(68% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 10% petit verdot and 2% cabernet franc) Deep, bright ruby. Spicy, high-pitched aromas of red- and blackcurrant, cherry, pipe tobacco, rose and smoky Indian spices. Firm, mineral-driven dark berry flavors are given a firm edge by bitter cherry skin and pit notes, with the tobacco note repeating. Supple tannins add structure and carry through the long, sweet, smoky finish. This is showing gentler tannins than I usually expect from a young Monte Bello and I'd bet on it being drinkable before the 2005 and 2004 versions. I also retasted the 2005 Monte Bello, which after a year in bottle is showing brighter red fruit and spicier mineral character than at this time last year, when I rated it 95 points. It's still a baby. I underestimated this wine's potential and would now rate it 95(+?), with excellent cellaring potential. For the quality it is a steal as it can compare to any wine from the Napa Valley that sells for three or four times the money-or more!
While it is eclipsed by the brilliance of the 2005, the 2006 Monte Bello (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc) is a very strong effort. Its dense purple color is followed by copious aromas of creme de cassis, licorice, spice box, and a touch of oak. Well-balanced, dense, pure, layered, and rich, its big, rich style is similar to the 2003. This cuvee should keep for 25-30 years in a cool cellar. Ridge’s iconic Monte Bello Proprietary Red (no longer called Cabernet Sauvignon) is one of the candidates for the longest-lived Bordeaux blend made in California. Even vintages from the late sixties and early seventies are still vibrant wines. The winery owns just over 100 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and production varies enormously based on the mountain climate. With respect to this group of wines, the smallest yields were achieved in 2005, and the highest in 2007. The selection process here is relatively severe. For their Monte Bello, the flagship wine, 32% of the production was used in 2003, 38% in 2004, 49% in 2005, 39% in 2006, and 41% in 2007. These wines continue to be anomalies in the sense that the Cabernet Sauvignon component is aged in American oak, a somewhat contrarian procedure since most top producers long ago moved to French oak. The Santa Cruz Mountains cuvees, essentially a second wine culled out from Monte Bello, are also high quality efforts from Ridge. Each of the vintages I tasted reflects the vintage conditions in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Three 2008 barrel samples reveal a consistent, high quality style with slightly more elevated alcohol contents. Rating: 94+
Resting high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains is the Monte Bello vineyard where exquisite wines have been engrained in the estate’s distinguished history. The 180 acres of land was formerly purchased by Dr. Osea Perrone in 1855. The winery and vineyards were left untouched during the years of Prohibition, and later purchased and planted to Cabernet in 1949 by William Short. Ten years later, the estate was sold to three engineers from the Stanford Research Institute from which they produced a tiny amount of wine from the vines planted by Short. The success of that wine and the vintages that followed inspired Dave Bennion and his partners to restore this winery, and Ridge Vineyards was born.
Paul Draper joined the team in 1969 and with his knowledge of fine wine and traditional methods, helped guide Ridge vineyards to craft wines of consistent quality and international recognition. The 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon placed fifth at the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Among the prestigious awards Draper has earned, he is continuing to make rigorously classic and age worthy wines.
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