The limestone ridge that is Monte Bello Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains was first planted by Italian immigrants in 1886. The first vintage was produced in 1892. Today, it produces one of California’s most distinct and collectable wines, Ridge Monte Bello, and its able lieutenant, Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The Estate Cabernet (called the “Santa Cruz Mounts” Cabernet until the 2008 vintage) is produced from a number of vineyard blocks that consistently yield a more accessible wine that develops its full complexity earlier than the namesake Monte Bello.
Ridge’s 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is an exceptional wine. December and January were very dry, with most of the season’s rain falling between February and April. Overall, temperatures were above average, and the Monte Bello vineyard flowered in mid-May. That year, for the first time ever, all of the grape varieties in the winery’s estate Monte Bello vineyard ripened in the same month: September.
Fruit was hand-harvested, de-stemmed, and sorted. Lots entirely composed of whole berries were fermented by native yeast and pressed at six days. (The winery reduced whole berry fermentation time to accommodate the fast-paced harvest, but colour and tannin extraction were not compromised.) Malolactic fermentation occurred naturally. After tasting, the most approachable lots were selected at assemblage. The wine was then aged in American oak (70% new, 30% used) and bottled following 22 months maturation, once the tannins had softened. In keeping with the winery’s minimal intervention philosophy, the wine was handled, fined, and filtered as little as possible.
The 2014 is a ruby-tinged deep purple. On the nose, you’ll find notes of blackcurrant, cherries, clove spice, toasted oak, and cocoa. The palate has a ripe bramble fruit entry, medium-full body, supple tannins, and sweet oak. A firm acidity persists through the long, intense finish. It will show well over the next ten years.
“One of the many highlights in this range, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is terrific. The effects of the drought and resulting heat stress come through in the wine’s structural feel and bold, incisive flavors. Even with all of its intensity, the 2014 has a certain silkiness in its tannins that makes it approachable today. Of course, the 2014 will be even better in another few years, but opening a bottle on the early side is not a crime. The 2014 spent 27 months in French oak. Readers who are looking for a more affordable alternative to Ridge’s iconic Monte Bello should consider the 2014 Estate. Look for the Estate to be a real overachiever in 2014 as well as one of the best – possibly the best – California Cabernet in its price range.”
93 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Aug 2017
“Moving to the Bordeaux blends, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate from Ridge is an inky colored, ripe, downright sexy Cabernet that gives up ample notes of blueberries, cassis, vanilla bean, and licorice. A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, this full-bodied 2014 has a big mid-palate, good freshness and lots of chalky tannin on the finish. It has plenty of baby fat currently, but should round into form with 3-4 years of bottles age.”
92 points, Jeb Dunnuck, Rhone Report, Aug 2017
“Made in a style that demands patience and cellaring, this is taut, firm, dense and sturdy. Not showing much now, but like good Bordeaux, this is built to age. Best from 2020 through 2034.”
91 points, Wine Spectator, Oct 2017
In 2016, Decanter named Ridge Vineyards one of the “Best Producers of California Cabernet Sauvignon” for the 2014 vintage, alongside Dominus Estate and Mount Eden.