74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
97 Points – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator
97 Points – James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com
96+ Points – Antonio Galloni, Vinous Media
96 Points – Wine & Spirits
96 Points – Owen Bargreen, OwenBargreen.com
95 Points – Wine Enthusiast
(94-97)+ Points – Erin Brooks, The Wine Advocate
Santa Cruz Mountains
Opaque, saturated ruby in color. Aromas of cassis, fennel, cola, clove-nutmeg spice, toasted oak, wet crushed stone, black tea, and sweet dry chaparral. Palate of ripe cassis, blackberry, and mountain bramble. Lively acid and polished velvety tannins with a smooth, full body and long finish showing limestone mineral and forest floor. EB (4/20)
December brought intense rains but they ended by January. Drenching spring storms saved the growing season. Though summer was foggy and cold, the vines received abundant sunshine and warmth that ripened the grapes by early October. Reduced pump-overs during fermentation helped moderate tannin extraction. Assembled by blind-taste, twenty-two lots came together to make this superb vintage. Sensuous and showing great complexity, it will be enjoyable 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 30s, 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 1960s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.
Rainfall: 26 inches (below normal)
Weather: Winter rains were late to arrive, delivering a season’s worth or 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: 28 September – 18 October
Grapes: Average Brix 24.4˚
TA: 7.43 g/L
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berry fermentation. 15% automated berry sorting. Fermented on the native yeasts. Pressed at eight days. Natural malolactic.
Selection: Twenty-three Monte Bello parcels
Barrels: 100% new air-dried oak barrels (90% American, 7% French, 3% Ozark).
Aging: Seventeen months in barrel
Hand-harvested; estate grown Monte Bello Vineyard grapes, organically farmed, destemmed and sorted; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 0.22 g/L calcium carbonate added to moderate the high natural acidity in seven of the twenty-three fermenters; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur 35 ppm at crush, 78 ppm during aging; depth filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
Wine Spectator: 97 Points “Very expressive, with warmed blueberry compote, menthol, sweet bay, steeped açaí and zesty sassafras notes all in the mix, carried by brambly grip and a cold cast iron spine. Late echo of mesquite completes this remarkably complex and vivid offering. Should be fun to watch this develop in the cellar. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2022 through 2042.” -James Molesworth (August 2021)
JamesSuckling.com: 97 Points “A bright and beautiful Monte Bello with dark and black fruit, such as blackcurrants, as well as walnuts and hints of vanilla. Full-bodied with creamy tannins that are there from start to finish. Turns lightly dusty. Beautiful length. Really pure and focused. Needs time to come together completely, but already a beauty. Drink after 2025.” -James Suckling (March 2021)
Vinous Media: 96+ Points “The 2018 Monte Bello is a wine of extraordinary finesse. Although it doesn’t have the body or overt richness of some recent vintages, it more than makes up for that with its total sense of harmony. Lavender, mocha, spice, licorice and dried flowers all develop in a sublime, refined Monte Bello that will thrill Ridge lovers. This is an especially elegant, lithe vintage for Monte Bello that is marked by a dry year with no heat spikes and a very long harvest that wrapped up in late October.” -Antonio Galloni (September 2020)
Wine & Spirits: 96 Points “The youthful energy of this wine is breathtaking, as if channeling its proximity to the sky and the ocean in a combination of brightness and freshness, their power subsumed into supple fruit. It’s cabernet with a sense of freedom, its flavor extending skyward, not bound by the American oak in which it aged, or the black-plum flavor of the grapes grown on a high ridge of limestone in the Cupertino hills. Harvested from 23 parcels starting on Septmber 28 and ending on October 18, this fermented as whole berries without added yeasts, then aged in new barrels, mostly American oak. If there’s an impression of delicacy, it might have more to do with the context of contemporary American cabernets: This is clean and elegant with no excess weight to stand in the way of the Monte Bello ridge, a formidable site with the power to grow long-lived and beautiful cabernet.” -J.G. (December 2021 Issue)
OwenBargreen.com: 96 Points “This vintage has a lower percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) with smaller parts Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The nose exudes class with toasty oak that wraps around the core of blackberry compote, dark currants, cigar box and garrigue undertones. The palate is deeply concentrated with a brilliant veil of tension and a light dusting of salinity that falls over the core of dark fruits. Full-bodied and voluptuous to consume in its youth, I have little doubt this will be a 20-30 year old wine.” -Owen Bargreen (August 2021)
The Fine Wine Review: 96 Points “Even in the elite context of Monte Bello wines, this is a notable one. The nose shows the characteristic hot brick aromas. The hot bricks follow in the mouth with cassis and plum fruit, some chocolate and smoke from the American oak, and a rich, dense texture with round tannins. Ideally, one would keep this wine in the cellar a decade and then drink it over the following thirty years, but it can be drunk now if decanted a few hours in advance.” -Claude Kolm (September 2021)
Wine Enthusiast: 95 Points “This ever-classic blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc begins with black plum, sandalwood and incense on the nose, offering a very forest vibe. Blackberry and tea-leaf flavors are wrapped in a firm tannic structure on the palate, with mahogany and more wood spice carrying through the finish. Drink 2022–2038.” -Matt Kettmann (December 2021 Issue)
The Wine Advocate: (94-97)+ Points “I tasted the 2018 Monte Bello as a finished barrel sample during the annual Ridge Monte Bello Tasting Final Assemblage event; the blend was 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Petite Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It has a medium to deep ruby-purple color and youthfully primary nose with boysenberry, blueberry jam, blackcurrant, dark chocolate-covered cherries, cigar box, graphite, loamy earth and oodles of floral character. The palate is medium to full-bodied and packed full of flavor layers, knit by very fine, ripe, pixelated tannins and great freshness and finishing very long.” -Erin Brooks (February 2020 Issue)
Average Rating: 93.8
No. of Tasting Notes: 18
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