What A #CabernetDay!! Library Tasting of Monte Bello and SCM Estate at Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Day Library Tasting

What better way to kick off California Wine Month, than Cabernet Day?!   I’d been looking forward to this superb opportunity to taste the iconic Ridge Monte Bello that, along with the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, is a Bordeaux blend.  It was also a chance to taste a couple of “mature” vintages from the 80s, and 90s to see how the Monte Bello wines age. I’ve not had a chance to do that, so I was eagerly anticipating the experience.

The tasting was held in the VIP room at Ridge’s Monte Bello location in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

View of the Silicon Valley from the Ridge Monte Bello property

About Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards was established high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1962. The estate is located about 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean. There are currently 108 acres of vineyards planted to five grape varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Chardonnay. The vineyards range in elevation from 1300′ to 2700′ above sea level. The combination of the mountain elevation and proximity to the Pacific Ocean results in Monte Bello being one of the coolest regions to grow Cabernet Sauvignon in California, especially during cooler years (Can anybody say 2011?!)

Ridge produces two different styles of Cabernet dominant Bordeaux blend (a.k.a. “Meritage” – rhymes with heritage) from Monte Bello estate. According to Ridge:

“In terms of place, our Santa Cruz Mountains Estate is Monte Bello, and vice versa. From this very special place, we are fortunate to be able to create two distinct wines, one which is labeled as Santa Cruz Mountains and one which is labeled as Monte Bello. We do this by listening to the vineyard at each harvest and making selections based, not on quality, but on style, to craft two wines that are equally captivating but serve different purposes. While Monte Bello is intended for the cellar, Santa Cruz Mountains Estate expresses the beauty and complexity of our exceptional mountain home in the first glorious flush of its youth.” 

Click here for an animated fly-in tour of the Ridge vineyards, including Monte Bello.

The first Monte Bello was from the 1962 vintage.  Ridge has been making the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate since 1979.

Starter Flight

It was a gloriously sunny and warm day in the Santa Cruz Mountains where Ridge Vineyards is located.  When I arrived, I was welcomed with a chilled glass of the Ridge 2009 Estate Chardonnay.   Wow…what an outstanding Chard! Unfortunately, I didn’t finish my glass since I still had more tasting to come.   I don’t drink a lot of Chard, but when I do this one is on my short list!

  • 2009 Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Pale lemon yellow color with tropical fruit, and peach aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, with vivid tropical, fruit, and vanilla spice flavors. Surprisingly long finish. 100% Chardonnay. 14.5% ABV (92 pts.)

Three vintage Vertical Tasting of Santa Cruz Mountains Estate

Next up was a vertical tasting of the 2004, 2005, and 2006 vintages  of the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate.  The Santa Cruz Mountains Estate is a Bordeaux style blend produced in a style intended to be enjoyed in its youth.

  • 2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Deep garnet color with cassis, olives, and herbal aromas. On the palate fruity, with good balance,fine-grained tannins, and cassis, and mineral flavors. Medium finish. 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. 13% ABV (88 pts.)
  • 2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Deep garnet color with cigar box, herbal black cherry aromas. On the palate it was concentrated, medium bodied, with satiny tannins and black cherry, cassis, and a hint of mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. This was the most seductive of the Santa Cruz Estate wines for me. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 13.7% ABV (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark garnet color with a low-key dark red fruit, and leather aromas. On the palate firm tannins, medium bodied, and fruity with black cherry, and slight herbal flavors. Medium finish. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. 13.7% ABV (87 pts.)

The Original Lineup-L-R; SCM '04,'05 & '06; Monte Bello '85,'95 & '01

Three Decade Vertical Tasting of Monte Bello

The headliner of this vertical tasting was the 2001 40th Anniversary vintage rated 99 points by Robert Parker. If that wasn’t enough, Christopher Watkins, Tasting Room Mgr, author of the Ridge blog, and Ridge Jedi Grand Master also pulled out the 2005 Monte Bello for a bonus tasting!

  • 1985 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Slight bricking; medium garnet color with dark red fruit, leather, herbal/mineral aromas. On the palate smooth, mature, and round with cassis, black cherry, and mineral flavors. Long finish. Granted I’ve not tasted a 20th century wine in the 21st century before, but I was amazed a 26 year-old wine could be so wonderful! 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot. 13.1% ABV (93 pts.)
  • 1995 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium garnet color with dark red fruit, leather, cigar box aromas. On the plates displaying medium-full bodied, nervy and fine-grained tannin with cherry, cedar, and mineral flavors. Long finish. 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. 12.5% ABV (92 pts.)
  • 2001 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium garnet color with wonderfully aromatic aromas of kirsch and black fruit. On the palate, it was smooth, concentrated with a seductive complexity with black cherry, cassis, and mineral flavors, and a hauntingly long finish.
    56% Cabernet Sauvignon; 36% Merlot; 8% Petit Verdot 14.2% ABV (95 pts.)
  • 2005 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium garnet color with cassis, black cherry, and slight cedarwood, and mineral aromas. On the palate, fruity, complex, refined, balanced and a bit light on the back palate with black cherry, cassis and a bit herbal (dill?) flavors. Medium-long finish. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc (92 pts.)
This was an amazing, “Hall of Fame”, tasting for me! And it was an experience I’ll always remember, especially the 2001 Monte Bello!

Calling All Cabernet Lovers – #Cabernet Day Is Almost Here!

A week from today, September 1st,  is Cabernet Day (click here for the 411 including a list of meetup locations, participating wineries, etc).  Cabernet Day is a worldwide virtual wine tasting that’s focused on Cabernet.  Of course that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, but also includes Cabernet Franc (a parent, along with Sauvignon Blanc of Cabernet Sauvignon), and Cab Blends.

Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite provides this explanation of what a virtual tasting is all about:

For those new to social media, an online Social Media Community Tasting is simply when people who love wine gather socially both at physical locations, such as wineries, wine shops and their own homes, and virtually via Twitter, Facebook or any social channel turning the event into one big wine party! Throughout the event, wine-lovers from across the country and the globe will share their thoughts on the wines they’ve chosen to drink on this night and “conversing” with like-minded connoisseurs…


Remnant of a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon

Here’s how you can participate.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

1. Pick a wine for the #CabernetDay tasting, or go to a participating winery, restaurant, or meetup location.

2. Whether you’re at home, at a restaurant, winery, or at meetup location post your comments on your favorite social media site such as FB, Twitter, YouTube, etc. for others to see using the “#CabernetDay” hashtag.  Adding the hash tag make your comments searchable.  I recommend Twitter – that’s where most of the action takes place.

3. Join the on-line conversation by searching on the #CabernetDay hash tag.  It’s a great way to get recommendations from other Cabernet lovers, and ask questions of winemakers, and wine enthusiasts.

I’m planning to celebrate twice!  First, I’m planning to attend a vertical tasting of the iconic Monte Bello Cabernet at Ridge Vineyards , then later than evening I’m going to pop and pour (well maybe, pop, decant, and pour) what I expect be a great bottle of Cab, the 2005 Kendall-Jackson Meritage Stature!

So catch a Cab, and laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll;-)  I hope to see you online!