The Ridge Monte Bello component tasting is always a fun event, even on a cold, foggy and windy March morning. For many of us it's the first chance to get personal experience of the most recent vintage as well as to try the most recent Monte Bello release.
As usual the tasting was held in the barn just up the hill from the tasting room. Paul Draper and Eric Baugher were in attendance to pour the first assemblage and talk about the vintage, but due to the lack of a babysitter I wasn't able to spend any time chatting.
We began with the newly released Chardonnay:
2007 Ridge Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
This had a lovely nose of fig, oak, stone and lemon. On the palate it's rather light and creamy, with some lemon and lots of briney mineral notes. Definitely not your typical California Chardonnay. Right now the palate doesn't really seem to live up to the richness of the nose, although it was rather cold. I suspect others will rate this much more highly than I did, and with time I might well agree. 89+
2009 Cabernet Franc, barrel sample.
Nice aromas of fresh blackberry, liquorice root and green pepper. But on the palate there was lots of tart acidity and harsh, green tannin, which was masking what little redcurrant fruit there was. I'd be very surprised if this makes the final blend.
2009 Merlot, barrel sample.
Rather good nose; some oak is showing already. Nice plum and herb notes.
Good balance; flavours of mint or wintergreen, with nice black plum/cherry fruit. Plenty of tannin on the finish. Impressive.
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, barrel sample.
Nose is floral with plenty of blackcurrant fruit. Great mouthfeel; rich and full bodied, with plenty of good fruit and a dry, astringent finish.
2009 Petite Verdot, barrel sample.
One day a region is going to take on Petite Verdot and allow it to show in its own right. It is an interesting grape that seems to add a lot to the Monte Bello blend, particularly aromatically.
This sample - darkest of all the barrel samples - had a powerful nose of violets, backed with black fruit. On the palate there was soft black fruit with fresh earth notes and good structure.
2009 Monte Bello, First assemblage.
67% Cabernet Sauvignon 25% Merlot 8% Petite Verdot
I didn't get chance to talk to Eric or Paul about this, but I did hear Eric confirm that they are particularly pleased with the way that the Merlot turned out this year. All the Petit Verdot is in the blend and as I expected no Cabernet Franc. There are some lots of Cabernet Sauvignon still in consideration so the final composition could be higher.
Beautiful nose of violets, blackberry, blackcurrant, smoke and pencil shavings. There is lovely rich fruit ans plenty of structure. At present the finish seemed somewhat lean, but that's something which will develop. Certainly seems to be another winner. 94-96
2007 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
Fresh black fruit and spicy oak on the nose. Rich flavours of mint, herb and blackcurrant with plenty tannin. Really needs at least 3-5 years and probably much longer. 92
2007 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
Good powerful yet elegant nose of violets, cassis liqueur, graphite and cedar.
Wow. Hugely rich and concentrated by Monte Bello standards. Oak is a little harsh right now, but to my mind this is significantly better than the 2006. 95+
Wes brought some great examples of older Ridge bottlings which we opened with lunch. I took brief notes of a couple of them:
1975 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains
From the days when it was officially billed as a Cabernet, this includes just 4% Merlot
Nose is earthy, almost stinky, with redcurrant notes. For a 35 year old wine it still had loads of sweet fruit and some nice leather. Amazingly youthful, with a long finish showing mint and herbs 93
1998 Petite Sirah, "Paddock Block", York Creek
Rather mature for a Petite Sirah, but this was from the very wet 1998 vintage. Nice earthy, black fruit. Very smooth with herbal and leather notes. 88
Some great notes as usual by Richard Jennings on CellarTracker