1996 Ridge Vineyards "Monte Bello" Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
The 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 9% Petit Verdot that reached 13.4% alcohol) represents a severe selection of only 40% of the vineyard's crop. A blockbuster, powerful, concentrated Monte Bello, it possesses an opaque purple color, plenty of spicy oak in the nose (100% American oak has always been used for aging Monte Bello), and a deep, layered, concentrated style. There is plenty of tannin, but it is sweeter than that found in the 1997, and the wine is more concentrated and extracted. There is a touch of oak in the flavors, which are otherwise dominated by minerals and jammy black fruits. This is a terrific Monte Bello that will have 30+ years of life. (RP)
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar
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.
Fragrant, intense and complex, with some toasty, smoky evolution. Lovely freshness and length. Wonderful stuff.
And 92 points, Wine Advocate's Neal Martin: "A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 9% Petit Verdot, this has a more introverted bouquet with the Cabernet lending it a slightly subdued cedar and mint character. Good definition, a touch of pine cones. Very Bordeaux-like. The palate is medium-bodied with superb balanced, very fresh although it is very linear, very 'correct' in a similar way as a fine Pauillac. A very 'correct' Monte Bello although lacking a little exuberance at the moment. Drink 2010-2025. Tasted June 2009." (Wine Journal, 11/2009)