Sunday, March 8, 2009

Tasting Monte Bello

Ridge Winery's flagship wine, Monte Bello, has consistently been one of the great Cabernet-based wines made in California. In many ways it is an inspiration for me as we embark on producing our own Bordeaux blend. Ridge has proven that you don't need be in Napa to make world-class wine, and you don't necessarily need to be the darling of the mainstream wine press to succeed.

Monte Bello is definitely "of a style." In tasting through their lots of Merlot, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot (some of which will make it into the final 2008 Monte Bello blend), I was continually surprised by the modest alcohol levels in the wines.

Their wines are absolutely appropriate for their site (high elevation, older vineyards, etc.) so alcohol levels of under 13% are intuitively understandable. The Livermore Valley just won't produce that kind of fruit...and there is nothing wrong with that. The fine-wine world needs wines like Monte Bello: very tight when young, not particularly fruit-forward, but with amazing tannin and incredible ageability. And it needs a wine like our upcoming Bordeaux blend too: fantastic complexity, great mouthfeel and length, significant tannin...the finest wine we have yet made.

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