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    Grilled duck & roasted Guinea Fowl

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The Story

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.

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Wine Information

BLEND: 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc

ALC: 12.8%

VINTAGE 2012 REPORT: A long winter delayed the growing season. Summer temperatures remained cool as persistent fog covered much of Northern California. Monte Bello, whose elevation kept the grapes in full sun, was an exception. Following an October rain, two weeks of warm weather ripened the fruit for harvest before the next storm. Extraction of color and tannin required extended pump-overs. At first assemblage in February, seventeen of twenty-four parcels were selected. In May, two cabernets were added, and in late fall, a rich press wine. This exceptional example of the 2011 vintage is classic Monte Bello. Beautifully balanced now, it will continue to evolve over the next thirty years. EB (3/13)

Rainfall: 36 inches (above average)
Bloom: Late June
Weather: Moderate summer and fall



Harvest Dates: 19 October – 8 November
Grapes: Average Brix 23.9
Fermentation: Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting followed by hand sorting. Fermented on native yeasts. Pressed at eight days. Natural malolactic (15% in tank, 85% in barrel). 
Barrels: 99% new air-dried american oak; 1% new french oak (for comparison)
Aging: Sixteen months in barrel
Ingredients: Hand harvested, sustainably grown grapes; native yeasts; naturally occurring malolactic bacteria; calcium carbonate; minimum effective SO2.

78 tons from 56 acres, Nineteen of twenty-four Monte Bello parcels selected. Estate-grown Monte Bello grapes, hand harvested. Destemmed and sorted. Fermented on the native yeasts, full malolactic on the naturally-occurring bacteria. 0.21 g/L calcium carbonate to moderate the unusually high natural acidity in twelve of the nineteen parcels; minimum effective sulfur 30ppm at crush, 121ppm during aging). Pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.



Decanter (8 July 2015) – Great Cabernets of the World: Decanter Tasting – “Monte Bello’s Cabernet Sauvignon vines are grown on a sliver of the sedimentary Pacific sea bed in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. The wine was mostly (90%) matured in American oak barrels for sixteen months and provides a voluptuous nose of coffee, tobacco and primary black fruits. On the palate, were more of the same, together with intense, juicy black cherries, damson and cassis. Great vivacity and freshness, it was all wrapped up in dense yet ripe and grainy tannins and beguilingly low alcohol, just 12.8%. The finish was long, savoury and immensely satisfying.” Rated 18.5/20pts (95/100pts)

Vinous Media (July 2015): “Ridge’s 2011 Monte Bello shows beautifully, even next to some of the more important vintages that are part of this vertical. Dark red cherry, plum, smoke, spices and graphite form an attractive core of flavors and textures. The 2011 is a bit slender and likely to mature earlier than some of the more structured vintages, but that only contributes to its near and medium-term accessibility. Hints of sage, lavender and black fruits add the final shades of nuance. This is one of the better showings of the 2011 from bottle.” -Antonio Galloni (Rated: 94)

Wine Spectator (June 2019): 92 Points. “The 2011 shows the cool aspect of the vintage, with more obvious maturity and a range of bay, tobacco, singed sandalwood and perfume notes leading the way, while the core of fruit is mainly red in profile. It’s the most drinkable of the young vintages currently, but no rush.” – James Molesworth

International Wine Report (September 2014): “The 2011 Monte Bello is another superb showing which can be added to the long list of excellent wines from Ridge Vineyards. This immediately bursts open with intoxicating aromas of black cherries, ripe cassis, graphite, vanilla, violets and sweet spices. On the palate it delivers velvety layers of full-bodied richness, along with excellent concentration and balance. There is also a wonderful touch of mouthwatering acidity providing this lift as it heads into the long, voluptuous, finish. Even at this early stage this is flat-out delicious and hard to resist, but as many know Monte Bello has the reputation to age extremely well and this is no exception. This is composed of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc. (Best 2015-2030)” (Rated: 94)

Quarterly Review of Wines (December 2014) – 32nd Annual Best of the Best: California Cabernet Sauvignon: “Big, deep, rich, power-packed, black fruit and smoky oak flavors; definitely for the long haul.” -Richard Elia (Rated: Five Stars)

California Grapevine (Vol. 41, January 2015): “Medium-dark ruby; fragrant, herbal, spicy, dark cherry and blackberry fruit aroma with earthy and mineral notes, and hints of roasted coffee and vanilla; full body; tight, cedary, dark fruit flavors with sharp acidity; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Developed with airing, though needing another five years of bottle aging. Very highly recommended.”
(Group Score: 16.3, 0/0/0; My Score: 17 [91/100], eighth place)

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Written Notes

The 2012 Monte Bello is also providing a tantalizing look at its development. Sappy in feel and tightly grained in structure, it’s a bit taut overall, but the black fruit core is evident, and the long mineral edge is a bit brighter and more detailed in what was the first of California’s recent drought run of vintages. – James Molesworth, Wine Spectator 94p (June 2019)

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Cupertino, Santa Cruz


88% Cabernet Sauvignon
8% Merlot
4% Cabernet Franc

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