As discussed in a previous post, I’ve been looking forward to a re-visit of the 1993 Ridge Monte Bello, and I’ve just had my opportunity this past Sunday. And I must say, I was in particularly good company for the visit; I was with Harris Davidson, from our brilliant Canadian distributors Rogers & Co., and four Toronto Wine Buyers: Bronwen Clark, Taylor Thompson, Jason Ernst, and William Predhomme. This was a supremely gifted and insightful group of tasters, and I was beyond happy to host them.
Prior to the ’93 Monte Bello we tasted the new 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay, the new 2007 Geyserville, the new 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, and the not-yet-released 2006 Monte Bello, all of which seemed to be met with great satisfaction on the part of our Canadian guests. And then came the ’93 Monte Bello. I served out of a 375ml bottle, single-decanted, and out of the decanter itself. What followed was some great and fascinating conversation about the ’93 specifically, and Monte Bello in general. In the end, what we found ourselves discussing more than anything else was the “Bordeaux” factor.
It’s probably clear testament to the pervasive influence of wines from the Bordeaux region on the calibration of international palates that the term is thrown around as often as it is. In the worlds of the various creative arts, I see a great many reviews that start with the disclaimer, “The term ‘genius’ gets inappropriately thrown about these days with far too much regularity, but in this case …”. I see the same thing with “Bordeaux” in the world of wine. In a great many circles, it remains the highest of compliments to say something to the effect of, “In a blind tasting, I would have thought this was a Bordeaux …” The Monte Bello has certainly benefitted from just this sort of critical comparison, and of course we’ve taken it as high praise every time. Jancis Robinson has compared the Monte Bello to great Bordeaux wines in her writings, Slate has called the Monte Bello “California’s First Growth,” and the very eminent Stephen Spurrier has oft made the comparison in various ways, as have Robert Parker Jr., Stephen Tanzer, and more.
Anyhow, when tasting the ’93 MB, my Canadian guests and I did indeed find ourselves discussing the Bordeaux factor, and in the end, collectively agreeing that the ’93 in fact did seem not only distinctly “Bordeaux-esque”, but in fact, and quite possibly, one of the most so of the past 20 years of Monte Bello vintages. If I may speak for the group, I think it’s safe to say we found it (and admittedly, I am making a collective generalization here!) rustic, lean, elegant, low in alcohol, with intensely deployed acidity and supple tannins, showing a great array of herb and spice combinations. And yes, the term did come out: “barnyard.” We had a bit of conversational fun with that one, and then of course checked ourselves, but recognizing no trace whatsoever of brettonomyces, we again simply concluded that the ’93 Monte Bello really did just have a touch of that old-world rustic funkiness so often associated with the Bordeaux style.
Perhaps a post on what exactly the Bordeaux style IS would be fun to discuss? Something to ponder for the future …