72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc
96-98+ Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
98 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
97 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
96 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
96 Points – Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
96 Points – Wine & Spirits
Santa Cruz Mountains
Opaque purple-ruby color. Ripe blackberry fruit, barrel spice, anise, violets, and crushed limestone. Opulent mountain fruit entry, firm acid, and fine-grain, age-worthy tannins. Powerful complexity and tremendous length to the finish. EB (1/18)
Late winter rains brought some relief from another year of drought. Monte Bello’s fractured limestone held onto this moisture for the vines to draw on through a mild summer. Unusually cold nights slowed ripening and developed firm acidity, while gentle extraction during fermentation kept tannins in balance. Through careful blind-tasting twenty-three lots were assembled and spent eighteen months in barrel. This superb vintage will age beautifully over the next 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: 21.9 inches (below normal)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: A very wet December and January helped ease the drought. Cool weather in April reduced our lower elevation crops a bit. Warm spells in late June and late July helped push the vines along. Harvest started mid-September and the last cabernet lots came in during the second week of October.
Harvest Dates: 20 September – 13 October
Grapes: Average Brix 24.4˚
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting. Fer¬mented on the native yeasts. Pressed at seven days. Natural malolactic.
Selection: Twenty-three of twenty-five Monte Bello parcels.
Barrels: 100% new air-dried oak; 98% american oak, 2% french oak.
Aging: Eighteen 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; 0.32 g/L calcium carbonate added to moderate the high natural acidity in ten of the twenty-eight fermenters; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur 35 ppm at crush, 76 ppm during aging; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
Vinous Media: 98 Points “One of the highlights in this tasting, the 2016 Monte Bello has turned out just as beautifully as I hoped it would. Soaring aromatics, bright acids and mid-weight structure give the 2016 a super-classic feel. Clearly, the 2016 is very primary today, with plenty of bright red and purplish berry fruit. More than that, though, the 2016 pulses with energy and simply exceptional balance. Don’t miss it!” – Antonio Galloni (October 2019)
Wine Advocate: 96-98+ Points “The 2016 Monte Bello is stunning, bursting from the glass with aromas of crushed currants, plums, charcoal, sweet spices, black truffle and rich soil. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, immensely deep and very concentrated, with an ample core of dark fruit that almost entirely conceals its rich chassis of tannin. The finish is long, tensile and chalky. Eric Baugher observes that 2016 was a drought year but that the vines were less stressed than in 2015, thanks to Spring precipitation, and it wasn’t necessary to irrigate. Summer saw wild temperature swings, and though it was below average in summation, some days were very warm. The final Monte Bello blend contains 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc, which represents a slight change from when I tasted it a year ago, though its profile remains very much the same. The 2016 checks in at 13.8% alcohol and pH 3.49. Cellar it for a decade and follow it for another three.” – William Kelley (May 2018)
Vinous Media: 95-98 Points “The 2016 Monte Bello is stunningly beautiful. Medium in body, gracious and understated, the 2016 is a Monte Bello that is built on total finesse. Red cherry jam, raspberry jam, menthol and rose petal all grace this exquisite, vivid Monte Bello. All the elements are simply in the right place. The 2016 is not an obvious Monte Bello, but it is supremely gorgeous. At times, the sensation of tannins is non-existent. The persistent, crystalline finish is one thing of beauty.” – Antonio Galloni (August 2018)
JebDunnuck.com: 97 Points “Bottled in March of 2018 and a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and the balance Cabernet Franc, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello offers a more streamlined, elegant, and ultra-classic style compared to the 2014 and 2015, which are slightly bigger, richer wines. Boasting a deep purple color and beautiful purity in its crème de cassis, blueberry, white flowers, and vanilla bean, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, silky tannins, and perfect balance. It doesn’t have the sheer depth of fruit of some of the blockbuster years, yet makes up for it with its incredible purity, poise, and balance. Relatively approachable for a Monte Bello, it’s still going to see its 30th birthday in fine form.” – Jeb Dunnuck (February 2019)
Wine Spectator: 96 Points “The 2016 Monte Bello is plush and dense, but with its typically distinct racy edge for counterbalance, with a massive core of dark plum and blackberry fruit scored by bay, sage and violet notes. It’s among the best young Monte Bellos I’ve had.” – James Molesworth (June 2019)
The Wine Advocate: 96 Points “Medium to deep ruby color and is youthfully coiled, slowly developing scents of dark chocolate, pencil shavings, cedar, loamy soil, dried flowers, licorice, blackcurrant and black cherry with red berry sparks and exotic spices. The palate is full-bodied and youthfully firm, slowly unfolding with mineral-tinged fruits. It has a frame of firm, pixelated tannins and seamlessly woven acidity, finishing very long and full of latent layers.” – Erin Brooks (February 2020)
Wine & Spirits: 96 Points “A wine destined to evolve for decades, the 2016 is a muscular vintage of Monte Bello. That textural grandeur sets it apart from most contemporary California cabernets; and part of that distinctive texture connects to the way grape-skin tannins mature on vines David Gates farms on this coastal limestone ridge. All of the parcels that contributed to this blend are certified organic, a practice that also sustains the health of the microbial population Eric Baugher relies on for the yeasts that ferment this wine. It is increasingly rare to find cabernet sauvignon produced at commercial quantities anywhere in the world that does not rely on commercial yeasts; and whether or not you believe this is significant to the flavor and complexity of the wine, it is, in a real sense, a reflection of the health of the farming practice. If you are interested in a strapping young cabernet, infused with the kind of energy that health sustains, the 2016 Monte Bello is a wine for your cellar. It’s concentrated with flavors of fresh blackberries and blueberries; there’s a molasses note, perhaps from the new American oak barrels in which the wine aged, but the density of the wine itself mutes any overt oak influence. The high ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains provide an awesome view of the Pacific coast, and this wine has the potential to inspire the same sort of awe.” (October 2019)
Zinfandel Chronicles: 98 Points “Stunning nose of red and black fruits, creme de cassis, scorched earth and flowers. Medium to full bodied and perfectly balanced. The fruit is immense, concentrated and remarkably pure. Cassis liqueur, black currants, black raspberries, graphite and earth on the palate. The finish is long and seamless with ever present, silky tannins. Monte Bello is a wine of finesse and grace that deftly walks the line between old and new world. Compelling and somewhat approachable now but be certain that this wine will age gracefully for 25 years or more.” – Tom Lee (September 2019)
California Grapevine: 94 Points “Dark ruby; attractive, deep, intense, blackberry and black cherry fruit aroma with hints of dill, vanilla, dried herbs, and fall spices; full body; big, deep, rich, nicely balanced, firmly structured, dark berry fruit flavors with controlled tannin, and a long, lingering aftertaste. Impressive now as it developed with airing in the glass, though best to give th ewine five to ten more years of bottle aging. Very highly recommended.” – Nick Ponomareff (February 2020)
Average Rating: 94.3
No. of Tasting Notes: 45
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