75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot
98 Points – James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com
97 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
97 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
96 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
Santa Cruz Mountains
Opaque ruby color. Intense blackberry fruit aromas, blackcurrant, exotic barrel spice, toasted oak, licorice, and complex forest notes. Rich mountain fruit entry, refreshing high acid, full chalky tannin structure, and sweet oak; strong mineral finish. EB (2/17)
Lack of winter rain affected both vines and cover crops, limiting available nutrients. Still, the vines carried a decent-size crop, which ripened in September. Fermentations progressed slowly; extraction was decided by careful tasting. Malolactics started in tank, and finished by February. Merlot, which suffered in 2013, was strong in 2014. Petit verdot remained challenged by drought. This elegant vintage shows intense fruit, limestone earth, and firm acid. It will be enjoyable over the next fifteen to thirty years.
In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first Monte Bello vineyards were planted, 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) and subsequent vintages until 1974 when younger blocks replanted in the 1960’s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.
Rainfall: 11.8 inches (40% of normal)
Weather: Very dry December & January; most of the rain fell February through April. Overall above average temperatures at Monte Bello.
Harvest Dates: 2 – 24 September
Grapes: Average Brix 25.2˚
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting followed by hand sorting. Fermented on the native yeasts. Pressed at ten days. Natural malolactic.
Selection: Nineteen of twenty-six Monte Bello parcels
Barrels: 100% new air-dried oak, 97% american oak, 2% french oak; 1% hungarian oak
Aging: Seventeen months in barrel
Sustainably farmed, hand-harvested, estate-grown grapes; destemmed and sorted; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 0.29 g/L calcium carbonate added to moderate the high natural acidity in ten of the twentyone parcels; 2.2% water addition to six of twenty-one lots during fermentation; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur 25 ppm at crush, 109 ppm during aging; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
JamesSuckling.com (November 2017): 98 Points. “Unique aromas of blackberry, black currant, dark chocolate and walnut. Full body, very powerful and tannic. Incredible depth and power. Precise and so focused. Muscular. Great structure. This needs at least six to eight years to come together.” – James Suckling
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 97 Points. “A worthy successor to the profound 2013 and the fruit of the earliest harvest on record at this address, the 2014 Monte Bello is still quite youthfully expressive, wafting from the glass with an exuberant bouquet of minty dark berries, plums, black cherries, cigar box and a nicely integrated framing of new oak. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, deep and intense, with a rich chassis of structuring tannins, which are currently largely concealed in a succulent core of fruit, and bright balancing acids. In profile, it’s structurally more open-knit and giving than the massive 2013, and I suspect it will reach its plateau sooner, but it should enjoy over three decades of longevity. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, and it attained 13.5% natural alcohol. “The drought had a positive effect on concentration,” observed winemaker Eric Baugher when we corresponded shortly after harvest, adding that “the wines are opaque in color, with rich tannins and marvellous fruit.” Four years later, that remains an accurate characterization of the 2014 Monte Bello.” – William Kelley
JebDunnuck.com (June 2018): 97 Points. “A much deeper, richer wine compared to the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, it offers incredible notes of crème de cassis, vanilla bean, tobacco leaf, and scorched earth. Rich, full-bodied, and concentrated, with moderate acidity and ripe yet present tannin, it’s going to drink nicely with just short-term cellaring yet shine for two decades or more. It doesn’t have the overt concentration and structure of the 2012 and 2013, but has sensational purity, balance, and elegance.” – Jeb Dunnuck
Wine Spectator (June 2019): (94 Points). “The 2014 [Monte Bello] shows the very expressive aromatic profile of this vintage, with a range of sage, mint and spice notes leading off, followed by the typical black and red fruit core and a long, smoldering finish.” – James Molesworth
The Fine Wine Review (Fall, 2017) – 92+ Points “This wine has classic Monte Bellow hot bricks and lead pencil aromas. The medium-weight mouth shows black olive and black cherry flavors with a bit of iodide. The wine is quite firm and there is a bit of chalkiness to the texture. This wine still needs time to fully integrate and should improve with a few years in the bottle. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. 13.5% stated alcohol. ”
California Grapevine (November 2017): 90 Points “Medium-dark ruby; assertive, herbal, blackberry fruit aroma with hints of dill, mint, green olive, and vanilla; full body; dark berry fruit flavors with notes of dried herbs, some richness and refinement in the mouthfeel, and a bit tight and crisp on the finish with bright acidity; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Shows some elegance and nicely integrated oak, and should benefit with further bottle aging. Very highly recommended.” (Group Score: 16.5, 0/0/1; My Score: 17 [90/100], tenth place)
Vinous Media (August 2017): 96 Points. “The 2014 Monte Bello is going to need at least a decade to show everything it has. Deceptively medium in body and super-classic in its mid-weight structure, the 2014 offers notable brightness and intensity in an understated style, even by Ridge standards. Today, the 2014 is intensely linear, focused and vibrant. Petit Verdot is the variety that suffered most in the drought, so its presence in the blend is minimal.” – Antonio Galloni
Decanter (May 2017): 97 Points. Another superb Monte Bello, the 2014 reveals an exuberant bouquet of crushed wild berries, plum, cherry, cinnamon, menthol and wood smoke, framed by nicely integrated new oak. On the palate the wine is deep and intense, structured around rich tannins and underpinned by vibrant acidity, with terrific persistence on the finish. This has a long life ahead of it.
Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine (April 2017): 93 Points. – “Ridge’s iconic Cabernet is in fine form this outing and shows the impeccable crafting and balance that we have come to expect in its very best versions. It is not a flamboyant wine but is instead one of great precision, and its striking complexity and depth come with nary a hint of excess. Its singular fruity expression of cassis and dark berries holds and holds, and its integral spine of fine-grained tannins imparts nothing in the way of coarseness. Its tighter architecture tags it as needing a lengthy stay of some eight to ten years in the cellar, and those willing to wait will not be at all disappointed.”
Vinous Media (July 2016): 96 Points. “The 2014 Monte Bello is bright, precise and finely sculpted throughout, with a slightly more reddish leaning flavor profile than is found in some of the surrounding vintages. In 2014, Monte Bello is built on bright, pulsating acidity and energy. Relative to recent vintages such as 2012, 2013 and 2015, the 2014 is a bit compact and tightly wound. The slightly nervous style is likely to require at least a decade to be fully appreciated. In 2014, the blend is more typical of Monte Bello than the Cabernet-dominated 2013, with a greater role for Merlot and other complementary grapes. The only real issue with the 2014 is that it is sandwiched between two truly epic vintages.” – Antonio Galloni
Vinous Media (July 2015): (94 – 97 Points) “Tasted from barrel, the 2014 Monte Bello comes across as super-classic and at times even a bit austere, with considerable tannin and overall intensity. Some vintages of Monte Bello can offer pleasure relatively early. The 2014 does not appear to be one of them. Today, the 2014 is extremely tannic, with inky flavors and quite a bit of underlying structure. Needless to say the 2014 is going to be fascinating to follow, as it appears to have a very bright future. I tasted the 2014 from a representative blend in barrel. Two thousand fourteen was marked by a very early bud-break and harvest. For only the second time in fifty years the Cabernet Sauvignon was brought in starting at the end of September and was done by the end of the month, whereas in a normal year, the harvest stretches to the end of October. The days were long at Ridge, as Cabernet and Zinfandel were harvested around the same time, which is quite unusual.Winemakers Paul Draper and Eric Baugher add that Cabernet Sauvignon was favored over Merlot and Petit Verdot, both of which struggled.” – Antonio Galloni
Average Rating: 93.8
No. of Tasting Notes: 94
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