95 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
91 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
Santa Cruz Mountains
Opaque purple color; mixed blackberry and cherry fruit aromas along with flint, black olive, and exotic oak spices. Ripe black cherry fruit entry, medium-full body, crushed limestone, firm acid, and rich tannins. Finishes with persistence, showing great intensity. EB (1/20)
Strong winter storms drenched Monte Bello, saturating the ground. Summer heat dried out the top soil, but the underlying fractured limestone provided a wealth of water for the vines. Ripeness was moderated by unusually cold nights during October. Harvested on October 23, seven days of fermentation resulted in an elegant wine. Tannins softened during barrel aging but will continue resolving in bottle. Showing excellent fruit, it will drink well over the next decade.
First planted to vines by Osea Perrone in the mid 1880s the vineyard was abandoned during Prohibition. The West block was replanted to cabernet sauvignon in the 1960s but showed considerable virus and was taken out in 1995. This southwest-facing slope — exposed to cool Pacific Ocean winds — is challenging. We planted merlot, a variety that ripens earlier than cabernet sauvignon and used closer spacing. After several harvests, we realized that water from an underground spring was causing differences in vigor. By dividing the parcel into three sections, each could be picked at ideal ripeness. The West block merlot is part of the Monte Bello in most years.
Rainfall: 44.2 inches (above normal)
Weather: A wet winter gave Monte Bello over 44 inches of rain, well above normal. A cool spring, which effected sets and warm spells in summer pushed vines along. Labor Day heat wave ripened the grapes nicely. Harvest started in late October.
Harvest Dates: 23 October
Grapes: Average Brix 22.6˚
TA: 7.80 g/L
Fermentation: De-stemmed whole berry; 100% berry sorted; floating cap, daily pump-overs; natural primary and natural secondary (malolactic). Pressed at seven days.
Barrels: 100% new air-dried American oak barrels.
Aging: Nineteen months in barrel
Hand-harvested, estate-grown, organic grapes; de-stemmed whole-berry fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur for this wine (35 ppm initially at crush, 55 ppm over the course of aging); pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
Vinous Media: 95 Points “The 2017 Merlot Perrone is a total knock-out. Rich and savory in the glass, the 2017 exudes personality from the very first taste. Black cherry, gravel, menthol, licorice, lavender and sage all emerge from this massively tannic, brooding Merlot. Far from an easygoing wine, the Perrone is a real showstopper, but it is also a tightly wound, classically austere wine that needs years in bottle to unwind. The mix of richness from the warm year combined with the wine’s structure makes for an absolutely compelling Merlot.” -Antonio Galloni (September 2020)
JebDunnuck.com: 91 Points “Coming all from the estate Monte Bello Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the 2017 Merlot Perrone is 100% Merlot that was all harvested on October 23 and aged in American oak. It has a saturated purple color as well as a complex nose of blue fruits, vanilla bean, bouquet garni, and spice. It should evolve for a solid 10-15 years.” – Jeb Dunnuck (May 2020)
Average Rating: 90.6
No. of Tasting Notes: 5
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