Log In / Join Now

what we're drinking now

Senior editor James Laube, Wine Spectator's expert on the wines of California, joined the magazine in 1983.
James Laube

Catching a Monte Bello Cabernet at Its Peak

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains 1997

James Laube
Posted: April 29, 2010

You always hate to catch wines you thought were great in off-night performances. For me, that’s happened a couple times with the 1997 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet. I loved it early on, bought a case, have tried it many times and still have three bottles left. However, in two past tastings, it seemed tired. (In those tastings, the wines were sent from Ridge, so I wonder if shipping or storage were the problem.) But not this time around.

This time it tasted the way it should, a classic knockoff of a great Bordeaux—sleek, elegant, intense and vibrant, with a mix of cedar, cigar box, tobacco and dried currant, ending with touches of herb and anise. Monte Bello is one of the coolest-climate Cabernet sites in California that is able to produce wines this profound. I like Monte Bello in the riper years such as 1997. In cooler vintages, the wines is tight, herbal and tannic.

I’m happy I still have three bottles left. The flavors still have plenty of vibrancy and vitality, so there’s no rush to finish it off. 92 points, non-blind, close to its original blind-tasting rating when released in 2000.

WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains 1997 (93, $120 on release).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Cabernets.

Herb Fillyaw
Tallahassee, Florida —  May 12, 2010 9:29pm ET
Just had a 1988 that has been in the same wine shop since release. It was a revelation, not fresh exactly but everything I could have wanted. Ridge Monte Bello has to be one of the best cabernets ever. Now if I can just bring myself to open the 1998 in the cellar.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 300,000+ ratings.