Calendrical Anticipations: Preparing To Re-Visit The 1993 Monte Bello

In the very near future I’ll be engaging in the rather wonderful act of tasting the 1993 Monte Bello again. In preparation, I thought I would take a look at two different items; my Monte Bello Tracker, and my tasting notes from the last time I tasted this wine. My Monte Bello Tracker is a spreadsheet of notes on each vintage of the Monte Bello, and in it I found a few interesting items: 1) there was no original “estimate of longevity” in the back label notes, which is very uncharacteristic of our labels (Paul Draper did say it “has the intense fruit and long, elegant finish of a classic Monte Bello”). 2) When Paul tasted this wine again in the fall of 2008, he gave it a 0-15 year window, and 3) James Laube gave it a 92 in Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast named it a Top 100 wine. And here are my tasting notes from when I last tasted this vintage, which oddly enough was in October of 2008 as well! (I wasn’t with Paul at the time, however):

Ridge Vineyards 1993 Monte Bello,  tasted October 2008, Christopher Watkins


Pale garnet limn surrounding a deep black cherry core. VERY viscous, just a solid wall of glaze adhering to the inner bowl


Dominant strains of stewed plum, black cherry, and raisin; surprisingly ripe aromatics, strong extracted skin presence; nice, exotic spice notes of black cardamom and fennel, alongside black pepper and anise. Slight hints of root and bark, and a very subtle menthol note


Somewhat unexpectedly bright and elegant on the tongue-tip and gums; red plum and raspberry comes through, and a hint of jamminess in the flavor, though not in body-weight; it’s not chewy, just surprisingly, buoyantly fruit-forward.


Very fresh acidity, widespread complexities filling out across the full palate, and great balance; earth to herb, spice to fruit, etc.


The overtly ripe notes return a bit on the finish, giving a slightly burnt character to the otherwise supple, almost gentle decay. Acids win out over the tannins here, but are in no way obstreperous.


A somewhat unexpected array of characteristics, but defnitely a more-than-pleasant set of suprises. A very singular combination of intensely ripe plum, black cherry, and raisin notes counterbalanced by a light, bright red fruit playfulness; great acidity, though somewhat lacking in tannic architecture. A fascinating wine to drink, but ever-so-slightly structurally unhinged at this point. I look extrememly forward to getting to know this wine better over more time, and watching its architecture emerge; its  components integrate and intensify; it singularities refine, and its melodies harmonize.

I’ll be posting new tasting notes after I’ve  had the opportunity to re-visit this vintage. In the interim, if anyone has thought, experiences, tasting notes for the 1993 Monte Bello, please let me know!

Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello, Tasting Notes

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2 replies

  1. The 93 was actually my least favorite MB of the 90s. When it was released, I found the acids distractingly prominent and rather brash. When tasted a couple of years later, I was surprised at how much the acids had softened and integrated. Nevertheless, I thought the wine lacked charm and I doubted it would evolve into something special.

    But I should also say that I think that tasting “lesser” or “off” vintages of great wines is an integral part of knowing a wine and a property.

    And – Monte Bello can fool you. The 86 was thought of as a lesser vintage of MB for years. But if you taste the wine now, it gives great pleasure and is very enjoyable to drink. That was not the case ten years ago.

    I think it’s time for me to revisit the 93

    • Great insights Bree, thanks! I’m not so sure I would go so far as to consider the 93 “off” or “lesser”; I do, however, think it’s following a rather more singular trajectory as regards its development. And I do think the acidity is quite possibly the key surprise of all the various components at work. And I absolutely agree that Monte Bello “can fool you”; it’s a foolish gambler who bets against ol’ MB!

      Mainly, I’m really happy to hear that you’re ready to give the 93 another look. Please let me know your thoughts when you do!


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