Monte Bello’s New Old Wine

The tectonic and climatic idiosyncrasies of Ridge Vineyards




I’m a sucker for what was, and could be called somewhat resistant to change, so I do lament the passing of the SCM bottling. But my early take on Ridge’s Estate Cabernet is that it is a worthy successor. The Ridge-ness is there in spades, and truth be told the Merlot from these vineyards is not a soft and supple wine, but is rather focused and firm, so it’s not as though the change from SCM to Estate is like swapping St. Estephe for your Pomerol. The change is surprisingly quite a bit more subtle than that. It’s still too early to really fully understand Ridge’s new Estate Cabernet; it will take another 10 years or so to see what happens in the bottle, but that’s research I look forward to doing. In a few short words, the wines appear to be rich without being heavy, focused, fresh and vibrant examples of Cabernet, reflecting the Santa Cruz Mountains and Ridge’s winemaking. A combination that has an attractive ring to it, particularly at $45 a bottle or less.


 
Tasting Notes

Bottled just three weeks prior to tasting, this would probably show better after being allowed to settle down a bit. The nose is fairly oaky in a nutty vein, with a little banana and lemon balm fruit streaked with chalky mineral notes. Light and fresh in the mouth, this is round but with fine acidity. The fruit is estery in a little Fruit Stripe gum kind of way, and the finish shows some wood tannin. Not yet tightly knit, this is fruity up front and then woody on the back end. 87 points
 
 
This is so nuanced and complex, with layers of apple butter, flowers, lemon pith and butcher’s wax on a softly seductive nose. The palate shows excellent elegance and superb balance, with lovely minerality running from the front right through the long finish. The fruit is subtle here, but shows nice complexity with decidedly fresh green apple and faint apricot and lemon tones that lead to a finish that tightens up just a touch. 92 points
 
51% cabernet sauvignon, 47% merlot, 1% petit verdot, 1% cabernet franc
13.0% alcohol by volume
 
This has a lovely nose that shows some early maturity with sweet, tobacco accents over a base of gentle black spice and smoke-tinged blackcurrant fruit. Bright acidity on entry leads to a rather gentle mid-palate that shows off very clear blackberry and red currant fruit formed with suggestions of wild herbs. This is a touch simple, yet remains clear and bright in the mouth. 88 points
 
58% cabernet sauvignon, 42% merlot
13.7% alcohol by volume
 
This is tight, lean and focused on the nose, with a rich core of vanilla-laced blackberry that is almost beefy in its intensity. There’s a hint of nutty oxidation here as well as layers of candle wax, tobacco, pencil shavings and dried chili aromas. Elegant and so well balanced on the palate, this delivers juicy black fruits framed with hints of baking spices and brambly fruit, all supported by ripe if very gently dusty tannins that add just a hint of chewiness to the long finish. This fruit is gorgeous, perfectly ripe, fruity and yet with great complexity. 92 points


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Ridge Vineyards

1.
Ridge Estate Chardonnay (2011)
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2.
Ridge Chardonnay Estate (2010)
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3.
Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay Spago (2004)
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4.
Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains Monte Bello Estate (2005)
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5.
21 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Chardonnay (2006)
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6.
Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello Estate Santa Cruz Mountains (2007)
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7.
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains Estate (2008)
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8.
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains Estate (2009)
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9.
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Santa Cruz Mountains (2010)
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10.
Ridge Merlot Estate (2009)
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