Ridge's 1996 Monte Bello is an absolute stunner. The bouquet evokes a top Left Bank Bordeaux in a great vintage. Not surprisingly, the Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1996 is very high at 80%. Every bit as compelling on the palate, the 1996 simply exudes class. I am not sure words alone can capture just how vivid the wine is at twenty years of age. Graphite, smoke, tobacco, licorice and a core of dark fruit unfold on the palate as the 1996 shows off its pedigree. Readers lucky enough to own it can look forward to another two decades plus of exceptional drinking. The 1996 is an uber-classic, Médoc-leaning Monte Bello. What a wine! (AG)
The most aromatically exotic vintage of the decade, the 1996 Monte Bello is superb, bursting from the glass with an extravagant bouquet of cassis, cigar box, rich soil, roasted meats and decadent oriental spices. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, richly tannic and very intense, with a deep and tight-knit core and a bright line of acidity, concluding with a long, youthful finish. The 1996 vintage saw rain during flowering—which reduced yields at this address to less than one ton per acre—followed by a warm summer. The result is a super concentrated Monte Bello that hasn't even reached its plateau of maturity yet. Choosing between this and the formidable 1995 will always be a challenge, but I suspect the 1996 has the greater upside. The blend consists of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 9% Petit Verdot, attaining 13.2% alcohol. (WK) 96+
Good full bright ruby. Wild, superripe aromas of cassis, plum, cocoa, soy sauce, leather, roasted game and plum sauce, all lifted by a floral note. Lush, thick and dense, but the currant, black cherry and menthol flavors are still austere. The slight green note repeats on the long finish, which features faintly gritty tannins. In an awkward stage today, but has all the elements to make a superb bottle. (ST) 92+
Still very dark crimson - looks much younger than 20 years old. Very rich, ripe nose - sweet and exotic - with a strong blackcurrant pastille and some balsam quality. Then on the palate there is amazing youthfulness and freshness. Heady, meaty, dense and with a long life ahead. 18/20 points. (JR)
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