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 Mountains” 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.
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.
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.
“Ridge’s 2017 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a fabulous choice for readers who want a Monte Bello fix now, without having to wait. Supple, radiant and silky, with tremendous balance, the 2017 is just flat-out delicious and utterly irresistible. Dark red cherry/plum fruit, mocha, licorice, sweet tobacco and a kick of American oak build as this sumptuous Cabernet Sauvignon shows its allure. The 2017 is an outrageously beautiful wine. Don’t miss it. 2022-2037.”
94 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Sept 2020
“The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate showed beautifully, with gorgeous notes of cassis, crushed violets, graphite, and lead pencil all emerging from the glass. Showing plenty of richness and depth, medium to full body, good acidity, and plenty of firm tannins, it’s not a blockbuster, but it has the balance and class to evolve for 15 years or more. The blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and the rest Petit Verdot. 2020-2035.”
93 points, Jeb Dunnuck, May 2020