95 Points – Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com
94 Points – Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
94 Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
94 Points – Anthony Dias Blue, Blue Lifestyle
94 Points – Connoisseurs’ Guide
Santa Cruz Mountains
Pale sun-bleached straw color. Ripe apple and yellow plum fruit aromas, citrus blossom, and sweet baked dessert. Sensuous entry, showing appealing mountain fruit, elegance, balanced acidity, and a beautiful mineral aftertaste. EB (1/20)
Winter was late to arrive, delivering a season’s worth of rainfall in March. Spring remained cold, followed by heavier-than-usual summer fog, slowing vine progress for a late September harvest. Thirteen parcels barrel fermented and sur lees aged for fifteen months. This fine chardonnay was an assemblage of barrels showing appealing fruit and elegance. It will be enjoyable over the next five years.
Ridge produced its first chardonnay in 1962 from fully-mature vines planted in the late 1940s on the Monte Bello estate vineyard. Production never exceeded ten barrels, and Monte Bello chardonnay was sold principally at the winery. Several great vintages, among them the 1973, ‘74, ‘79, and ‘84, showed that our cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to the varietal. By 1985, the old vines were producing less then a half-ton per acre and were taken out. The younger vines, planted in the ‘70s, provide the majority of grapes today. Initially these newer plantings were on the “lower” vineyard—not yet farmed as part of the Monte Bello estate—so the wine was called “Santa Cruz Mountains” and these vines have long since been included. Since 2009 the wine has been designated Ridge Estate Chardonnay. In years when differences among lots are sufficient to warrant a separate bottling, we make a limited amount of Monte Bello Chardonnay as well.
Rainfall: 26 inches (below normal)
Bloom: Late May
Weather: Winter rains were late to arrive, delivering a season’s worth of rainfall in March. This gave Monte Bello 75% of the 26 inches of rain for the year, which is below normal. Spring remained cold with heavier than usual fog, slowing the progress for a late September harvest.
Harvest Dates: 19-26 September
Grapes: Average Brix 23.8˚
TA: 6.99 g/L
Fermentation: Grapes are whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented. Natural primary and natural secondary (malolactic) fermentations.
Selection: Nine of the twelve Estate Chardonnay parcels.
Barrels:94% air-dried American oak, 6% French oak; (12% new, 18% one and two year-old, 13% three and four year-old and 57% five to nine year-old).
Aging: Fifteen months in barrel
Hand-harvested estate-grown Monte Bello vineyard grapes; whole-cluster pressed; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
JebDunnuck.com: 95 Points “Coming all from the estate Monte Bello Vineyard, the 2018 Chardonnay Estate offers a medium gold hue as well rocking notes of caramelized apples, white flowers, honeysuckle, and crushed rocks. These all carry to a medium-bodied Chardonnay with bright acidity, a focused, chiseled texture, terrific minerality, and just a kiss of background oak. It’s going to benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and have two decades of longevity, if not longer.” -Jeb Dunnuck (May 2020)
The Wine Advocate: 94 Points “The 2018 Chardonnay Estate Monte Bello Vineyard is a powerhouse on the nose, bursting with baked apples, salted almonds, beeswax, hay and loads of spicy accents. The palate is both silky and pure, concentrated and refreshing, finishing very long with loads of lift and flavor.” -Erin Brooks (February 2021)
Vinous Media: 94 Points “The 2018 Chardonnay is classy, translucent and so vivid. Apricot, tangerine oil and light tropical overtones open up first, but the 2018 only starts to show all it has to offer with some aeration. The layers start to fill out, and yet the 2018 never loses its sense of transparency and overall detail. A real sense of phenolic weight gives the wine its distinctive mountain feel.” -Antonio Galloni (September 2020)
Blue Lifestyle: 94 Points “Fresh pear and sweet oak nose, smooth and creamy with tangy, juicy fruit; lush and intense; bright and crisp yet rich and deep; how’d they do that?” -Anthony Dias Blue (April 2020)
Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine: 94 Points “This involving Chardonnay leads with a moderately intense, many-layered nose of apples, citrus, sweet oak and roasted grains and follows with concentrated, youthfully exuberant flavors that go well beyond simple fruit and reflect the far-reaching complexity found in its aromas with an added suggestion of lemon curd and hints of minerals finding their ways into the mix. Despite that fact that there is a good deal going on here, the wine is still very young and it has the structure and energy to impress even more if allowed to rest in the cellar for another three or four years. It is, quite simply, one of the winery’s best Chardonnays in years.” (May 2020)
Average Rating: 91.8
No. of Tasting Notes: 42
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