Ridge Monte Bello (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2006 Front Label
Ridge Monte Bello (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2006 Front Label

Ridge Monte Bello (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2006

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Winemaker Notes

Complex mix of ripe mountain bramble, cassis, and currant fruits; dark chocolate, toasty oak, licorice, exotic spice. Full-bodied, with elegant chalky tannins, sensuous balance, integrated oak. Pure Monte Bello.

Blend: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc

About the Vintage:
Winter was wet and cold through April, but May's warm weather let the vines set a full crop. Summer was unusually warm; picking began on September 18, ahead of schedule. Though a cool October slowed ripening, all parcels were harvested within five weeks, and natural yeasts started the primary within three days. Those first fermentations alerted us to how rapidly color and tannin were beingextracted. We reduced pump-overs, and pressed at day ten. Uninoculated secondary began in tank; eighty percent of the thirty-six lots were racked to barrel for completion. Thirteen were selected for the first assemblage in late January. Four intense cabernet lots required egg-white fining to soften tannins. Additions of petit verdot and cabernet franc contributed depth. Balanced and elegant now, this exceptional vintage has the structure to carry it for twenty-five years or more.

Critical Acclaim

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RP 94
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
While it is eclipsed by the brilliance of the 2005, the 2006 Monte Bello (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc) is a very strong effort. Its dense purple color is followed by copious aromas of creme de cassis, licorice, spice box, and a touch of oak. Well-balanced, dense, pure, layered, and rich, its big, rich style is similar to the 2003. This cuvee should keep for 25-30 years in a cool cellar.

Ridge’s iconic Monte Bello Proprietary Red (no longer called Cabernet Sauvignon) is one of the candidates for the longest-lived Bordeaux blend made in California. Even vintages from the late sixties and early seventies are still vibrant wines. The winery owns just over 100 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines, and production varies enormously based on the mountain climate. With respect to this group of wines, the smallest yields were achieved in 2005, and the highest in 2007. The selection process here is relatively severe. For their Monte Bello, the flagship wine, 32% of the production was used in 2003, 38% in 2004, 49% in 2005, 39% in 2006, and 41% in 2007. These wines continue to be anomalies in the sense that the Cabernet Sauvignon component is aged in American oak, a somewhat contrarian procedure since most top producers long ago moved to French oak. The Santa Cruz Mountains cuvees, essentially a second wine culled out from Monte Bello, are also high quality efforts from Ridge. Each of the vintages I tasted reflects the vintage conditions in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Three 2008 barrel samples reveal a consistent, high quality style with slightly more elevated alcohol contents.
Rating: 94+

JD 94
Jeb Dunnuck

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello comes from a warmer, generous year and is 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petite Verdot, and the balance Cabernet Franc. It’s still youthfully colored and has classic Cabernet notes of crème de cassis, lead pencil, and vanilla oak. This medium to full-bodied effort is just now at the early stages of maturity and is silky, graceful, and elegant on the palate, with its still-present structure beautifully integrated into the wine. You can safely crack bottles any time over the coming two decades.

JS 93
James Suckling
Relatively open compared to the 2007 with sweet tobacco and plums and berries. Full body, velvety and gorgeous, with dried fruits, almost peaches, dark fruits. I love the finish. Why wait on this? But will improve with age wonderfully. Toasty oak shows more too. But it's so pretty.
W&S 92
Wine & Spirits
On the quiet side of intense, this vintage of Monte Bello is austere, delivering its fruit like a cool rain of berries. As a young cabernet, the flavors of black plum, dried currants and cranberries are held tight in the grip of oak. There's also a floral scent of roses before the tannins shut it down. This should plump up with a few years in the cellar, building on its elegance to match roast leg of lamb.
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Ridge

Ridge

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Ridge, California
Ridge Ridge Winery Video

Ridge's history begins in 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor and prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He planted vineyards and constructed a winery of redwood and native limestone in time to produce the first vintage of Monte Bello in 1892. The historic building now serves as the Ridge production facility.

Though Ridge began as a Cabernet winery, by the mid-60s, it had produced several Zinfandels including the Geyserville. In 1972, Lytton Springs joined the line-up and the two came to represent an important part of Ridge production. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made limited amounts of Chardonnay since 1962.

The Ridge approach is straightforward: find the most intense and flavorful grapes, guide the natural process, draw all the fruit's richness into the wine. Decisions on when to pick, when to press, when to rack, what varietals and what parcels to include and when to bottle, are based on taste. To retain the nuances that increase complexity, Ridge winemakers handle the grapes and wine as gently as possible. There are no recipes, only attention and sensitivity.

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A rugged and topographically diverse cool-climate appellation with a rich history, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA stretches from Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, to the northern border of Monterey County. Elevations range from 800 feet to upwards of 3,000 and microclimates vary substantially depending on which side of the mountains the vineyards lie; cool ocean winds and fog play an important role here. This can be a challenging region in which to grow grapes, but it is well worth the effort. Santa Cruz Mountains wines are noted for balanced acidity levels, often showing great aging potential. Wine has been made here since the 1800s, most notably from the legendary Ridge Vineyards, whose Monte Bello vineyard garners international admiration.

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the stars of this region, while Merlot and Zinfandel also perform quite well. Organic and sustainable vineyard practices are becoming increasingly common.

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One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.

Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends

Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.

Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends

Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.

Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends

While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.

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