2019 Ridge Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains.
The 2019 Ridge Estate Cab starts with loads of fruit, still youthful and plump at this point, but as with all Ridge wines you can see its huge potential and underlying structure, these are some of the best wines California has to offer, especially this one, which is considered to be their “baby” Monte Bello, which everyone knows is one of the greatest Bordeaux style wines. Paul Draper’s Cabernet efforts are of course legendary wines, and this one looks to continue very much in that vein, even in a cooler vintage this wine is exceptional and expressive, while retaining class and has good vitality. Even though you’d be best served by cellaring this wine for a decade or more there is a lot of pleasure to be had here, starting with that rich fruit note, dark acacia flower, mineral and hints of black olives and smoky toast which leads to a full bodied palate, which is black fruited with crushed blackberry, currants and plum, along with grilled herbs, anise, coco powder, cedar spice, subtle tobacco leaf and lingering creme de cassis, vanilla and kirsch on the finish. If this estate Monte Bello vineyard Cabernet is this good, I can only imagine how good the top Monte Bello is, obviously it will be a masterpiece, such is my confidence in Ridge’s team led by head winemaker John Olney, who now has the youthful talents of Trester “Trey” Goetting, who came Ridge recently after making wines at Biale, Krupp Brothers (Stagecoach) and Ladera on Howell Mountain. The vines at Monte Bello are grown sustainably with organic farming to preserve the soils and make the very best terroir driven wines asa possible and this commitment has paid off in the wines, as this wine shows in the glass. Monte Bello sits 15 miles inland from the cool Pacific Ocean located high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, with warm exposure and set, what the winery says are decomposing limestone and Franciscan (California shales) rock based soils that give small yields of top notch grapes, concentrated in flavor and delivering depth and complexity. The Monte Bello estate has a full set of Bordeaux varietals planted, though maybe not Malbec as much, but with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot playing the leading roles here with each of the Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot getting their own bottlings in certain years.

The Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, which I don’t think I’ve drank a bottle of sadly since the 2009 vintage, even though I’ve tried a few since, is a real treat, comes from select lots and block on the Monte Bello Estate vineyard, with this 2019 vintage being comprised of 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot and coming at a graceful, but nicely ripe 13.8% natural alcohol. The Merlot really rounds out the wine as a whole in this deep purple garnet wine giving it a more refined nature and helping hide the raw tannins that are hiding nicely here. This Cabernet was put together with hand picked and carefully sorted clusters, with 100% de-stemming and fermented naturally with the use of whole berries, which lasted 9 days before pressing and getting barreled down into 100% long air dried American oak with about 60% new being employed here. In barrel the wine finishes malolactic fermentation, again with only the natural occurrence of (Malo) bacteria with ten weeks of lees contact, before a gentle racking, the wine is lightly fined with egg whites and then the Cab saw an elevage of 16 months in the wood before bottling. Ridge is very open about every aspect of the winemaking and they tried to employ minimal intervention during the process and uses only a small dose of sulfur, with a tiny amount at crush and then a little during the maturing process in barrel. It was back In 1962, that Paul Draper and Ridge Vineyards made its first Monte Bello and by the 1970s it was it was highly coveted stuff that rivaled the best in the world and on par with the First Growths, very much in fact, with many vintages reminding me of Chateau Margaux and or Haut-Brian! Not too long ago I got a chance to taste a 1978 and it was glorious and very much alive and kicking, so the future looks good here, as this wine continues that legacy! Ridge never sits on its laurels and is always adding new wines and vineyard sites, they’ve even been experimenting with Pinot Noir and Old Vine Grenache, which are intriguing, and of course they hand craft an amazing set of Zinfandel based wines, mostly from Sonoma County, with their Lytton Springs being one of my all time favorites, so it is a great time to explore the Ridge collection. It was so nice to reminded how good this Cabernet Sauvignon is, and while I almost always get a selection of Ridge wines every year, sometimes I miss their Cabernet, which I regret!
($59 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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