Wine Advocate 98
“The 2016 Monte Bello is stunning, bursting from the glass with aromas of crushed currants, plums, charcoal, sweet spices, black truffle and rich soil. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, immensely deep and very concentrated, with an ample core of dark fruit that almost entirely conceals its rich chassis of tannin. The finish is long, tensile and chalky. Eric Baugher observes that 2016 was a drought year but that the vines were less stressed than in 2015, thanks to Spring precipitation, and it wasn’t necessary to irrigate. Summer saw wild temperature swings, and though it was below average in summation, some days were very warm. The final Monte Bello blend contains 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Franc, which represents a slight change from when I tasted it a year ago, though its profile remains very much the same. The 2016 checks in at 13.8% alcohol and pH 3.49. Cellar it for a decade and follow it for another three.” – William Kelley
Vinous Media 98
“The 2016 Monte Bello is stunningly beautiful. Medium in body, gracious and understated, the 2016 is a Monte Bello that is built on total finesse. Red cherry jam, raspberry jam, menthol and rose petal all grace this exquisite, vivid Monte Bello. All the elements are simply in the right place. The 2016 is not an obvious Monte Bello, but it is supremely gorgeous. At times, the sensation of tannins is non-existent. The persistent, crystalline finish is one thing of beauty.” – Antonio Galloni
Jeb Dunnuck 97“Bottled in March of 2018 and a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and the balance Cabernet Franc, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello offers a more streamlined, elegant, and ultra-classic style compared to the 2014 and 2015, which are slightly bigger, richer wines. Boasting a deep purple color and beautiful purity in its crème de cassis, blueberry, white flowers, and vanilla bean, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, silky tannins, and perfect balance. It doesn’t have the sheer depth of fruit of some of the blockbuster years, yet makes up for it with its incredible purity, poise, and balance. Relatively approachable for a Monte Bello, it’s still going to see its 30th birthday in fine form.” – Jeb Dunnuck
Wine Spectator 96“The 2016 Monte Bello is plush and dense, but with its typically distinct racy edge for counterbalance, with a massive core of dark plum and blackberry fruit scored by bay, sage and violet notes. It’s among the best young Monte Bellos I’ve had.” – James Molesworth
Zinfandel Chronicles 98 Points
“Stunning nose of red and black fruits, creme de cassis, scorched earth and flowers. Medium to full bodied and perfectly balanced. The fruit is immense, concentrated and remarkably pure. Cassis liqueur, black currants, black raspberries, graphite and earth on the palate. The finish is long and seamless with ever present, silky tannins. Monte Bello is a wine of finesse and grace that deftly walks the line between old and new world. Compelling and somewhat approachable now but be certain that this wine will age gracefully for 25 years or more.” – Tom Lee
Ridge VineyardsView all from Ridge Vineyards
The history of Ridge Vineyards begins in 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor who became a prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. He terraced the slopes and planted vineyards; using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery, producing the first vintage under that name in 1892. This unique cellar, built into the mountainside on three levels, is Ridge's production facility. At 2600?, it is surrounded by the "upper vineyard."
In the 1940s, William Short, a theologian, bought the abandoned winery and vineyard just below the Perrone property; he replanted several parcels to cabernet sauvignon in the late 1940s. From these vines -- now the "middle vineyard"-- new owners Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler, all Stanford Research Institute engineers, made a quarter-barrel of "estate" cabernet. That Monte Bello Cabernet was among California's finest wines of the era. Its quality and distinctive character, and the wines produced from these same vines in 1960 and '61, convinced the partners to re-bond the winery in time for the 1962 vintage. Dave Bennion left his role at S.R.I. to oversee winemaking duties full time.
The first zinfandel was made in 1964, from a small nineteenth-century vineyard farther down the ridge. This was followed in 1966 by the first Geyserville zinfandel. The founding families reclaimed the Monte Bello terraces, increasing vineyard size from fifteen to forty-five acres. Working on weekends, they made wines of regional character and unprecedented intensity. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year, and in 1969, Paul Draper joined the partnership. A Stanford graduate in philosophy--recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile's coast range--he was a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward "hands off" approach pioneered at Ridge. Under his guidance the old Perrone winery (acquired the previous year) was restored, the finest vineyard lands leased or purchased, the consistent quality and international reputation of the wines established. Cabernet and Zinfandel account for most of the production; Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, and Petite Sirah constitute a small percentage. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made limited amounts of chardonnay since 1962.
Lytton Springs, in Sonoma County, became part of the Ridge estate in 1991. A quarter century's experience with this vineyard had convinced us that it was an exceptional piece of ground. Forty consecutive vintages of Geyserville attest to yet another stunning combination of location and varietals. Though born in the early sixties to the post-Prohibition world of modern California winemaking, Ridge relies on nature and tradition rather than technology. Our pre-industrial approach is straightforward: find intense, flavorful grapes; intrude upon the process only when necessary; draw the fruit's distinctive character and richness into the wine.