The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA holds a special distinction: It is home to the only two estate-bottled mountain-grown Cabernets that are truly influenced by the Pacific Ocean. Both have been at it awhile. The first is Ridge Monte Bello (1962), the second is Mount Eden Estate. In 1945, legendary vintner Martin Ray began to develop Mount Eden’s estate vineyard on a rugged mountaintop in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today, the site consists of 40 acres of low-yielding vines. Planted in infertile Franciscan shale, the vineyards are 25 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, and enjoy a cool yet sunny climate above the fog line. The growing season here is long, and naturally low yields, along with slow, steady maturation, result in incredibly intense fruit.
If you appreciate the qualities that result in Bordeaux varietals grown on the edge – namely, low alcohols, earth-driven flavours, and unique terroir – Cabernet from the Santa Cruz Mountains are prime examples. These are lower alcohol wines with full flavours that evolve beautifully with time. The 2013 vintage was interesting: all of the rainfall that season occurred before January, resulting in a drought-induced early budbreak and an early harvest.
The 2013 release shows serious density. There is a notable depth of flavour, texture, vibrancy, and richness. The nose is all nuanced black currant, graphite, and mountain flowers, while the palate is balanced by abundant tannin and acid. Estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon is backed by small quantities of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Fruit macerated in small open-top stainless steel tanks, and was then fermented by naturally occurring yeast. The young wine was aged in new French oak for nearly two years before it was bottled, unfiltered and unfined, and aged another two years prior to release. It has a long life ahead. The winery prides itself in an “Old World” style, and note that this is the most compelling vin de garde they’ve produced in the last three decades.
“There’s an unparalleled woody intensity on the nose of this offering, with cigar box, myrrh, incense and bay leaf decorating the black peppercorn, herb-laced salt, dark chocolate and black plum aromas. The palate’s leathery flavours are woven into fine-grained tannins, revealing flashes of elderberry, violet and gravel. Drink 2019–2033.”
95+ points “Cellar Selection” Wine Enthusiast, Nov 2017
“A true classic, bursting with red and black fruit, vinesmoke and pencil shavings, and structured by fine tannin and bracing Santa Cruz acidity. Consistently one of the most ageworthy Cabernets in California, gaining in volume and expansiveness with time in the cellar, always vibrant and intense.”
95 points, Decanter, May 2016
“The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is wine of real pedigree and class that is going to need at least a handful of years to enter the prime of its drinking window. Blackberry jam, grilled herbs, smoke and plum all resonate on the palate. Inky, deep and plush, the 2013 remains quite primary. I will not be surprised at all if the 2013 develops into an even better wine with time. That said, the 2013 is positively striking today, with compelling inner sweetness, tons of perfume and exceptional balance. 2023-2038.”
94+ points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Aug 2017
“The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate checks in as a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc that spent 32 months in 60% new French oak. Its inky purple/violet colour is followed by a terrific perfumed of crème de cassis, spring flowers, licorice and hints of vanilla spice. Medium to full-bodied, silky and elegant on the palate, with chalky tannin, nicely integrated acidity and a great finish, it needs 4-5 years of bottle age and will keep for two decades or more.”
93 points, JebDunnuck.com, Aug 2017