Monday, February 15, 2010

Monte Bello half bottles

The almost universally accepted rule is that larger format bottles age slowly, smaller format bottles age more quickly. The science behind this isn't entirely understood, but it seems to involve a long, slow oxidation process. Larger bottles have a far greater ratio of the volume inside to the size of the opening, so the ageing process takes longer. So the good people at Ridge thought it might be fun to open some older vintages from half bottles for a change, to see how they were doing.

First off though, the current releases:

2006 Monte Bello Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
On this occasion the nose was showing lemon thyme, nuts and a hint of smoke. Flavours of crisp, flinty lemon. As with most Ridge whites the oak is present without being unobtrusive, and there's a long, mouthwatering finish. 91+

2006 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Deep red colour. Nose is herbal, with violets and blueberry. Bright blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, chewy tannins, medium finish. 91+

2006 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
Unusually tight and more tannic than the last time I tasted. Smoke, blueberry and graphite on the nose. Some fruit but very closed, unyielding; didn't seem to want to give much away.

Now onto the main event: 1987, 1988 and 1993 vintages from 375ml bottles. I didn't make a note of the composition, but it's on the Ridge website for the curious.

1987 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
Russet in colour, the meniscus is very pale, almost clear. Very mature nose - leather, cigar box, hint of Brett? Palate is earthy. Still some tannin left and shy blackcurrant fruit, hint of mint. Nice finish. A good example of a wine that's showing its age; should probably have been drunk by now. I bet the 750s of this are in fine form right now. 89

1988 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
Brick red colour, menuscus less faded than the 1987.
Lovely nose - cedar, pencil shavings and smoke. It tasted a decade younger than the vintage; there was bright brambly fruit and a finish that was a little soft. 93

1993 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
Also a decade younger than the vintage would suggest. Deep red-purple colour, almost opaque, partially due to a large amount of sediment. (The wines had all been decanted; I must have got the last pour.)
Some bricking evident on the meniscus, but youthful and fruity on the nose. Concentrated blackcurrant, mint and eucalyptus. Lots of acid and tannin. 94