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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.
Ridge wine is made with an emphasis on quality and naturalness that is rarely attempted. Our grapes are grown in select vineyards (usually identified on the label), where they are left to ripen to peak maturity, often at some loss of quantity. We let the wine settle and age in small barrels, with only rare cellar treatment other than racking. Varieties are not blended unless so indicated on the label. Near Black Mountain on Monte Bello Ridge, our main vineyard is 10 miles south of Palo Alto, 15 miles inland from the ocean, and over 2000 feet in elevation.
BLEND: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot
VINTAGE 1984 REPORT: This was an excellent vintage, particularly so at Monte Bello, our estate vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The old vines achieved equilibrium between yield and vigor, and the natural acidity held. We harvested each block separately and in January began to assemble the finest lots to make the Monte Bello. The depth of varietal fruit, the subtle oak and the fullness and complexity of flavor all contribute to a superior wine. Although its balance lends it immediate charm, this fine Cabernet will develop more fully with five to ten years of bottle age.
The Wine Advocate (May 2018): 94 Points. “The decade of the 1980s was somewhat complicated for Ridge, but the 1984 Monte Bello is a real high point, opening in the glass with a classic bouquet of cigar box, red and black fruits and sweet soil. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied and bright but powerful, with an ample core of rich fruit, melting tannins and a long, tangy finish. While it’s drinking well today, and I don’t see much to be gained from further aging, I’d expect this to cruise along in a cool cellar for the next decade. While it was somewhat overshadowed by the 1974 on this occasion, it’s a fabulous Monte Bello and the best vintage of the decade.” – William Kelley
The Wine Advocate (October 2015): 94 Points “Fully mature, yet still beautiful, the 1984 Monte Bello offers classic mature Bordeaux notes of currants, truffles, underbrush and cured meats to go with a medium to full-bodied, elegant, silky and completely integrated feel on the palate. It’s a beautiful, layered and classy wine to drink on a special occasion over the coming 5-10 years.”