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The September 2022 Auction: Part 4

Auction # 729 | View Auction Schedule and Details
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Auction Ends: 9/22/2022 6:00:00 PM PDT

Lot #1231. Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1997

Description: Consists of 1 Bottle, 0.75L
Score: 94+ ST.
"Full deep ruby to the rim. Superripe aromas remain just this side of surmaturite: black plum, black cherry, roast coffee, dark chocolate, menthol. (I might have picked this blind as ripe-year St. Julien.) Great lushness and depth on the palate; pliant, seamless and thoroughly ripe, but with strong supporting structure under the seductive flesh. Finishes with noble, broad tannins and great freshness; mint and licorice notes contribute to the impression of grip and snap. The crop level was 2.5 tons per acre, which Draper says was the highest ever at this estate, and the alcohol is 12.9%, on the high side for Monte Bello. Another outstanding vintage for this wine. Ridge Vineyards' Monte Bello bottling has been one of California elite collectibles virtually since Paul Draper came on board as winemaker in 1969. Today, more than ever before, Ridge is strikingly different from the cabernet-based wines of Napa Valley, which routinely carry alcohol levels of 14% or more in decent vintages. In recent years, Monte Bello has become more accessible in its youth, but not through sheer ripeness or power: it remains a subtle, more European-style red, typically featuring a claret-like 12.5% alcohol.x000D x000D x000D x000D x000D The oldest vines on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains date back to the 1940s; extensive additional planting took place in the mid-'60s. (The first year these "younger" vines went into the Monte Bello was 1982.) The multiple vineyard parcels that can go into the Monte Bello blend lie mostly at an altitude of between 2,000 and 2,600 feet. The crop level is extremely low, typically in the 1.5 tons per acre range and rarely higher than 2. The growing season begins and ends about a month later than in Napa Valley. "We never need to acidify here," notes Draper. "On the contrary, the challenge is to wait until the grapes have burned off their green flavors."x000D x000D x000D x000D x000D In most vintages, Monte Bello includes 70% to 85% cabernet sauvignon, with the rest of the blend accounted for by merlot, petit verdot, and, in recent years, cabernet franc. Dozens of small parcels are harvested and vinified separately, then go into new barrels after the malolactic fermentation. Draper uses mostly new American oak from multiple coopers; since the early '70s he has also used a small percentage of new French oak. A first selection is made in February, and the assemblage is usually completed by April or May; typically, 30% to 50% of the estate's fruit is held out of the final blend.x000D x000D x000D x000D I tasted Monte Bello vintages back to 1984 with Draper in Ridge's mountaintop dining room on a wintry afternoon in early March, during which a cold rain briefly changed to snow. Draper chose '84 as a starting point because this vintage marked the beginning of a shift toward what he describes as "more sensous" wines vinified to show better early fruit and balance. Ridge purchased an Amos crusher/destemmer in 1988; Draper set the motor at half speed and opened the rollers wide, allowing about 40% of the berries to go into the tank uncrushed. Thus he was in a position to do a longer maceration without fear of extracting excessive seed tannins." Stephen Tanzer, Vinous.com, Sep 2000
Provenance: The Champignon Cellar
Lot Location: Orange County
Estimate: $300

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