Tried these at the tasting room in Healdsburg. I’d never had 3 vintages of MB at the same time, so thought I would post my thoughts. My scoring is, as always, more Tanzer-like.
2006 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mtns
Medium body. Deep ruby color. Very complex and refined red currant and earthy aromas. Starting to show secondary characteristics and might be entering its prime. Fine tannins. Drink over the next decade. For what I like, this is in the zone at age 13. 94pts
2009 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mtns
Opaque-purple color. Medium-full body. Smooth. More fruit-forward than most vintages with less acid as well. I really notice the Merlot component in this vintage. Lush and entering it’s prime. More Napa-like than your typical MB. Drink over the next decade. Lush and the best of the three for immediate drinking, but I don’t think this lasts quite as long as the 06 or 15 will. 93pts
2015 Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mtns
Opaque-purple color. Medium-full body edging to full-bodied. Good acid spine. Compact. Black and red fruit. Structured. Might as well lay this down for five years and then see where it stands. A baby. Has a very bright future. A Left-Bank BDX-styled wine through the lens of California. 94+
Other wines I tried… 2018 Rose (87). 2017 Geyserville (89) not as integrated as what I usually experience for this bottling, it’s usually my fave of the stalwart Zins. 2016 Lytton Springs (92) fruit and gravel, smoother and more ready to drink than typical. I bought two of the LS. 2016 Boatman Zin (88). 2014 Lytton Estate Syrah (90); did not even know they made this. 2016 Estate Cab (89.) Liked the aromatics more than the mouthfeel. 2016 Demonstene Zin (93). Another one I’ve never had before. Was my fave of all the Zins. High-toned, creamy fruit. This felt riper than the 13.0% on the label. 50% Zin, 50% Carignan. Ready now. I bought two.
It is very tempting to make a wine like Monte Bello, but it would be hard to do for a few reasons. First, we are warmer in Napa. Second, unless I change my last name to MacDonald, I can’t get vines this old. Third, the Merlot, Franc and PV components can’t be bought in high-quality in Napa at the tiny amounts needed to make 300 cases of a similar wine. Finally, Ridge has half a century of trial and error and have honed their craft to a razor’s edge. I am still a teenager in terms of winemaking experience. But I like knowing someone is doing this and doing it that well.
I felt they were integrated in the MBs every vintage but in the 15, you could really feel them. I think they just need time. I find their use of American oak fascinating. It would taste very different if it used primarily French oak.
Funny story about this one … Just this past weekend my son was begging me to take him into a grocery store to look for a particular kind of candy. He knew it’d be easy to get me there as they have a semi-decent wine section.
In our pass through the wine section, he pointed out “Daddy, look they have the same Ridge Monte Bello as you!” I didn’t believe him so checked it out.
Sure enough, he was right … even stranger, for some reason they had a single bottle of '15 Monte Bello sitting in the bin for “Ridge Cabernet”, but no other Ridge Cabernet in sight. It rang up as “Ridge Cabernet” at the check out counter.
Price Tag? $57.
Unfortunately for him they had run out of the candy he wanted, but we walked away with a great bottle of wine and an even better story.
Thanks for the tasting notes. Definitely surprised about 06 and 09 entering prime window - seems super early based on my older MB experience. Early to mid 90s are right about prime with one or two not yet ready (i.e. '91)
Disclosure: I am cellaring all of these but have not tasted any to date.
I agree with your observations completely, James. I enjoyed a bottle of the 94 a couple of nights ago, but thought it was 5 years or so shy of its optimal window. The tannins just need a little more time to integrate. And I have high hopes that the 91 might eventually rival the 70.
I am actually not a big fan of old wines. No matter what their source… Bordeaux, Diamond Creek, whomever. So keep that in mind. I like Cabernet-based wines, even Dunn and MB, best around age 7-15 years. So to me the 06 is impressive that at age 13, when I find most CA Cabs starting to fade, this one is just entering it’s prime. 09s to me are a very fruit forward vintage and most Napa 09s to me are already starting to peak, so again, MB is lasting longer than most from that vintage I’ve had.
As a winemaker I am so use to tannin from drinking young wine all day long, that no amount of tannin scares me. I can have a Dunn or Montrose on release, no problem.
Might try the 2008 but still drinking mostly in the 80’s. Allocation gives me 3 bottles each and started in '78. Not backfilling so the 80’s may be gone soon. Just cancelled my allocation at 2016 because I may never have the time for them to get good. Think I’m running out of time so drink up the older ones. Not leaving these to my kids.