100% Chardonnay – Organically Grown
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96 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
95 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
94 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
93 Points – Wine Spectator
Santa Cruz Mountains
Sun-bleached straw color. Aromas of citrus, ginger, and exotic spices. Elegant on entry, lemon zest, firm acidity, and salinity; a crushed wet stone finish. EB (1/18)
A fourth year of drought limited size and number of clusters while rain at bloom further reduced yields. Warm summer weather pushed the season ahead for a late August harvest. This year’s selection comes from a parcel planted to historic California clones at 1900’ elevation on the Rousten Ranch. Showing intense mountain fruit and firm acidity, this complex wine will be at its best over the next fifteen years.
In the late 1940’s William Short, retired theologian and then-owner of the Ridge Torre vineyard (2070’ – 2390’), planted several acres of chardonnay, which provided the 1962 estate Monte Bello Chardonnay for the Ridge partners’ first vintage. From 1962 to 1984, four to eight barrels 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. By 1999, the young vines had matured; we were able to select, in most years, several exceptional parcels for a Monte Bello Chardonnay, a practice that continues to this day.
Rainfall: 24.4 inches (40% of normal)
Weather: Wet December and driest January on record; spring rains were below normal with warm temperatures. End of spring was cool with ocean fog and drizzle adding 3+ inches of rain allowing the vines to grow nicely. Moderate summer resulted in early ripening and we began picking in mid-August.
Harvest Dates: 26 – 28 August
Grapes: Average Brix 22.6˚
Fermentation: Whole-cluster pressed. Natural primary finished January 2016 and secondary finished by May 2016.
Selection: 100% Monte Bello vineyard chardonnay parcels.
Barrels: 91% air-dried american oak and 9% french oak barrels (4% new, 32% one to two years, 44% three, 18% six to seven years old).
Aging: Nineteen months in barrel
Organically farmed, hand-harvested, estate-grown Monte Bello grapes; whole cluster pressed; fermented on the native yeasts, followed by full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; oak from barrel fermentation and aging; minimum effective sulfur for this wine (30 ppm at the press, 46 ppm over the course of aging); bottled without filtration. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
JebDunnuck.com (February 2019): (96 Points). “The 2015 Chardonnay Monte Bello offers slightly more flinty minerality as well as a richer, more medium to full-bodied style compared to the regular estate release. White flowers, caramelized lime, and ripe citrus notes all flow to balanced, pure, and elegant Chardonnay that has a terrific balance between its fruit and acidity. It too will cruise in good cellars for 15-20 years.” – Jeb Dunnuck
Vinous Media (Aug 2018): 95 Points. “In 2015, the Chardonnay Monte Bello emerges from the Ruston Ranch, a north-facing, high altitude slope planted with an assortment of heritage clones that ripen earlier and at lower sugars rather than the Clone 4 that is the core of the Estate Chardonnay. Phenolic, rich and structured, the 2015 is all class. The lemon confit, orange and buttery notes all grow as this exquisitely layered, powerful, old-school Chardonnay shows off its personality and pedigree. This is the first vintage of the Monte Bello Chardonnay made with organically grown grapes and also the first Chardonnay since 1985 that is under 14% alcohol.” – Antonio Galloni
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 94 Points. “The 2015 Chardonnay Monte Bello is a rich, powerful vintage, offering up aromas of yellow orchard fruit, preserved lemon and subtle notions of frangipane and spice. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, layered and concentrated, with almost chewy levels of extract and considerable breadth, concluding with a stony, mineral finish but seemingly structured more around extract and richness than around acidity this year. This evokes the kind of equilibrium found in the better 2015 white Burgundies, and while it’s in a different stylistic register from the 2014 or 2016, it’s a compelling wine that may well surprise with some bottle age.” – William Kelley
Wine Spectator (Dec 2018): 93 Points. “Powerfully structured, with intense smoke and spice notes to the apple, citrus and ripe tart flavors. Finishes long and rich, with buttery accents that linger with enticing savory overtones. Drink now through 2023.” – K.M.
Average Rating: 91
No. of Tasting Notes: 30
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