I had the great pleasure of tasting a decade-wide two-vintage vertical of Monte Bello today, and might I add,I did so in wonderful company. I hosted Eric Baugher, our VP of Winemaking here at Monte Bello, and Ilir Kacaniku, the Head Sommelier at Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s in London, and among the wines they were tasting were these two vintages of Monte Bello; one admittedly very young, one very much moving towards enhanced pourability. Here are my notes:
2006 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello
Appearance: Deep, deep, dark ruby hues with a brilliantly limpid limn plush with ripe raspberry and strawberry highlights. Rich, adhesively viscous glaze in the bowl, with reasonably measured and well-moving legs.
Aromatics: Tar, leather, and black pepper predominate; the fruit layer is still recalcitrant as to its emergence; hallmarks of a young Monte Bello, certainly.
Front: Beautiful acidity, albeit showing very, very youthfully; surprisingly languid tannins.
Mid-Palate: Very gracious mouthfeel, with some lovely yet restrained herbaceousness on offer at the far end of the middle. Hints of forestation are at work aesthetically, in that there is both an herbal leafy quality, counterbalanced by a darker root and bark layer.
Finish: Here is where the tannins begin to make their presence known; super-intense, but beautiful, in that sort of “method-actor” way …
Summary: A decidedly young Monte Bello that should be unbearably charismatic in a decade.
1996 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello
Appearance: Unbelievably youthful coloration; deep, plush garnet core halo’d by a gorgeously winsome pale salmon limn. Thick, wide legs down the bowl-side, and an almost hedonistic glaze.
Aromatics: A gift-basket’s worth of fruit on aromatic offer; pomegranate, plum, plum sauce, and blood orange, plus a classic “black trio”: black cherry, black currant, and black raspberry.
Front: The mouth-watering iciness of mint creme and the decadent depth of dark chocolate.
Mid-Palate: Strong emergence of cassis and anise; co-mingling with deep berry fruit tones, subtle tobacco and umami smokiness, and just a trace of garden herb.
Finish: Tannins for days still, bespeaking a long future to come, even as the acids have begun to soften and integrate.
Summary: Just excellent. Really a treat to taste, and still very much in development.