Ridge Monte Bello 2014 – organic
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot from multiple plots in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Monte Bello estate vineyard was planted, and the winery was constructed. The first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; by the 1940s it was effectively abandoned. Eight acres of cabernet sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962). The vineyard is sustainably farmed with hand-harvested, estate-grown grapes.
The Monte Bello is predominately made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, with A blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Upon harvesting, the grapes are destemmed and sorted; whole berry fermented on the native yeasts with full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria. The wine ages in 100% new oak, of which 95% is American and the remaining 5% is French, for seventeen months.
97 points Decanter
Another superb Monte Bello, the 2014 reveals an exuberant bouquet of crushed wild berries, plum, cherry, cinnamon, menthol and woodsmoke, framed by nicely integrated new oak. On the palate the wine is deep and intense, structured around rich tannins and underpinned by vibrant acidity, with terrific persistence on the finish. This has a long life ahead of it.
96 points, Vinous
The 2014 Monte Bello is bright, precise, and finely sculpted throughout, with a slightly more reddish-leaning flavor profile than is found in some of the surrounding vintages. In 2014, Monte Bello is built on bright, pulsating acidity and energy. Relative to recent vintages such as 2012, 2013, and 2015, 2014 is a bit compact and tightly wound. The slightly nervous style is likely to require at least a decade to be fully appreciated. In 2014, the blend is more typical of Monte Bello than the Cabernet-dominated 2013, with a greater role for Merlot and other complementary grapes. The only real issue with 2014 is that it is sandwiched between two truly epic vintages.
98 points James Suckling
Unique aromas of blackberry, black currant, dark chocolate, and walnut. Full body, very powerful and tannic. Incredible depth and power. Precise and so focused. Muscular. Great structure. This needs at least six to eight years to come together. *Top 100 of 2017*
97 points Jeb Dunnuck
The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello checks in as 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and the rest Cabernet Franc. A much deeper, richer wine compared to the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, it offers incredible notes of crème de cassis, vanilla bean, tobacco leaf, and scorched earth. Rich, full-bodied, and concentrated, with moderate acidity and ripe yet present tannin, it’s going to drink nicely with just short-term cellaring yet shine for two decades or more. It doesn’t have the overt concentration and structure of 2012 and 2013 but has sensational purity, balance, and elegance.
97 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
A worthy successor to the profound 2013 and the fruit of the earliest harvest on record at this address, the 2014 Monte Bello is still quite youthfully expressive, wafting from the glass with an exuberant bouquet of minty dark berries, plums, black cherries, cigar box and a nicely integrated framing of new oak. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, deep, and intense, with a rich chassis of structuring tannins, which are currently largely concealed in a succulent core of fruit, and bright balancing acids. In profile, it’s structurally more open-knit and giving than the massive 2013, and I suspect it will reach its plateau sooner, but it should enjoy over three decades of longevity. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, and it attained 13.5% natural alcohol. ‘The drought had a positive effect on concentration,’ observed winemaker Eric Baugher when we corresponded shortly after harvest, adding that ‘the wines are opaque in color, with rich tannins and marvelous fruit.’ Four years later, that remains an accurate characterization of the 2014 Monte Bello.
The history of Ridge Vineyards begins in 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor who became a prominent member of San Francisco’s Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. He terraced the slopes and planted vineyards; using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery, producing the first vintage under that name in 1892. This unique cellar, built into the mountainside on three levels, is Ridge’s production facility. At 2600′, it is surrounded by the “upper vineyard”, now referred to as the Perrone Ranch.
In the 1940s, William Short, a theologian, bought the abandoned winery and vineyard just below the Perrone property; he replanted several parcels to cabernet sauvignon in the late 1940s. From these vines — now the “middle vineyard” and referred to as the Torre Ranch — new owners Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler, all Stanford Research Institute engineers, made a quarter-barrel of “estate” cabernet. That Monte Bello Cabernet was among California’s finest wines of the era. Its quality and distinctive character, and the wines produced from these same vines in 1960 and ’61, convinced the partners to re-bond the winery in time for the 1962 vintage. Dave Bennion left his role at S.R.I. to oversee winemaking duties full time.
The first zinfandel was made in 1964, from a small nineteenth-century vineyard farther down the ridge. This was followed in 1966 by the first Geyserville zinfandel. The founding families reclaimed the Monte Bello terraces, increasing vineyard size from fifteen to forty-five acres. Working on weekends, they made wines of regional character and unprecedented intensity. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year, and in 1969, Paul Draper joined the partnership. A Stanford graduate in philosophy—recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile’s coast range—he was a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. Under his guidance the old Perrone winery (acquired the previous year) was restored, the finest vineyard lands leased or purchased, the consistent quality and international reputation of the wines established. Cabernet and Zinfandel account for most of the production; Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, and Petite Sirah constitute a small percentage. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made limited amounts of chardonnay since 1962.