First, the facts: My compatriots for this edition of RIDGE In The Round were Peter Yaninek, Sam Howles-Banerji, Zani Nesvacil, and Karen Cai; all esteemed members of the Monte Bello Tasting Room Staff. The wine we immersed ourselves in was the new 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, a three-varietal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. For the most part, we followed a sort of internal standard model for analyzing the wine (our custom Tasting Note “form” breaks the wine down into Appearance, Aromatics, Front, Mid-Palate, Finish, and concludes with a Summary). In discussing the wine’s appearance, the color was variously described by the others as “deep purple, almost inky,” “rich, inky burgundy,” “deep garnet,” and “deep red/violet.” For my part, I wrote “deep plum and blackberry hues, with a rich, garnet and rose limn.” Safe to say we all felt the depth and richness of the color! Regarding legs and viscosity, only one person besides myself made mention, describing the legs as “clear and firm.” I put them at “medium-strength,” moving at “medium speed,” concluding that the wine should be essentially “medium-weight/medium-bodied.” Regarding aromatics, the discussion initially centered around the fact that the wine seemed to still be showing its youth, meaning all concerned felt the wine to be pretty “tight,” and not giving off much in the way of aromas. As we talked, and swirled, and swirled, and talked, and swirled, certain notes did begin to emerge. Almost everyone noted black cherry at some point, and when sandalwood was suggested, everyone seemed to jump on board. There was also a lot of talk about chocolate-covered-cherries, and particularly the white cream inside. Black pepper was noted often as well. I tried to put in an argument for first cocoa, and then chocolate liquor, and then bittersweet cocoa powder, but I didn’t muster a lot of support for that assessment! Neither did the individual lobbying for cherry cola! In the end, I think we all agreed on black cherry, pepper, and sandalwood, with some version of vanilla interweaving about. Response to the “front” of the wine was pretty unanimous, all noted the vibrancy and youthfulness of the acid; one person even referred to it as “bracing.” I also noted that the acid profile was mostly centered in the cheeks and the roof of the mouth, as opposed to tip of the tongue. All were also in accord as regards the firmness and adhesion of the tannins that began to emerge mid-palate; essentially, we all agreed this was still tasting like quite a young wine, which it is. Fortunately, we also all felt that the acids & tannins, fruit & spice, were all in great balance, and all showing great strength. Much discussion followed about ageability, and all concurred that this wine shows great promise for development over time. About the finish, two people actually felt that the Petit Verdot really made its presence felt in the lingering after-taste, and both were quite positive and happy about this. I’ll confess to not noting this the first few go-rounds, but after a few more “investigations,” came to feel the same; there is a certain and singular herbality and herbaceousness that very subtly emerged in the finish, adding a very appealing couterbalance to the other complexities on offer. In the end, everyone’s summary was fairly similar; it’s a young wine with tremendous potential. I think one person said it best when they wrote “Can’t wait to try it in a year from a 375ml bottle!” And while I heartily agree, I also very much enjoyed drinking it last night, and would encourage anyone interested to give it a try now, AND in a year!