Is Monte Bello California's best wine?

I know this a mouthful of a question. I also know there will be a myriad of differing opions. Regardless, I’m very curious to hear what the board has to say about Ridge’s flagship wine. Thanks!

Is Bellota the best ham in the world?

It’s all the individual’s perception. The best wine is the wine that tastes the best to you. If you are a flipper or a retailer, it’s wine that makes you the most money.


Nice, but not in my H. O.

For me, yes.

I like monte bello, but it is not even close to the best.

Hands down, YES.

It’s got to be up there when you take into account history, consistency, and quality.


I thought Apothic was? [snort.gif]

Yes. Nothing else has the track record to claim the prize.

There could be 2 answers. Year to year it varies. For long term (10 plus years of vintages) I would say Shafer HSS

The Louis Martini Monte Rosso (althought not always labeled Monte Rosso) goes back to the 50s, maybe the 40s, and I’ve heard of the wines from the 50s still drinking well.

I don’t believe in best wines for an entire state like California. But they are certainly among the best.

Definitely not for the oak averse (though it’s not as bad as some CA Cabs there) but I enjoy it every once in a while such as a week and a half ago when a 2011 was a great match with some steak frites.

I certainly think they are among the best in the “traditional” cab style. For me, there are few better with age. I’ll put Montelena in a similar category, but Ridge Monte Bello gets a slight edge from me.

I’m going to interpret your question in several different ways and address all of them for my palate.

  1. Not year after year. In certain years maybe. If you buy a (e.g.) 2015 Cabernet the chance that Monte Bello will be the best Calif cab-based wine in that vintage is maybe ten percent. But taken as a whole over its history, probably yes to your question. That is irrelevant to one’s buying decisions in a given year. I guess I’d put it this way:
    (a) For any given year it’s unlikely Monte Bello will be my #1 cabernet.
    (b) If I were 30 years old now and wanted to start a 30 year vertical of any California wine it would definitely be Monte Bello.

  2. To me (and this thinking was started by a comment Richard Leland made a few years ago), Ridge reds are rarely red-fruited. They all taste kind of black. Even when aged. Uncompromising. Even the zinfandels. In that style they are the best in California. But sometimes, maybe most of the time, when you want a cabernet you want some cassis and (especially for zin) some berries.

  3. After the assemblage tasting a couple of weekends ago where as a guest of Wes Barton I brought, and many people in that group brought, old Ridges from all levels and varieties, I realized it was a benchmark for me. It was a revelation – years ago Allan Bree or George Heritier would bring older Ridges to a tasting and I would think they were way too old for my cult-cabernet-opened-on-release palate. Then Burgundy changed my palate and I would find those same wines, at that same time, too young now. And so:
    Based on how all Ridge red wines age, it is for me the best winery in the country for red wines other than pinot noir. By far.

I forgot to mention: I see how Monte Bello could be categorized as traditional along with Montelena, but for me it isn’t. I think Monte Bello in its own ways differs wildly in every vintage, which is half the reason it would be my favorite vertical. Shafer HSS e.g. is more consistently top-notch but Shafer HSS tastes too similar vintage after vintage to be put in the same category as the unpredictable Monte Bello. Montelena really stays the same vintage after vintage so the only interest in a vertical is the differences in quality rather than any difference in the style, flavor, or experience. I’m grossly overstating to make my point, Montelena and Shafer are outstanding wines. Montelena to me is predictable and not hedonistic. Shafer is predictable and hedonistic. Monte Bello is unpredictable, sometimes hedonistic in an unbelievably-great-serious-wine way (but never sexy lush slutty), sometimes not.

Doesn’t this really depend upon how you define ‘best’?

Many have discussed the track record of the wine and the winery, but do you really need to take that into account when discussing ‘best’ or could it simply be associated with the bottle in front of you? And if a winery such as Myriad or Maybach or ‘name the brand’ has not been around that long, should they be excluded from the conversation?

Enjoy . . .

Is Taittinger Comtes the best Champagne? The answer in both cases is yes. Except when it’s not. But both are wines I will happily buy blind.