A Guide to Wine, Food & the Good Life


John Tilson • 6/22/16        Print This Post Print This PostComment Bookmark and Share

Ridge Monte Bello Vineyard

In my most recent Ridge Vineyards article (click here to read the article on Spring releases and links to all other Ridge Vineyards articles) I said that I would soon be writing about some recent tastings of old Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignons. And, as I have mentioned many times over the years, the Monte Bello Cabernets have the ability to age and develop for many decades. Ridge Vineyards is over 50 years old and Monte Bello Cabernets over this entire period have been amazing. I have Monte Bellos back into the 60s and I have never had one that was in decline! Recently, I enjoyed 5 older Monte Bello Cabernets from my cellar. They covered an approximate 20-30 year time span and all were stunning. My notes follow:

1984 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker Paul Draper described this wine as being from “an excellent vintage”. In 1986 he suggested that “Although its balance lends it to immediate charm, this fine Cabernet will develop more fully with five to ten years of bottle age.”  This has proven to be one of the more understated prognostications that Paul has ever made! The wine is comprised of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot and has 12.9% alcohol. Dark in color with an amber edge it has a great cassis tinged perfume with faint hints of cedar and mint. Full, rich, rounded and beautifully balanced with lots of fruit showing a spicy nuance, this is a delicious very elegant Cabernet that opened with air to reveal even more layers of flavor and complexity. It has been drinking beautifully for many years. But, as good as this wine is now, it is still evolving and is yet to hit a peak. Seemingly this 1984 is entering a period of extended life and it may be another 5-10 years away from a peak with a long life beyond. Simply amazing, this surely is one of the best wines made in the world in 1984. For those wine lovers with a 1984 birthdate, this wine is a must own – Outstanding Plus/Extraordinary

1986 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
This 1986 was from a cool year with a fortuitous Indian summer with the grapes harvested through October. Some 47% of the crop from Monte Bello was withheld and bottled as Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet. Winemaker Paul Draper had this to say about the wine in 1988: “Beautifully balanced this elegant Monte Bello will develop fully over the next 10 to 15 years.” The wine is made from 90% Cabernet and 10% Merlot and has 11.8% alcohol. With a deep color showing a faint amber tone and an amber edge the wine has a really lovely faintly cedary perfume with an exotic tinge. Elegant, rounded, and supple the wine is like liquid velvet with subtle spice and cedar nuances and a faint exotic tinge. It is at a peak now yet should age effortlessly for many more years – Outstanding Plus.

1989 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker Paul Draper had this to say about the 1989 Monte Bello in 1991: “…Elegant and approachable now, this fine Cabernet will amply reward 10 or more years of bottle age.” The production was 71 tons from 46 acres with 40 % held out. The wine is made with 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot and has 13.4% alcohol. And, what a stunning surprise this 1989 has turned out to be! Paul Draper was originally talking about 10 or more years bottle age. But I have been drinking this wine for decades and it just keeps getting better and better. With a deep color the wine has a great perfume with hints of cedar, cassis, and plum. It has lots of rich fruit showing cassis, cedar, and plum nuances and is supple, lush and rounded. Impeccably balanced, this Cabernet is just now hitting its stride after nearly 3 decades. It has lots of intensity yet is also extremely elegant and shows every indication that it will be drinking beautifully for many more years – Extraordinary.

Ridge 95&97

1995 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
The 1995 vintage yielded 83 tons from 62 acres with a 25% selection. Winemaker  Paul Draper said the following in 1997 “…the great 1995 vintage will develop fully over the next fifteen to twenty years….” Now at just over 20 years of age the wine drinks beautifully, but is still some years away from a peak. It is comprised of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc and has 12.5% alcohol. The wine has a dark color with a faint amber edge and shows a deep cedar and spice perfume. With lots of fruit, intensity, and depth the soft underlying tannins are well integrated and should meld out with another 5-10 years age. This stunning Monte Bello should reach its peak at around 30 years of age and keep for a long period beyond that – Outstanding Plus/Extraordinary

1997 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon
The 1997 vintage yielded 172 tons from 83.5 acres with a 45% selection.  Here is what winemaker Paul Draper said in 1999 “…Ripe and well structured, this Monte Bello is amongst the finest of a great decade. It is approachable as a young wine and will develop fully over the next 15 years.” Now at nearly 20 years of age the wine is fully mature, but seems destined to keep for another 10-20 years. It is made with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc and has 12.9% alcohol. The wine has a dark color and a gorgeous cassis tinged perfume. Full, rich, and flavorful with layers of fruit with cedary nuances it is beautifully balanced and shows impressive length on the palate. No question this is a great Monte Bello – Extraordinary.

Ridge Eric, Paul, and Bodhi


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  • Mark Walberg says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    Tonight, the 1984 is a wonderful wine indeed. It is still developing, but this is not at all too early. This is the best of 12 that I’ve enjoyed. Last one, unfortunately. Worth noting that this is a good example of a wonderful wine that does well without a high alcohol level.
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