Ridge Monte Bello is stunning, undervalued and globally renowned. It is the flagship wine and Bordeaux Blend of the great Ridge Estate: only 3,000 cases of Monte Bello are made a year and 30% never leave the US. Due to Monte Bello’s renown, the Estate are able to mimic the Bordeaux En Primeur futures system.
It is widely considered and referred to as America’s ‘First Growth’, the finest domestic Cabernet dominant wine, closest in style to the great Bordeaux left bank estates. Each year the wine undergoes an exhaustive tasting which leads to the assemblage process determining the amount of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to be included: Merlot adds a supple plum character with softness and a powerful mid-palate; the perennial addition of Cabernet Sauvignon provides flavours of cassis, dark fruit and fine tannin; Petit Verdot contributes its dark colour and hints of earthiness and Cabernet Franc provides extra fragrance and a hint of spice.
Monte Bello’s reputation was cemented in 1976, when it achieved fifth place against nine other French and Californian wines, it then achieved first place from both the US and UK judges at the Judgement of Paris 30th anniversary.
Ridge Monte Bello is a single estate located high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, 900 metres above and 15 miles from the Pacific, on a ridge above Silicon Valley, south of San Francisco and West of Cupertino: it is classified Santa Cruz Moutains AVA. The vineyard boast a terroir of decomposing limestone, Franciscan rock and has extremely low yields, (less than one tonne per acre). Although Ridge was founded in the 1960s it has a rich and long history, with the first vines being planted by a prominent doctor, Osea Perrone in 1885; the first Monte Bello wine was produced in 1892. In 1959 Ridge’s wooden barns and ancient vines were convalesced by a small group of Stanford scientists who took the project on as a weekend hobby. After tasting the magnificent quality the Estate could produce they employed Paul Draper to become the full-time winemaker, he remains the CEO and head winemaker today, assisted by Eric Baugher a microbiologist in their high-tech lab. Today Draper is focused on expanding the global profile, regularly visiting the UK, the most important export market, while stretching allocations to meet new market demand.
The final blend is selected from 24 parcels, sorted firstly by an automated machine, then by hand. After a natural primary fermentation, started with natural yeasts, it undergoes a secondary fermentation. The wine then spends 18 months in barrel, 96% new air-dried American oak and 4% new French oak. Monte Bello combines the vineyard’s elevation, cool climate, extraordinary terroir with incredible wine making skill and commitment to quality. The alcohol levels are low for a wine from the region; the wine is graceful, harmonious and it compliments food wonderfully. It can age for 30 to 50 years, while tasting brilliantly after a few years in bottle. In June this year The Daily Mail voted it America’s best wine and simply put, it is exceptional and competes with the world’s greatest wines. Monte Bello rises quickly in price due to the global demand and tiny production, it is a wine to buy every year, either to cellar and drink, or for an investment: it is stunning!