73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc
100 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
99 Points – James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com
98-100 Points – William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
98 Points – Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
98 Points – Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits
97+ Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
96 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
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.
JebDunnuck.com: 100 Points “Pure perfection, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello is a sensational effort from this estate that should be snatched up by drinkers and collectors. Based on 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and the rest Cabernet Franc that was brought up mostly in new American oak, this saturated purple-hued beauty is legendary Monte Bello in the making and has a stunning yet primordial bouquet of crème de cassis, lead pencil shavings, graphite, chocolate, and chalky minerality. Full-bodied, incredibly powerful, and one of the most concentrated versions of this cuvée ever made (I’ve had most of them), it needs a solid decade of bottle age and will have 50-60 years of overall longevity. Despite the long drinking window, it offers plenty of pleasure even today. I followed this bottle for two days and it showed best right out of the gate, closing down and becoming more brooding and backward with air. It’s an incredible wine that I promise you won’t regret having in your cellar.” -Jeb Dunnuck (August 2020)
JamesSuckling.com: 99 Points “This shows incredible intensity and depth of blackberries, pine needles, blackcurrants and black olives. Conifer, too. Love the nose. Full-bodied with so many layers of fruit and very fine, creamy tannins. It goes on for minutes. Impressive density with such weightlessness. Superb wine. Drink in 2026 and onwards.” -James Suckling (March 2021)
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)
The Wine Advocate: 98 Points “The 2017 Monte Bello is ultra powerful and concentrated, unfurling over the several days it was open to reveal rich cassis, roast plums, tar, aniseed and exotic spices. What sets the palate apart is its purity: though incredibly layered, it offers a kaleidoscopic journey from blackcurrant to tobacco and dried flowers, offering continual sparks of flavor long after the wine has been swallowed. Structurally, it has the firm but ripe tannins and seamless freshness to dictate a very long life in the cellar. This vintage is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.” -Erin Brooks (February 2021)
Wine & Spirits: 98 Points “This wine may have the most intense and vibrant color of any of the 2017 cabernets we tasted. It definitely has the most vibrant length of flavor, with a complexity that lasts for minutes after each taste and make it seem disrespectful to spit. Everything about it is a seamless pleasure, particularly the way it incorporates the freshness of cabernet grown in limestone into pure black cherry flavors, saturated without any sense of weight. The fruit, organically grown and spontaneously fermented, has nothing to get in its way, delivering a fragrance of roses and black raspberries over that dark cherry core, the fruit tannins reading as depths of umami earthiness completely integrated into the silken texture. This wine advanced for several days after it was first opened, then retreated, then came back on the fifth day as a dark, seductive beauty, a Monte Bello that will live for decades.” -J.G. (December 2020 Issue)
Vinous Media: 97+ Points “The 2017 Monte Bello continues to develop beautifully. A heady, opulent wine, the 2017 also has tons of supporting structure to balance things out. Layers of dark red/purplish fruit give the 2017 remarkable primary intensity, with hints of licorice, mocha, dried flowers and menthol that build over time, hinting at the wine’s ultimate potential. Sensual and exotic, but with plenty of tannic clout, the 2017 has a very bright future. Today, it is decidedly explosive. In 2017, the berries were small, and that high skin-to-juice ratio yielded a Monte Bello that is quite imposing in the early going.” -Antonio Galloni (September 2020)
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)
Wine Spectator: 96 Points “Distinctive, with vibrant violet, juniper and anise notes out front, backed by a core of intense dark currant, plum and cherry fruit. Firmly grounded, showing serious cut and drive through the bay leaf– and sage-accented finish, which sports ample toast alongside the fruit and floral elements. A chiseled, ripped Cabernet for the cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2023 through 2040.” -James Molesworth (August 2020)
Underground Wine Letter: Extraordinary/Extraordinary Plus “Monte Bello has an unrivaled history of great wines going back into the 1960s. Monte Bello is amazingly consistent and the wines have aged beautifully. In vertical tastings it is also amazing how well the wines from vintages that were not highly promoted have aged and evolved into marvelous wines. In short there is no other California Cabernet that can rival Monte Bello over all these years. Now having said all that, here we have the latest vintage, the 2017. All I can say about this wine is WOW! Never have I had a young Monte Bello with the sensuous quality that this wine exhibits. The yields were very low at just over one ton per acre and the wine is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Very dark in color this 2017 Monte Bello has a stunning perfume with exotic spice and cedar nuances overlaying cassis and blackberry fruit. Very rich and full with layers of fruit and complexity the wine is very rich and concentrated but also supple and sensuous. Faint cedar undertones are accented by tinges of exotic spice and the wine has structure and depth with impeccable balance and very long finish. This 2017 is a Monte Bello for the ages and is a legend in the making.” (August 2020)
Connoisseurs’ Guide: 94 Points “One of California’s most iconic Cabernets since its inaugural release some fifty years back, the Ridge Monte Bello bottling justly remains so to this day. Never one that dazzles with opulence or that flaunts high ripeness and overly conspicuous oak at the expense of precise fruit and fitting its winery’s classic, very elegant form to a “tee” in 2017, this wine is about structure and depth and claret-like composure that is years away from reaching its sophisticated best. Hide it away for a decade or more and please be sure not to make the mistake of pulling its cork too soon.” (December 2020)
Average Rating: 92.9
No. of Tasting Notes: 19
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