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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.

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