Ominous Note From Galloni - 2020 Ridge Monte Bello "Approach With Caution""

That would be a really steep gradient across tasters. I’m not questioning, I just haven’t seen it before. With other flaws that vary by sensitivity there’s usually at least a small number individuals out of the tasting groups I’ve been involved who detect them. But in this case no one did. But then again, how much experience do we have tasting smoke tainted wines, probably little to none.

That was also our experience with grapes exposed to smoke in 2008 (not just Anderson Valley but especially problematic there), sensitivity varied widely. Most people who worked in wineries became pretty sensitive to it and hated it. Lots of people were not very sensitive an some could detect something but liked it.

It also stands out more with certain varieties.



They’ve been owned by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals since the mid-late '80’s. But it’s a totally hands-off ownership. The Otsuka folks visit Ridge once/twice a year. There’s a lot of bowing, they taste the wines, and that’s it. They exercise no say-so and leave the operation totally to PaulDraper. They are not at all interfering now whatsoever.


I brought a 2020 Napa wine to a dinner. I tasted it before dinner and it was absolute ash tray. I blinded it.

Not a single person at dinner got it. To them it was tannin and structure. But they’ve also never had smoke tainted wine before.


Maybe your group was the MB tasting panel.


I’d be curious to know what the wine was. I’ve tried quite a few 2020 Pinots, and can only think of one that I found borderline. Most were pretty smoky, especially in the finish.

There were a number of 2020 Chardonnays where I found no discernable smoke taint, though the lion’s share were definitely tainted.

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By the way, it’s not unusual for some people to be “blind” to certain flaws. Just like people can be differently sensitive to TCA, I suspect that smoke is the same way. In the beer business, there are a number of flaws that people are “blind” to, including, most importantly, diacetyl and DMS. We regularly do tests among the staff so that we understand who is best at detecting various flaws.

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My experience with a couple of 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs was you could taste the burnt-ashy note but the freshly bottled wine had a ton of fruit profile which helped to somewhat mask the off note.

We bought 1 bottle of each simply in the name of science. Two years later the off note turned much stronger, acrid, ashtray note and notable astringency. Stuck out like a wine that was TCA tainted.
That’s often the problem with a smoke tainted wine, if you can’t taste it initially it doesn’t mean you won’t at some time in the future.


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That was exactly my experience with 2008. It took a couple of years for the taint to really show itself.


Nice gig if you can get it. But I’d tell them I only taste out of a double magnum.

With the 2008 Anderson Valley Pinots (and Grenache from another area), I think it took a couple of years for taint to strongly reappear if it had been treated but it was hard to miss after the wine had fermented if the fruit had seen much nearby smoke.


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Even so, I think it’s also reasonable to assume that the current management team may have equity or a MIP that could be tied to sales targets.

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Assuming a corporation is going to act the same over decades would fly in the face of history and common sense. Corporations serve shareholders and not products.

I point to Ridge being corporate owned because the sequence of events concerning the winery dealing with the 2020 vintage looks more like corporate decision making versus a winery trying to make the best of a questionable situation.

  • Barely any public acknowledgement of a difficult situation
  • Selling products as if they are as good as any other vintage
  • Accepting returned wine without saying why, while not notifying customers that might be an option they would consider.

If indeed, as some are suggesting, the main decision makers within the winery, well below the corporate level chose this path I find that a far far FAR more troubling situation than thinking there was a corporate influenced decision to keep the interruption of revenue as low as possible.


uhh, is the '21 monte bello out? 3 bottles at K&L on auction???

Yes, it was released to futures members this spring.

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Yes, it’s available for pickup or shipping to MB Collector members.

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