Ridge grows one of the most distinctive Cabernets in California at its Monte Bello estate. This vintage represents a selection of 38 percent of the crop, which itself had been naturally restricted by lower than average rainfall, particularly in winter. Ridge doesn't irrigate these vines-nor do they inoculate the juice to start fermentation, which yielded a modest 13.2 percent alcohol in 2004. The fractured limestone in the soil provided just enough moisture to grow this elegant cabernet, with flavors of wild black cherries and black currants. It feels balanced and firm, dense while weightless, a beauty that will mature for two decades from the vintage, perhaps longer.
(76% cabernet sauvignon, 13% merlot, 8% petit verdot and 3% cabernet franc) Ruby-red. Smoky cherry and cassis aromas are complicated by wilted rose, cured meat, licorice and sexy oak spices. Lush and creamy in texture, offering well-delineated red- and blackcurrant flavors, good dusty tannic grip, and a sweet, expansive finish. Impressively deep and chewy, but good mineral lift keeps everything in check. (JR)
Readers looking for a Monte Bello that is ready to drink should consider the 2004. Just beginning to enter its early plateau of maturity, the 2004 is in a beautiful spot right now. Sweet tobacco, smoke, cedar, licorice and leather meld into a core of dark fruit. The 2004 won't last forever, but it does have enough depth to age beautifully for the another decade, perhaps more. A distinctly floral/savory finish rounds things out nicely. (AG)
The 2004 Monte Bello opens in the glass with classic aromas of cigar box, spice and crushed red and black currant fruit, revealing little obvious trace of its time in new oak. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied but still quite tightly wound, with a firm chassis of fine-grained tannins and a bright line of acidity that seem to demand further cellaring. I suspect it's in a somewhat withdrawn phase between youth and maturity. That said, the 2004 isn't as structured as another backward vintage, the 2006, nor do I believe it possesses as much potential for positive evolution. It's a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. (WK) 92+
Particularly dark and dense - strongly marked by Cabernet aromas yet very graceful tannins as well as being so ambitious. Very virile. 19/20 points (JR)
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