Ten Years After – or – To Grade The Parade Of A Decade – or – Double Barrel Bello: Tasting the 1996 & 2006 Monte Bellos!

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.


Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Bello, Tasting Notes

Tags: , , , ,

4 replies

  1. I secured six magnums of the 1996 Monte Bello from an auction in 2005. I opened a bottle with family last Thanksgiving that was absolutely wonderful. We decanted for two hours before the meal. The wine was drinking very well, the fruit and tannins well integrated. I would agree that this vintage has many wonderful years ahead of it, and am happy that my cellar holds more of this outstanding wine for future family gatherings.

    • Hiya Mark! Thanks for the great wine tale! And wow, six mags of the ’96, that’s beautiful! I’m really happy to hear that our Monte Bello was a part of your family’s holiday celebration, and of course I’m thrilled that the wine was showing so well … please, please, please feel free to share details on any more upcoming celebrations in which the Monte Bello plays a part … and thanks for commenting!


      • Christopher, I am a huge fan on Ridge and have been since my first taste of 1987 Monte Bello. I have a friend, since passed away, who had a collection of your York Creek Petite Sirah from the early 1980’s. The 1984 was one of the finest examples of Petite Sirah I have ever tasted. I also have stashed a few bottles of the 1997 Jimsomare Cabernet at a friend’s house in Idaho (basically so that the corks would stay in the bottles longer…I live in Texas). This wine is just now starting to reveal itself. I plan on opening another bottle this coming July 4th weekend, so I will post notes afterward. Keep up the great work! Mark

      • Thank you for the wonderful e-mail Mark! Agreed for sure on that 1984 Petite Sirah; that’s just an astonishingly fine bottle of wine. I actually had the opportunity to try a 1978 York Creek Petite Sirah just this last weekend, and it was drinking exceptionally well!

        Anyhow, about that Jimsomare, I’m going to propose 4th of July weekend for our “Virtual Vertical,” so stay tuned!


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