I’ve a confession to make; in the course of my work here at Ridge, I am often called upon to suggest a back-vintage of Monte Bello to include in a tasting flight; perhaps for a visiting winemaker, a wine writer, a sommelier, a team of growers, a film crew. And while this is in fact one of the great pleasures of my job (because it requires that I be very familiar with a great many vintages!), it can also be a bit nerve-racking.
I feel so fortunate to be here for so many reasons; one of these is the company I get to run in. I get to spend a lot of hours, every week, in the company of a great many of my viticultural heroes; not the least of whom are Paul Draper, Eric Baugher, and David Gates, they all being based here at Monte Bello. But we also receive an astonishing cavalcade of visiting wine cognoscenti, whose collective knowledge base can be humbling, intimidating, even overwhelming. Preparing tastings for such a rich bedrock of talent and knowledge can be a worrisome task.
It can be easy, accordingly, to rely on favorites of a sort, to fall into patterns. For example, I’ve been pouring the ’95 Monte Bello out of 375ml with some degree of frequency of late. It’s showing beautifully out of this format; brilliant color, loads of fruit, acidity to spare.
And here is my confession, I have not been pouring the ’93 out of 375ml. Why? Essentially, I’ve been relying on my own internal sense of its’ character, based on past tastings, feeling it to be perhaps too rustic, too earthy, dare I say too funky, for even the most unconventional of palates. Unfair? Not necessarily. It’s shown that way before. And while I’ve quite liked it this way (I do prefer a bit of funk in my wines …), my presentation nervousness has in the recent past prevented my rolling the of the oenological dice on this vintage.
So there must have been something in the air on Friday; I was feeling wild, I wanted a change, I needed to shake my tailfeathers out and wine-freak a bit. The viticultural light-bulb went off, I dove into the cellar, and out I came with the ’93 in hand.
Immediately upon disgorging the juice into decanter, it was apparent something magical was afoot; it smelled astonishing! The color was gorgeous, the aromatics both lively and decadent, I was entranced. Needless to say, the experience in the glass and on the palate delivered more of the same. Still rustic? Perhaps? Gamey? No! Barnyard? No! Earthy? A tad, but also mellifluous and delightful; an absolute revelation.