I just had a quick but lovely chance to take a nice taste of the 1996 Monte Bello out of a 375ml; something I’ve not had the opportunity to do for a while, and let me tell you, it was quite a treat; one of the finer showings I’ve had the pleasure of sampling recently. At the 750ml size I’d definitely still recommend flexing some patience, but if you’ve a 375ml on hand of the ’96, you certainly don’t need to feel guilty if you pop it tonight!
Anyhow, my notes, with some others to follow:
A black plum middle with a double-banded halo of inner blood-orange pulp and outer salmon-raspberry. Thick bowl glaze indicating supple and rich viscosity…
Teriyaki and Soy Sauces right out of the gate, followed by parallel strains of ketchup and fried green tomatoes on one side, and cinnamon, clove, pepper steak, white pepper, and tarragon on the other, making for an intensely complex and hunger-inducing bouquet…
Bright, vivacious acidity, softly granular tannins, mouth-watering cranberry skin characteristics, tanginess of fruit pectin, and the sweetness of cherry pastries…
Still a little youthful warmth on the roof of the mouth, but otherwise a nice balanced spread of acid against tannin, fruit against spice …
Long, warm, chest-filling, and deeply satisfying. A quick whiff of the glass ten minutes after emptying it reveals nice sweet fruit and lingering caramel undertones …
As noted above, one of the most pleasurable Monte Bello tastings in my recent memory!
And here are some other thoughts:
Paul Draper, writing back in 1998, had this to say:
“Sensuous and complex, with layered fruit and beautifully integrated tannins, this is among the loveliest of the ‘90s. Accessible as a young wine, it will develop further with twelve to fifteen years of bottle age.”
And Stephen Tanzer, my oft-quoted personal wine-reviewer favorite, wrote this in 2000, which I think is particularly spot-on:
“Good full bright ruby. Wild, super-ripe aromas of cassis, plum, cocoa, soy sauce, leather, roasted game and plum sauce, all lifted by a floral note. Lush, thick and dense, but the currant, black cherry and menthol flavors are still austere. The slight green note repeats on the long finish, which features faintly gritty tannins. In an awkward stage today, but has all the elements to make a superb bottle.”
And here’s perhaps the most unexpected kicker; James Laube, who’s occasionally been known to be ever so slightly tough on us every once in a while, gave this vintage a 96 point rating in Wine Spectator!