core of dense, tense currant and blackberry fruit, turning juicy. Those seeking classic old-school Cabernet will embrace this. Cellaring for five to seven years is the right approach. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Best from 2020 through 2035. 5,243 cases made.” – James Laube

The Wine Advocate (October 2015): 94+ Points. “Inky colored, the sensational 2012 Monte Bello comes all from the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. It’s backwards and tight, with classic black cherry, crushed violets, cassis, espresso roast and crème brulee notes all flowing seamlessly to a full-bodied, concentrated, structured and layered Bordeaux blend that has bright acidity, a stacked mid-palate and firm tannin. It needs 5-6 years of cellaring and will hold for two decades beyond that. This was a terrific set of wines from Ridge. The 2012 Bordeaux releases all have brilliant purity of fruit, with surprising freshness and focus. They’ll need short term cellaring to be approachable, especially the Monte Bello. The 2013s are similar in style to the 2012s, with tight, fresh profiles and solid tannic grip…” – Jeb Dunnuck

Decanter (August 2015, California Supplement): 96 Points. “Powerful, rich, and very structured and layered, this has wonderfully pure fruit and the highest tannins since the stunning 1992 vintage. One of California’s classic Cabernets.”

Vinous Media(July 2015): 98 Points. “The 2012 Monte Bello is one of the most harmonious young Monte Bellos I can remember tasting. Seamless and voluptuous through to the finish, the 2012 is showing beautifully today. Raspberry jam, pomegranate, white flowers, mint and spices are some of the many notes that flesh out in the glass. A wine with a distinctly red-hued profile, silky tannins, no hard edges and exceptional overall balance, the 2012 Monte Bello is simply magnificent. The 2012 is racy but also impeccably balanced throughout, with shades of the 2001 that come through from time to time. I won’t be surprised if the 2013 and 2014 both eventually surpass it, but there is no denying that the 2012 is simply stunning today. This is one of the best showings yet for the 2012.” – Antonio Galloni

Wilfred Wong: 98 Points “Made with 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot; Incredible; formidable, firm; black fruit, oaky, coconut notes; lasting berries, dried leaves in the flavors. A keeper!” (September 2022)

Consumer Tasting Notes

Average Rating: 94.4

No. of Tasting Notes: 191

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