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In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first Monte Bello vineyards were planted, and winery construction begun. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; some vines survived into the late 30s, but by the 1940s they were effectively abandoned. Eight acres of cabernet sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962) and subsequent vintages until 1974 when younger blocks replanted in the 1960s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.
The Monte Bello (originally Monte Bello Cabernet; until 1975, 100% cabernet) is the wine that introduced Ridge to the world, and the world to Ridge. Today it is a blend of bordeaux varietals in which cabernet sauvignon still predominates. Exhaustive tasting of test blends during assemblage determines how much — if any — merlot, petit verdot, or cabernet franc will be included in the finished wine. Almost every vintage (an unbroken chain from '62 on) has something substantive to recommend it. Each decade has its high points, but year after year Monte Bello proves to be a consistently outstanding wine. There's structure, there's complexity, there's balance. And it develops for a long, long time.
The vineyards are grown organically.
BLEND: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot
VINTAGE 1991 REPORT: Welcome spring rains set back the growing season by several weeks, but replenished the water in our soils. The crop was abundant, and a long, warm October fully ripened all the fruit. We made a rigorous fiftypercent selection, producing a complex, elegant wine with deep color and round tannins. Though approachable now, five years of bottle age will integrate the fruit and spicy oak; another ten to fifteen years will bring full maturity.
WINEMAKING: We made eighteen separate fermentations, picking each of the distinct blocks—or even half-blocks—of the vineyard as the fruit matured. The first and second press were kept separate, allowing us to control the quality and quantity of tannin in the wine. To make as intense and complex a vintage as possible, fifty percent of the Monte Bello grapes were held out of the final wine. We included five percent petit verdot, ten percent merlot, and virtually all the first press. This exceptional vintage was aged entirely in new barrels—the majority in air-dried american oak, and the remainder in barrels from three different french coopers. American oak has been our favorite over the years, but we continue our experiments with french oak to be certain that our bias for the american is producing the finest wine possible. The ’91 Monte Bello shows deep blackberry fruit and lively spice. Young as it is, the tannins are balanced—if still quite chalky. This is clearly one of the finest vintages of the last ten years, and a great wine with which to celebrate our two very special anniversaries.