Wines I Love: Ridge Vineyards

I’ve loved Ridge wines for a long, long time. It started out of my initial fondness for Zinfandel and fruit-heavy wines, and even though my palate has changed (I still love Zins but Pinot Noir is my favorite varietal), I’ve continued to be impressed with almost every wine they produce. Larry and I have belonged to their ATP wine club for many years, and when they started the Monte Bello collectors club we joined that too. We’ve got a lot of Ridge wines in our basement.

I was delighted to be invited to a blogger tasting up at the Monte Bello winery last week. And even more delighted when the theme was revealed – a blind tasting of eleven Monte Bellos. Oh my! The tasting was held in their gorgeous new private tasting space above the tasting room. Our host Christopher was welcoming and gracious and everyone had a great time.

We started out with a nice 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay. Crisp, not too much oak, and some pear – a Chardonnay I actually liked. A gorgeous selection of cheeses was provided: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (my favorite), Central Coast Seascape, Laura Chenel Melodie (funky!) and Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper (my second favorite, creamy and a little stinky).

We tasted all the wines blind, not vertically ordered by year. Our task was to guess the order from oldest to youngest. I did okay – I got most of them generally in the right place. I liked every wine – Monte Bello is really terrific and worth purchasing if you can get your hands on it (especially the 2010). And all of these wines (except for the 2010) are available at Ridge as part of their library collection. There were definitely a couple of surprises in there, but one thought kept going through my head as I tasted – I wish I had a great steak to go with this wine! Our host Christopher has a wrap-up as well on the Ridge Blog.

Now, for the wines – here’s what I wrote down as I was tasting (although I didn’t know the vintages until the end):

  • 1995 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Juicy, balanced, still has lots of tannins. Dramatic and delicious (my guess was that it was the 2005, but I was obviously off by 10 years).
  • 2000 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Less balanced than the 1995, but still has some elegance. I thought it was younger than the 1995, so at least I was on the right track. More tannins than the previous two (this was the wine that showed so well in the Young Cabernet portion of the Judgement of Paris re-enactment).
  • 1999 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Ruby red, a little earthy, and lots of tannins. I like this wine.
  • 1977 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Definitely older than any of the previous wines. Brown color, and some sediment. Good, but definitely old.
  • 1994 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Really funky nose. Still lots of color but tastes old. We had a re-pour of this bottle, which had less of a funk on the nose. Still seemed like an older wine but better than the first pour. I’m confused because it looks young but tastes old. Is it the 1986?
  • 1978 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Soft. Brown with some sediment. I’m guessing old, early ’80s or late ’70s. It’s still got some fruit. I like this wine.
  • 1990 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Tastes… green, a little hot. Young, red color. But there’s sediment. So I’m confused again.
  • 1985 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Mid-range in the lineup, age-wise. A little brown, and gets better as it opens up.
  • 1981 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Brown. Older, but good. Plummy, nice finish.
  • 2010 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, Barrel Sample: Super young, purple (lots of petite verdot?). Inky and juicy. Now I think this might be the 2005. Whatever it is, it’s fantastic and I want to drink more.
  • 2006 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello: Also young and delicious. It’s a fruit bomb. Less elegant than the previous wine, but still one of my top favorites.

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