Were I to ape a sly trope from the folks over at Slaked, I might dare fashion this in epistolary form, that is to say, as a love letter. Because I could. Because I love this wine. Because I am IN love with this wine. Because this wine IS love. And because I think it loves me. Because when it shares itself with me, I feel so, so, so very good. I feel loved.
I think it’s safe to say the history of Monte Bello is a history filled with some extraordinary wines. But they can’t all be the greatest. And of course “greatest” is entirely subjective. Truth be told, I’ve never had a Monte Bello I didn’t like, and I’ve always found tremendous character on offer in all the vintages. So I guess in discussing greatness, it’s not so much that I’m looking for the one that is “better” than the rest; rather, I think what it is that strikes me so deeply about the ’91 is how perfectly it encapsulates, summarizes, epitomizes, and showcases ALL that Monte Bello is and can be. It just has everything.
I’m certainly not alone is this assessment. Steve Heimoff gave it 96 points in Wine Enthusiast. No less than Leon Adams of Decanter said that the 1991 Ridge Monte Bello is one of the greatest and most accessible Cabernet-Merlot blends he had ever tasted from the New World. And Stephen Tanzer wrote that it is “a world-class cabernet, certainly among the top dozen made in California during the last 20 years.”
Not that wine critics are the be-all and end-all. They’re important, and can be very helpful, but, as noted in a comment to a previous post, friends and loved ones are a vital barometer as well. My missus and my father have birthdays just days apart, and this past October, to celebrate an important “milestone” birthday, I gave them a bottle of the ’91 to share. If I could spell the sound of two deep sighs of pleasure, I would; no other tasting note required. I have rarely felt better in life than seeing these two people, so very important to me, feel so good.
That is the 1991 Monte Bello to me; a liquid summation of all that is good in life; a potable reminder that there’s magic in the mountains, wisdom in the fog, vision in the ocean, knowledge in the earth; a quaff-worthy testament to searching out love in its pure depths, passion at its vibrant heights. Drinking the 1991 Ridge Monte Bello is a zen awareness ritual, practiced to remind oneself to be where one is, to breathe, to savor.
1991 Ridge Monte Bello, I love you. Thank you.