Winemaker Tasting Notes:
Opaque ruby color. Intense blackberry fruit aromas, blackcurrant, exotic barrel spice, toasted oak, licorice, and complex forest notes. Rich mountain fruit entry, refreshing high acid, full chalky tannin structure, and sweet oak; strong mineral finish. EB (2/17)
Lack of winter rain affected both vines and cover crops, limiting available nutrients. Still, the vines carried a decent-size crop, which ripened in September. Fermentations progressed slowly; extraction was decided by careful tasting. Malolactics started in tank, and finished by February. Merlot, which suffered in 2013, was strong in 2014. Petit verdot remained challenged by drought. This elegant vintage shows intense fruit, limestone earth, and firm acid. It will be enjoyable over the next fifteen to thirty years.
In 1886, high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the first Monte Bello vineyards were planted, and winery construction begun. A first vintage from the young vines followed in 1892. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the vineyard was not fully maintained; some vines survived into the late 30’s, but by the 1940s they were effectively abandoned. Eight acres of cabernet sauvignon were replanted in 1949. These were the source of the first Ridge Monte Bello (1962) and subsequent vintages until 1974 when younger blocks replanted in the 1960’s were considered for inclusion. Since then, the historic vineyards on the ridge have gradually been replanted.
Grapes destemmed, 100% whole berries. Automated berry sorting followed by hand sorting. Fermented on the native yeasts. Pressed at ten days. Natural malolactic.
Selection: Nineteen of twenty-six Monte Bello parcels
Barrels: 100% new air-dried oak, 97% american oak, 2% french oak; 1% hungarian oak
Aging: Seventeen months in barrel
Sustainably farmed, hand-harvested, estate-grown grapes; destemmed and sorted; fermented on the native yeasts; full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 0.29 g/L calcium carbonate added to moderate the high natural acidity in ten of the twentyone parcels; 2.2% water addition to six of twenty-one lots during fermentation; oak from barrel aging; minimum effective sulfur 25 ppm at crush, 109 ppm during aging; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.
The 2014 Monte Bello is going to need at least a decade to show everything it has. Deceptively medium in body and super-classic in its mid-weight structure, the 2014 offers notable brightness and intensity in an understated style, even by Ridge standards. Today, the 2014 is intensely linear, focused and vibrant. Petit Verdot is the variety that suffered most in the drought, so its presence in the blend is minimal. - Antonio Galloni 96 Points