1998 Monte Bello: The Sleeper Vintage of the Millenium?

1998 Monte Bello

Library Wines



1997, 1997, 1997.

97, 97, 97, 97.

Blah blah blah blah blah.


Now I’m getting interested.


Because anytime anyone tells you something is the something of the century, it probably isn’t.

And ’97 wasn’t.

Vintage of the Century, that is.

So what about ’98?

Well, truth be told, Monte Bello dances to the beat of a different drummer.

If Napa is all Keith Moon, then the Santa Cruz Mountains is all John Bonham.

1998 Monte Bello. When The Levee Breaks?

Listen, as to our 1998 Monte Bello: Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator? No likee. John Tilson and Stephen Tanzer? Likee.

Take that as you will, but I know what it means to me!

(btw: did you know we have a Literature Library on the Wholesale side of our website? Tasting notes & Reviews going back to the 1960s! Right here: Literature Search)

Mainly, I have a bottle of the 1998 Monte Bello in front of me, and it’s been opened, and it’s been decanted, and it’s been double-decanted, and now there is 1998 Monte Bello in my glass, and I’m going to taste it.



Very dark, concentrated middle; blackberry hued, w/ garnet highlights. Crucially, and happily, no bricking at the limn; just a swath of dark scarlet halo. Glaze-y, not leggy in the bowl, this is a shy ingenue structurally, foreshadowing what should be a smooth yet intense mouthfeel; it was angular in its youth; will be interesting to see which iteration of softening it has enacted …


Intense cool-climate aromatics, with a compact striation of menthol and eucalyptus blanketed between layers both forested and smoked. Definite conjuring of pipe tobacco leaf, and suggestions of black olive, chicory, and clove. There is something I can’t quite place in there, almost a crisply grilled brussel sprout leaf character to it, but neither that green or that funky; mincemeat? Caramelized Rhubarb pie sugar? Fascinating, if unnameable …


Quite singular counterweighting of fleshy fruit succulence against intense acidity; the wine manages to be both lasciviously supine and angularly vertical. Flavor-wise, the palate experience flows naturally from the aromatic profile, with the olive notes greening somewhat, the char receding, and the tobacco notes staying front and center. The fruit is appropriately dark and dry, and the tannins are still very present; not exposed, but on the edge of drying; this wine positively moans for culinary companionship; and the richer, fattier, juicier, and more flavorful the better.


As noted above, intensely dry on the finish, with astonishingly bright acidity still at play. The implication of dirtiness in the aromatics comes into tangible play in the exit, with a certain barky granularity emerging to undergird the surprisingly higher-tone red fruit notes that linger through to the final savor.


Perhaps not the vintage of the century, or the millennium, but certainly one of the unsung heroes of the Monte Bello canon. And due to the over-arching passivity regarding the 98s in general, you’re likely to find this at a pretty good price, if you can find it at all. If you DO find it, nab it. It is truly fascinating, and if the true reward of a truly fine wine is complexity, then this is indeed an unexpectedly generous offering.

p.s WE have it for sale in our library offerings! right here: 1998 Monte Bello

Categories: Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, History, Monte Bello, Press Reviews, Tasting Notes, Varietals & Blends, Viticultural Salmagundi, Wine & Food Pairing

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