Dizzy Gillespie, Monte Bello, Wine Spectator, Oh My!



I’m closing in on 1000 posts on this blog, and to date, there are still so few that reference reviews or point scores that the category rarely even appears in my Tag Cloud.

(Which is, I realize, a very dorky social media kind of thing to say.)

The point is, while I don’t often focus on them, I am certainly not above highlighting a particularly fine review or score.

But THAT now said, what I actually am far more interested in are reviews that show genuine engagement, thoughtfulness, and that have a unique perspective. Which leaves out most of the “smells like cherries, goes with chicken, 93 points” fare.

So when Matt Kramer’s essay in the upcoming issue of Wine Spectator was forwarded on to me, I was interested. I like Matt’s writing a great deal, and feel that he almost always masterfully walks the line between authoritative and informatively specialized wine knowledge, and broader philosophical content that appeals on more emotional and visceral levels.

So I was interested. But then when I saw the first line of the piece, I was more than interested. I was excited!

“The professional,” said Dizzy Gillespie, “is the guy that can do it twice.”

Ah, The Jazz.

The Jazz … and The Wine.

Now, I won’t spoil the piece for you, as I do hope you read it, but suffice it to say, not only does it come out swinging in praise of … well … swinging!, and not only does it come out swinging in praise of our Monte Bello, it makes great points about quality, history, longevity, and consistency.

Here is an excerpt:

Sure, plenty of other wines might be as good or even better than the standard-bearers. But how often? This is why Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet gets a high price. California can’t compete on the same time scale as Europe, but Monte Bello has repeatedly proved its singular worth across a half-century of vintages, meeting and beating the competition in pretty much any year you’d care to choose. Whatever (high) price it cares to charge, it has earned.


To provide a bit of context here, what I think Matt is basically saying is that, sure, Monte Bello pricing is not everyday wine pricing, but looked at in comparison to both its “peers,” and to each new iteration of “the new thing,” how many wines have so consistently provided such excellence for so long?

(To which I might add that, should you opt to join our Monte Bello Collector Program, and start purchasing Monte Bello on futures,  you’d be paying less than $100/bottle!)

I think what Dizzy was saying is that, given the improvisational magic of jazz, anyone can potentially create magic on any given night, in any given moment. But greatness comes with being able to achieve that height with consistency.


And I think what Matt is exhorting us to do is remember that when we feel ourselves getting caught up in the cult of the new, getting caught up in believing the hype, we should remember to remember what true greatness is, and also remember that the pleasures of the professional come with a professional price, and that that’s ok.

To see Dizzy Gillespie blow, you bought a ticket. Sure, you could have seen him for free at Minton’s in the forties, but to see him in the sixties, in the seventies, in the eighties, it was gonna cost you. But that was alright. Because by then you knew he was good. Really good. And you felt okay about subsidizing his endeavors, because you know he was gonna keep being good.

And sure, Monte Bello costs more than your Tuesday night red. But that’s ok, because you know it’s good. And you know it’s gonna keep being good. And in fact, you know it was good before, because you subsidized it then. And you know it’s gonna keep being good again, because you’re subsidizing it now!

That’s the transaction we make with our artists. By purchasing their creations, we subsidize them doing that which we cannot; we subsidize them bringing to us that which we cannot bring to ourselves. We subsidize them touching that which we cannot reach, explaining to us that which we cannot explain, moving that within us which we cannot move ourselves.

I buy books of poetry even though I know I can read them for free online. I do that because I want to help those poets keep writing. Because their words bring something to my life that I cannot bring to myself.

I buy albums of music even though I know I can listen to them in their entirety on YouTube. I do that because I want them to keep making their music. And I know they need some money to do that. And I want their music to continue harmonizing my life.

Dizzy Gillespie also said: “They’re not particular about whether you’re playing a flatted fifth or a ruptured 129th, as long as they can dance to it.”

Well, you can dance to Monte Bello. Year after year after year, you can dance.


For more about the Monte Bello Collector Program, and for details on how to purchase futures of the Monte Bello, please click here.

Categories: History, Monte Bello, Press Reviews, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine and Jazz

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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