A Parade of Rarities …

A trio of us here at Ridge/Monte Bello were fortunate participants recently in an event of unexpected reverence, decadence, and untamed historical significance.

It was a Saturday evening. The few scarves of sun that remained wrapped around the neck of the day had given way to the blue fleece of dusk; faint rays slalomed over the pale powders that crept up the bobbled landslides of the mountain as faint tendrils of fog Grinch-fingered their way between the coarse limestone fractures.

The heaters had been warming up the Old Winery Barn for several hours, and the lingering heat from the times when the sun had blanched the windows still remained. Every chair, as it unfolded, sent a creak around the rafters, every table leg that landed sounded shots across the beams. As the tablecloths were dropped, and softly pressed against their structures, one could start to sense the gathering to come. Finally, it was done, every glass buffed to perfection, every water pitcher filled, and in the trench behind the bar, all the tools soon to be called on, all the Ah Sos and the Double-Stops, the pullers and the strainers, the decanters and the funnels …

The barn was empty, we were ready …

It began just like a party always does, a lot of talking, idle drinking, social planets, misaligned, finally coming into orbit, but the sun and its trajectory made mincemeat of it all, of the watches, all the gold ones and the silver’d, in the pockets, on the wrists; no time for talking, what’s this wood crate on the bar?!?!?!?!?

What’s this wood crate on the bar?!?!?!?!

And now, we say poetry, Godspeed ye on your way, for now’s no time for words; wicked prose, begone, ye idler of time!

To borrow a phrase from a guest in attendance, it’s time to “geek out” on the wine …

So, what was it in that wood crate on the bar? The centerpiece of the evening. A 6 liter bottle of …

of …

of 1968 Monte Bello!

What is that wood crate on the bar?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Yours truly was called on to open and decant. The role of a lifetime. Under the intensest of scrutinies, I went to work. Spelunker in the sediments of 1968. Inch by inch, row by row, tool by tool, I was making it. A crumble here, a nudge there. Movement, then no movement. I was sweating. Finally, some 25 minutes later, I was done. The wine lay there, in decanters of many shapes and sizes, tasting its first lungfuls of the cool mountain air since being genie’d to the bottle over 40 years ago. It looked magnificent. It was royal, it was holy. We were thirsty.

Hello. Hello again.

But is it really “thirst” one feels when one is facing such a wine? Certainly it’s not the thirst of a parched throat, a grumbling stomach. Perhaps the thirst of a mendicant in the desert of one’s mind, seeking answers to a koan never answered? Or is it just flat-out greed, the wish to taste that which has never been tasted, the desire to own an experience that, once felt, cannot be claimed by any other. God only knows, but we were thirsty!
I am ashamed to admit how little of the taste I can recall now. The experiential was almost too much to bear, too much to conceive. How, when tasting a wine with this kind of history writ into its very DNA, could one possibly resort to platitudes of the “nice, round tannins, mid-tone fruit, lovely cedar, just a hint of a clove and anise” sort? Answer? One can’t. Because you don’t TASTE a wine like this, you RELIVE a wine like this, as if you’re falling off a cliff, and life in its entirely is passing by your eyes. You RELIVE a life you never even had. You RELIVE the life we ALL have had; to drink a wine like this is to tap into the Dundesian Collective Unconsciousness, the shared folklore of all human-hood.
I could tell you about some of the other wonderful, surprising, stunning wines we prepared and tasted that night. Like the other 1968 contribution, the Ruby Cabernet …
Or the now-legendary 1970 Occidental Late Harvest Zinfandel …
Or the 1975 Geyserville (truly outstanding!) …
Or the 1979 York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, which, from a “normal” tasting standpoint, was in its own way kind of the wine of the night …
But truly, with the hallowed ghosts of the Old Winery Barn as my witnesses, I will never forget that 6 liter bottle of 1968 Monte Bello.
To you (and you know who you are!) I thank you. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, who had no expectations other than to host an evening event, I thank you. For adding our names to an exalted list in the books of Ridge history, I thank you. Simply, I thank you.

Categories: Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, Geyserville, History, Monte Bello, Ridge Memorabilia, Ruby Cabernet, Varietals & Blends, Vintage Wine Labels, Wine Tales, Zinfandel

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