Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello is one of the commanding heights of American Wine. Not simply because it has some of the oldest vines and an amazing view of Silicon Valley, but because the wine that proclaims the Monte Bello Vineyard is one of the finest in the country.
The Ridge Monte Bello is a Cabernet-based blend of classic Bordeaux varietals that represents the flagship of the Ridge portfolio. The wine has a long history of stellar critical and competitive success; including the famous Judgement of Paris Tasting in 1976. But despite the incredible success, this is a winery rarely visited since it is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, not the well known regions of Napa Valley or Sonoma County.
Since living in Santa Cruz, I've had the opportunity to visit the winery a few times and taste current releases of Ridge Vineyards. But the most recent time, I was able to taste a few older vintages. Ridge Monte Bello is known for supreme age-worthiness and it was interesting to see this in action.
Ridge 1988 Monte Bello. $400 Winery Retail.
"A beautiful and perfect mature version of Monte Bello that has transformed into the kind of secondary aromas and flavors you most likely find in fine Bordeaux.
The color is an attractive medium-light red with a hint of amber at the edges. The nose is all red apple skins and the bright earthy aromas of the forrest floor in Fall. Palate is herbal with tea and rose petals, herbs, and tobacco. Fruit isn't gone, but overwhelmed by the complexity of the other elements. Finish in long (about 60 seconds) and echoes the complexity of the palate.
One of the finest "Old California" wines I've yet tasted. A revelation that shows Monte Bello to be a European wine trapped in a California label."
Ridge 2003 Monte Bello. $400 Winery Retail.
"The color was dark red. The nose was overripe with warm tones and funky stewed tomatoes. The palate was dark blueberry, chocolate, and dust. Very little acid left with a viscous texture on the tongue. A short fading finish.
A big disappointment as Ridge Monte Bello is always much better than this. Maybe and off bottle or vintage?"
Ridge 2012 Monte Bello. $175 Winery Retail.
"Very young - this is wine for the cellar. Dark spice, hints of green herbs. The nose is like walking into a Chinese herb shop. Crushed chalk. Plum skins. Texture is very smooth with deep hints of baking chocolate dusting. This is quite the thoroughbred Cabernet: Elegant, Pure, Pristine, and Powerful."