Building The 2012 Monte Bello: Part II

We’ve just completed the second round of the Monte Bello Assemblage Tasting, and the blend is in!

It was quite a remarkable tasting; somewhat unique in its architecture, as compared to some past editions, in that it was essentially divided into three distinct phases: Audition, Assemblage, and Vertical.

For those of you not familiar with the process by which the Monte Bello is created, I humbly direct you to the following posts:

Beauty Is A Rare Thing: Building The 2012 Monte Bello

Building Monte Bello: The 2011 Assemblage

A Seat At The Table: A Day In Which I Am Invited To Participate In The 2010 Assemblage Tasting!

The Second Assemblage Tasting was held in The Old Torre Winery Barn, and in attendance were the following:

Paul Draper
Eric Baugher
John Olney
Shun Ishikubo
David Gates
Kyle Theriot
Shinji Kurokawa
Amy Monroe
Christopher Watkins (me)


As the warm spring sun began to wend its subtle tides through the warming window panes, Eric inaugurated his singular oeno-alchemy…


… as, one by one, we sought our seats and prepared our palates.


We began with an auditioning of sorts; a blind tasting, 5 glasses …

5glasses_I 5glasses_II

… no explanation, no context, only the instructions: taste, assess, write, vote; 2 plusses, 2 minuses, 1 neutral.


When the veils were lifted, we were found to have been auditioning 4 blocks’ worth of possible inclusion candidates (three different cab lots, and a merlot option); snuck into the line-up was the First Assemblage, crafted back in April. Two of the lots received majority votes. Then it was on to Round II.

Five glasses again, blind tasted again. And again, the directive: taste, assess, write, vote; 2 plusses, 2 minuses, 1 neutral. 4 of the 5 lots fared very well; one block fell by the wayside for showing a bit too ripe.

With Round III came the “proper” assemblage process: two glasses; one with the “control” (in this case, the First Assemblage), one with an “addition.” A and B. Taste, assess, write, vote. Plus or Minus.


Eric Baugher & Shun Ishikubo

“A” took it by a nose, 5 to 4. A 7% addition of South Slope South Cabernet (S3).

Round IV. Two glasses again. A and B. Control (now including S3) and Addition.  “B” essentially sweeps; a 7-2 majority. A blend of Camp and Back Hills falls by the side of the vineyard road.


Paul Draper

Round V, an override! I am on the right side of history for this one; I alone voted with Paul and Eric in favor of a 10% addition of 10-acre cab, and as is his right, Paul opted for the addition. None complained, it had been a tough vote.

David Gates

David Gates

Round VI, we would find out later, found us debating the future of a block I’d loved on its own; my colleague Amy as well, joined by David Gates; however, David, a veteran of the assemblages, predicted it would not, in the end, be “assembled.” He was right, it lost out to a 6-3 majority in favor of the control. But I am holding out for a solo bottling; on its own, the block is beautiful.


Paul Draper & John Olney

Round VII, the final round of the Assemblage. “A” took the majority, which was the control, but Paul and John came out swinging in favor of the addition; a small block of stressed Merlot. To be continued …

And then came the final round. A 6-wine blind vertical of Monte Bello; the preceding 5 vintages, plus the “new” 2012.


I wrote “proper” tasting notes on each, and was able to spot almost all of them as what they were, though much to my surprise, I confused the 2009 and the 2007 (which, I would say, says a great deal for how the 2007 is currently showing, given the overwhelmingly positive critical response we’ve received for the 2009 of late –Wine Advocate: 98 points, International Wine Report: 97 points, International Wine Cellar: 96 points, Wine Spectator: 95 points–given that we’re currently offering the 2007 in our tasting rooms, perhaps a good time to visit!)

But anyhow, in addition to my “proper” notes, I also wrote a spontaneous Haiku in response to each:

2009 Monte Bello
A walk through the trees;
wet, the path, twilit, the leaves.
Into the green mist.

2008 Monte Bello
The red blushes of
beauty; luxuriant youth,
serene  age; timeless.

2007 Monte Bello
As a great trunk’s broad
shoulders grow, ask yourself: Which
is stronger? Roots? Limbs?

2011 Monte Bello
Sweet soul perfection
of campground wisdom; as with
smoke, so with memories.

2012 Monte Bello (2nd Assemblage)
There is strength to fear
and strength to love; run from one,
run to the other.

2010 Monte Bello
Elegance within
a corset; beauty of denial,
of promise: a dream


When all was said and done, a new Assemblage had been born: The 2nd Assemblage. The new details are as follows:

62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc 7% Petit Verdot, 13.6% ABV



As we do every year, we continue to invite our Monte Bello Collector Members to experience firsthand the burgeoning development of the vintage that will one day be theirs; they have now seen the 2012 Monte Bello in its Component state (for more, please click here), in its 1st Assemblage incarnation (for more, please click here), and next weekend, they’ll sample that which we have just created, the 2nd Assemblage. And if history repeats itself, it’s quite likely this will be the Final Assemblage, meaning this will be the last opportunity to taste this wine before it goes into bottle for its long hibernation; not to awaken again until its release in 2015. For more information about this very special event, please see below:

Final Monte Bello Tasting
Saturday & Sunday, May 18th & 19th
11-5pm each day
Cupertino, CA

This event is for Monte Bello Collector members only (a total of 4 attendees per membership), there is no fee to attend, and an RSVP is required. We look forward to seeing you!

Eventbrite - Monte Bello Final Assemblage Tasting - May 18th & 19th, 11am-5pm

Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events, History, Merlot, Monte Bello, Paul Draper, Petit Verdot, RIDGE Staff, Tasting Events/Opportunities, Tasting Flights, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Vineyards, Vintage Wine Labels, Virtual Verticals, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Poetry, Wine Clubs, Wine Tales

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2 replies

  1. Your Haiku was lovely. My first visit was a campfire tasting with Dave Bennion, Paul Draper, Joel Peterson and me. What great wines and terrific memories. I am in Boise, now, Paul – drop me a note when you are going to Hailey – glad to see you leading the orchestration of the dance.

  2. Fabulous. This could just be my all-time favorite of your many excellent blog entries, Christopher. Thanks once again for this poetic peek under the tent flap.

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