2008 Monte Bello: Final Assemblage Tasting Notes

I’ll confess two things:

1) I was not able to taste the new (and most likely final)  assemblage at the actual Monte Bello Collector Event; I was just too busy.


2) Having now tasted it, I’m REALLY excited … I do try to be objective when I assess our wines, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love Ridge, so of course there is a fair share of love coming from my corner of the ring, but I have to say, I’m feeling particularly loverly after tasting this offering today …

I’ll backtrack here a bit and note that there has been alot of discussion about the fact that the blend is currently a two-varietal construction; after the component tasting in March, there was a tangible degree of excitement about both the co-fermented Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and especially about the Petit Verdot. Conversation about the Petit Verdot continues, and Monte Bello winemaker Eric Baugher has said he’ll be keeping some separate and in barrel for a final look in the fall; but all that said, we may very well be looking at the first two-varietal Monte Bello in some two decades … Exciting? I think so, though not necessarily just because of the architecture per se, but rather, because the wine is currently showing … well … deliciously! Im particularly happy with the heightened presence of merlot in the new blend, as I think it is bringing a tremendous amount to the aesthetic table; the blend is currently seventy-one percent cabernet sauvignon and twenty-nine percent merlot.

When I first set out to really analyze the ’08 sample, I tried to hew to my “standard” methodology of assessing appearance, aromatics, front, mid-palate, and finish, and despite my somewhat giddy travails, I did manage to maintain at least that degree of methodological consistency. That said, restraining my “standard” prose proved far more difficult; much as I would have loved to keep my winespeak within the realm of the accepted aroma-wheel world of descriptors, I found myself instead writing the most goofily euphoric lines; some embarrassing, some nonsensical, most at least hopefully informative (if not for tangible accuracy than at least in spirit), and in the end, I decided to go ahead and stick with the “raw” version; meaning, I’ve decided to include the early and perhaps rather more surreal drafts of my attempts to craft tasting notes on this ’08 Monte Bello assemblage.

So here goes (and one last disclaimer, this is essentially the first-wave lunatic visceral reaction to this wine; no pretense to accuracy or objectivity is implied, rather, this should only be construed/received/interpreted as a record of one taster’s reveries in mid-taste …)

2008 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello
(“Final Assemblage” as of 5.15.09, tasted 5.22.09)

Appearance:Beautiful inky blackness, squid ink blackness, black grape grapeness, dark plum rolled in ashes, a black grape dropped in hot tar … such a glaze, a Karo glaze, molasses legs!

Aromatics:Pecan pie and street vendor pralines? Nutty sweetness? Certainly baked and herbed poultry, meaning clove. And Calimyrna fig, naturally. And how many shades of smoke here? Campfire smoke mostly, but also fireplace, firepit, and just plain smoke. What kind of smoke? Smoke smoke. Umami smoke. Pipe smoke? No! Cocoa smoke! Is there such a thing? There is here! Woody as well, the wood without the smoke, perhaps even cedar-y …

Front:INTENSE acidity! And an unexpected gardens-worth of herbs both fresh and dried. And pistachio nuts! Cassis and anise, obviously, and even brandy’d apples … Naturally there is blackberry as well, and some black currant …

Mid-palate: Toffee notes, and just completely mouth-covering tannins. And pressed flowers. And more nuttiness, but now the sweet and roasted nuts are giving way to roasted almonds, but dry-roasted, and most definitely not candied. And again the anise, or is it now licorice? Well, no doubt about the chicory …

Finish: Tannins and acids to spare, but all in balance, so excellent accordingly! Fruit becoming herb, earth becoming spice, intricate to the Nth, and quite a long, three-hundred-and-sixty-degree’d circumference of components; put another way, an oenologic erector set painstakingly crafting an esophageal passageway from taste buds to tummy, clinical in its precision. I stand humbled, submissive, mastered.

Man, I think I really love this wine …

I read this to my missus just now, and I asked her, I said, “What do you think, is it too weird?” And she said, “I don’t know, but I just poured myself some more!”

Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Monte Bello, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends

Tags: , , , , , ,

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