I realise that this blog is starting to look like a Ridge fan page, and for that I apologise. But the assemblage tastings at Ridge are some of the most fun events of the year, so it's not one that I miss if I can avoid it. In addition, Wes Barton usually organises a picnic with some unusual older vintages to taste.
We began the official tasting with the recently released 2009 Jimsomare Chardonnay. I didn't realise I was tasting it for the first time, so largely glossed over it and didn't take much in the way of observations beyond a lemon sorbet note and a distinct mineral character. I was keen to get on to the main event, which comprised 4 vintages of Monte Bello going back over 30 years.
There's not much I can say about the 2005 Monte Bello that I haven't already said. I consider it to be an excellent vintage with concentrated fruit (by Monte Bello standards) and amazing depth. 95
I tasted the 1995 Monte Bello a couple of months ago at the wine bloggers' tasting and loved it, once it had opened up. The nose is earthy, with plenty of black fruit; rich flavours of bramble, blackcurrant and hints of mint and eucalyptus. There is still plenty of tannin and it's still a way from its peak, though it wouldn't be a crime to drink it now with a good steak. 94+
I don't believe I've ever tried the 1977 Monte Bello before. The mid 1970s produced a string of very good vintages; 1977 was a drought year which can result in small, tough berries with concentrated flavours and tannins. I have no idea what this was like in it's youth, but I'm betting it was a chewy, tannic monster. The deep brick red colour tells you it has some age, although few would realise how much. The nose is great, with earth, leather and underbrush. In the mouth there is tart black fruit, with leather, cigar and herbal notes. Despite its age it still has plenty of tannin left. Delicious. 94
The current release is the 2007 Monte Bello. Of the four finished vintages it smelled the ripest, with some dusty oak. There was lots of brambly fruit, with some mint, violet and graphite notes. Balanced and well structured, as you'd expect. 94+
Finally the barrel sample of the 2010 Monte Bello. The blend is currently 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petite Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. The colour is a very deep purple - the darkest for a few years. 2010 was a cool vintage resulting in berries that were on the small side with thick skins. The violet note from the Petite Verdot was particularly evident. There's lots of tannin, with plenty of black fruit and floral notes. It certainly comes across as a wine to cellar for a long time; buy it for your unborn children.
Afterwards we enjoyed a picnic in the gardens and sampled some other older vintages.
1990 Zinfandel Alegria Vineyard, Russian River Valley
Herbal, with earthy, dried berry flavours. Rich and dry. The tannins are fully resolved. 92
1976 Lytton Springs
90% Zinfandel 10% Petite Sirah
Lovely complex nose of leather, dried flowers and caramel. There is plenty of acid, some tart raspberry flavours, perhaps a bit tired. 89
1977 Zinfandel, San Luis
60% Zinfandel, 35% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane
The nose wasn't great - seemed stale, with mushroom and compost. However it's still got some fruit; sour redcurrant with savoury notes. 83
75% Zinfandel 17% Carignane 6% Petite Sirah 2% Mataro
Great nose; lots of herbs, with some raspberry syrup. A lovely wine; plenty of rich fruit, lots of structure, still improving. 94
2007 Old School Zinfandel
Seemed very ripe, with some residual sugar. Intense Raspberry syrup, a little oak. Not really a food wine; it might go well with chocolate. 89