73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc
98-100 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
97-100 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
94-97 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
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Santa Cruz Mountains
Opaque purple-ruby color. Ripe blackberry fruit, barrel spice, anise, violets, and crushed limestone. Opulent mountain fruits on entry, fennel, sweet oak, well-structured tannins, and firm acid. Powerful complexity and tremendous length to the finish. EB (1/18)
Heavy winter rains saturated Monte Bello’s fractured limestone sub-soil, replenishing the vines’ water resources. Warm summer days, with unusually cold nights, slowly ripened the crop for an October harvest. By early winter, as malolactics finished, the wines were blind-tasted for assemblage. The final blend was made in May. Showing beautiful fruit and serious complexity in its youth, it will develop greater secondary flavors 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: 44.2 inches (above normal)
Weather: A cool spring affected sets. Warm spells in summer pushed the vines along. A Labor Day heat wave ripened the grapes nicely.
Harvest Dates: 21 September – 24 October
Grapes: Average Brix 24.9˚
Selection: Twenty-three Monte Bello parcels
TA: 7.42 g/L
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berry fermentation. Automated berry sorting. Fermented on the native yeasts. Pressed at nine days. Natural malolactic.
Barrels: 100% new air-dried oak; 95% American, 5% French
Aging: Seventeen months in barrel
All estate grown Monte Bello Vineyard grapes, organically farmed, hand-harvested, destemmed and sorted; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 0.10 g/L calcium carbonate added to moderate the high natural acidity in two of the twenty-nine fermenters; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur 35ppm at crush, 92ppm during aging; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
The Wine Advocate: 98-100 Points “Destined to rank as one of the all-time greats from Ridge, the 2017 Monte Bello opens in the glass with youthfully complex notes of ripe plums, cassis, espresso roast and black truffles, with little apparent trace of its time in 100% new oak. On the palate, it’s full-bodied and incredibly concentrated, with a rich, layered mid-palate and immense substance that marks it out as the most richly tannic Monte Bello since 2013. As ever, the acids are vibrant, with a classic pH of around 3.5—notably lower than most Cabernet Sauvignons from contemporary Bordeaux or Napa Valley, thanks to this site’s limestone soils and high altitude. At the time of writing, the blend is 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, though that may change by the time it’s bottled. Eric Baugher observes that fermentations were slow in 2017, which protracted the period of extraction, partially accounting for this vintage’s power. It’s still a baby, but this is a strong contender for a perfect score when it’s bottled in over a year’s time—and it should see out its 50th birthday in style.” – William Kelley (May 2018)
JebDunnuck.com: 97-100 Points “This is a rich, powerful version of this cuvée and boasts a black/blue color as well as a huge nose of crème de cassis, graphite, crushed rocks, and lead pencil shavings. With some serious structure, full-bodied richness, and a fleshy, opulent texture, this massive Monte Bello is going to be one for the ages.” – Jeb Dunnuck (February 2019)
Zinfandel Chronicles: 99 Points “Breathtaking nose of cool blue and black fruits, creme de cassis, espresso and graphite. Immensely concentrated and powerful with a sense of finesse. The classic iron fist in a velvet glove. Black currants, blueberries, truffles and tobacco on the palate. The finish is long and seamless with ever so silky tannins. Thrilling wine that threads the needle between old and new world. A Monte Bello for the ages. This should hit its stride in about 10 years and drink well to 2050.” – Tom Lee (August 2020)
Vinous Media: 94-97 Points “The 2017 Monte Bello packs a serious punch. Huge fruit and equally imposing tannins suggest the 2017 is going to require considerable cellaring to be at its finest. The 2017 has come together beautifully over the last year. Even so, it remains very, very young, and also full of potential.” – Antonio Galloni (October 2019)
Average Rating: 93
No. of Tasting Notes: 6
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