To celebrate the Labor Day weekend and the true start of summer weather in San Francisco, I toasted at Ridge Monte Bello in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Ridge prides itself on vineyard specific wines made in pre-industrial methods, including no irrigation. With careful vineyard selection and steep hillside plantings, the vines have to work for their nutrients and water, resulting in complex wines with good acidity and balanced structures. I've been a big fan of Ridge since moving to California, and it was nice to get back up to Monte Bello.
Ridge Chardonnay is always a welcome way to start, since theirs is quite Burgundian in style, with freshness balanced by creaminess. This one came from the Jimsomare property further down the mountain. Minimal new oak makes this a very approachable and refreshing wine, not your typical heavy California chard.
While traditionally focused on blends, a couple years ago Ridge decided to do a series of Monte Bello components - single varietal wines from the grapes that make up their famous Bordeaux style Monte Bello wine, a varying blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. These wines also showcase the vineyards from which they came. The Perrone Merlot comes from the Perrone property on the mountain and uses the grapes from the upper tier specifically, which is attached to a natural spring for a water source. The 2010 Perrone Merlot has a beautiful nose of black tea and red fruit, approachable on the palate now but with enough tannin to age several more years. We contrasted this wine with the 2011 Estate Merlot, which includes fruit from the Torre property as well, which contributes dry, dusty tannins and herbaceous flavors.
Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has tricked me before, and I'm always surprised how much I love this wine. While I find most young California Cabs to be too big, too jammy, too tannic, Ridge hits the mark exactly right, with an approachable, delicious wine with acidity and balance. The 2011 Estate Cab has a finer tannin structure that makes this wine very smooth, and the brambly, chocolate flavors cannot be beat. Even my sister, a Cab-hater, enjoyed this wine and bought a bottle.
Next we tried the Ridge 2011 Monte Bello, which did not have any Petit Verdot this vintage. The butterscotch nose and brambly fruit were delicious, and I can tell this will be a really enjoyable wine in several years once the tannins have had a chance to mellow.
On the Zin side of things, which mostly come from vineyards in Sonoma County, we enjoyed fruity Geyserville and East Bench and spicy Lytton Springs, plus their Paso Robles bottling from one of the oldest vineyards in that region, with beautiful strawberry characteristics and nice acidity.
Thanks to Aaron for a wonderful tasting during the busy Labor Day weekend!
|The view over Silicon Valley|