Tasting With Paul Draper: Tasting Notes On 1984 Monte Bello & 1995 Geyserville

I always look forward to tasting with Paul. He’s not just the winemaker, he’s a fan! Which means you never know what you’re going to end up tasting & pouring, but you know it’s always going to be fascinating and delicious!

This session was no exception. All told, we tasted ten different wines, but there are two that I especially wish to highlight: the 1984 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (a wine I’ve been fortunate to taste on quite a few occasions of late, and a vintage I just absolutely adore) and the 1995 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville (a wine I was exceedingly eager to try, as it’s not a vintage I’m particularly familiar with).

Despite my excitement and my anticipation, I will also confess to feeling trepidation and terror. While Paul is one of the kindest, coolest, funkiest, down-to-earthiest, suavest, most approachablest cats around, it still unnerves me to prepare wines for him, because of course I want everything to show perfectly, and as Paul almost invariably requests library offerings, one really has to draw deep on one’s knowledge and palate when it comes to presenting the wines in their optimum states of pourability. Spoiler alert: the wines showed beautifully!

I should note, as you’ll see from the image above, we also tasted the 1992 Monte Bello out of 375ml. This is a gem of a vintage, but as I’ve written about this wine on multiple occasions recently, I’m going to just focus on the 84 Monte Bello and the 95 Geyserville as regards tasting notes …

But first, the prep …

And then, the notes …

1984 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello

Just a beautiful nose; all the dignity, gravitas, and depth one could hope for from a wine of this age. Factor in the glintly gleaming and rarefied crown of cool-climate character atop this royal brow, and you’ve got a wine for the ages. The aromatics are brilliant with cherry, menthol, licorice, raspberry, and hints of sweet pipe tobacco , and the wine is light, supple, and playful on the palate; in short, the front movement is elegant, discerning, and devoid of rough edges, and in shorter short, crackleless, creaseless, and crimpless.

Moving into the mid-palate, there emerges a slight granularity to the tannin profile, and those same tannins then lend a touch of dryness to the finish … Mid-palate forward, a strong tobacco character emerges – then lingers – in the finish, introducing faint traces of char and ash, tossed over a central coil of coiling mid-tone berry and rosewater notes.

This is essentially French Art-House cinema in the bottle; stylized, emotional, taut and beautiful, and almost embarrassing the extent to which is wears its heart on its sleeve. A wine that will bring a blush to your cheeks, a tingle to your spine, and a fairly pressing need to be with someone you have very strong feelings for; feelings of that nature.

1995 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville

62% zinfandel, 10% petite sirah, 15% carignane, 5% mataro. My kind of field blend, and quite the storied release; this was the 30th anniversary bottling of the Geyserville designation!

Probably needless to say, I was very excited to try this wine. Particularly as it’s not a vintage of Geyserville I’m particularly familiar with, nor have I tasted it recently.

So as anyone would do with a Ridge wine, I read the label notes first.

Ah, interesting! 2 parcels soaked on petite sirah skins for added structure. Very interesting indeed! Now I’m double intrigued …

And here is Paul stating that the ’95 is “one of the finest Geyservilles we have made in this decade”; well, this certainly intensifies my anticipation! Though I have to try to temper it, because of course he also writes that the wine will peak in 2010. Two years ago …

Ah well, let’s see what we’ve got!

Well, at first assessment, we’ve got a great deal; what a nose! Unbelievable mixture of aromas: cocoa, fudge, nut butter, almond, blackberry compote, blueberry muffin, red & black licorice, and more; quite literally the baker’s dozen of bouquets …

On the palate, the wine is an almost sleazily sophisticated reconciliation of dualities; full and voluptuous, rich but not over-ripe, decadent and greed-inducing but not cloying, sweet and alluring but not sweet and obscene. Plus, there is a veritable farmer’s market worth of pie fruit on offer, plus the rather unexpected note of acai berry alongside the hints of plum and butterscotch …

Some earthy rusticity comes through in the finish, with hints of bark and leaf alongside the darkening fruit; some pluot and plum in there as well, and a refreshing return to some of the raspberry and strawberry layers …

The finish is truly, and surprisingly, rather super-dry, with a preposterously blithe and lively acidity. In short, no way in a million years this is a 15 year old zinfandel!

Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Geyserville, History, Monte Bello, Paul Draper, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Video, Zinfandel

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10 replies

  1. That was a great prep video! Maybe move the camera back just a little bit next time so we can see the pour method.

  2. Nice to read this. How much time do you allow between decanting and drinking for wines such as these?

    • Thank you for your kind words! As to your query, it can vary dramatically depending on which wines/which vintages, but as a general rule of thumb; the younger, the longer. In general, if a wine has been in the bottle some 10-20-30 years, it’s seen its fair share of air already, and will only need just enough time for the funk to blow off … but again, each wine is different. That’s why it’s so nerve-racking!

  3. I’m sorry to say that I have neither of these Monte Bello vintages, but I do have a couple bottles of the 95 Geyserville which I am very excited to try now.

    • Let me know what you think of the Geyserville! Also, we do have the 1984 available for sale from the library, should you be so inclined as to sample its lovely wares … And mainly, enjoy the 95, and thanks for the comment!

  4. I am super jealous!!! The 1984 is fabulous, and the 1992 might be my favorite!

  5. What an exceptionally described tasting. You’ve got me foaming at the mouth as I write. What I would give to have your gift of pen on paper. Not to mention your access to such palatable delights.

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