In this episode, Jeff tries a few sample cans of coffee wine…
What was the last 78-point wine that you were impressed with? Leave a comment, and let us know.
In this episode, Jeff tries a few sample cans of coffee wine…
What was the last 78-point wine that you were impressed with? Leave a comment, and let us know.
You know I love me some Ridge Vineyards.
In 2011, Kara and I became members of their Monte Bello Collector program.
Along with being able to purchase their epic Monte Bello Bordeaux blend at a deep discount, as members, Kara and I get to go to some pretty awesome events. Saturday, we went to the First Assemblage and Component Tasting at their Monte Bello estate in Cupertino. It’s a chance for prospective Monte Bello buyers to taste the individual varietal components of the blend, as well as a sneak peek at the 2012 vintage before it gets bottled up.
Here’s how it all went down…
Onto the components of the Ridge 2012 Monte Bello…
While sipping on this killer Merlot, we took some time to check out the food…
After tasting the components, I was excited to be among the first civilians to taste the primary assemblage of the 2012 Monte Bello.
The Component Tasting is also the first chance for the public to taste the 2010 Monte Bello. If you bought futures for this wine in 2011 (like we did), this is also an opportunity to pick up your wine.
Back in the tasting room, Ridge had more treats for us…
What a great event.
I even brought some gold back from the mountain…
What’s your favorite wine event? Have you ever purchased wine on futures? Leave a comment, and tell us what you think.
Find wine and wine-related products on Amazon.
Since becoming members at Ridge Vineyards, one event that Kara and I really like taking advantage of is First Friday at Monte Bello. On the first Friday of each month, they present a members-only tasting that usually highlights a new release.
The Friday before last, Kara and I headed up the mountain in Cupertino to taste a 3 vintage vertical of Carmichael Ranch Zinfandel. Let’s take a look at how this Alexander Valley fruit has changed over the last couple of years…
And that was First Friday.
It won’t be the last.
When I first started this blog in the Summer of 2011, I wrestled quite a bit with the idea of whether or not I would post scores in my wine reviews.
I mean… On the real…
The whole idea of quantifying something as subjective as one’s perception of a wine’s quality is straight up whack, son.
I do score my wines.
It’s an easy way for me to remember how I felt about the wines I have tasted.
It’s also fun to compare my scores with those of other folks who have tasted the same wines.
I’m not the only blogger who’s struggled with the idea of scoring wines.
This past Sunday, I got together with a bunch of bloggers at Ridge Vineyards’ Monte Bello Tasting Room to tackle the very topic of wine scores.
This is how it all went down at the most recent installment of the Ridge Vineyards Wine Blogger Tasting:
As I approached my seat in the back of the barn, this was the view of the table set before me…
You should know that there is always a theme to these tastings… Always.
You should also know that Blogger/Host extraordinaire, Christopher Watkins, always keeps the theme a secret… Always.
That being said, based on my quick observations, it was easy to infer that we were gonna be going blind today. If you’ve seen any of my blind tasting videos, you know that I was gonna have to work hard on this fine Sunday afternoon.
I had to fill my plate.
While snacking on some of the tasty bites, my eyes went back to the wines on my table.
Christopher proceeded to break down the theme to this Blogger Tasting… “Scores”.
The five wines presented to us had all been recently scored by well-known and respected wine critics. The difference between the top-scoring and lowest scoring wines is ten points on the 100-point scale. Our task was to taste each of the five wines, and rank them from our most favorite to least favorite. Christopher would then compile our scores, and crunch the numbers to get some (hopefully) meaningful data.
His hypothesis: While the scoring rubric (on a 100-point scale) may vary from one critic to the next (due to the subjectivity of taste), there must be similar valuations of wine beyond the subjectivity of a point score. So, if several bloggers are charged with ranking wines from best to worst, they should end up ranking them in the same order.
From left to right, here are my tasting notes…
Color: Dark ruby-red.
Nose: Good fruit of raspberry and cranberry. It’s got a candy-type nose of rainbow sherbert. There’s also a hint of walnuts.
Taste: Bright red fruit with some funky Earth and orange zest.
Color: Darker than wine A. Ruby red to purple.
Nose: Subtle dark plum and tires with a hint of cinnamon spice.
Taste: Plums and red fruit. There’s a lively acidity to this. It’s complimented by cranberries, clove spice, and a touch of orange.
Color: Dark ruby-red with some pink shimmers in it.
Nose: Chalky blueberry and plum with hints of cocoa powder.
Taste: This wine has a BIG palate of ripe red fruit, pepper, and spice.
Color: One of the lighter wines of the bunch. You can see your fingers through the burgundy red color.
Nose: Very subtle. Good chalky notes, but that’s about it.
Taste: Again, a very subtle wine. Cranberries and raspberries compliment the good acidity to this one.
Color: Similar to that of D. Light burgundy.
Nose: Lots of bloggers at the table were talking about the nose on this while I was still working on wine A. The nose is that of pine trees, raspberry, and something that was so familiar it drove me crazy that I couldn’t recall what it was. I’m looking forward to reading the notes from the other bloggers about this one. Super different and interesting.
Taste: Off the bat, this wine tastes like a high alcohol Zinfandel. It’s got candied fruit roll-up, leather, cranberries, and grapefruit. Totally funky. Totally fun.
As far as the wines go, they were all outstanding… And I’ve got the empty glasses to prove it…
My point spread was not anywhere close to as large as that of the critics in question. My favorite wine of the day came in at a 92+, and my least favorite was a 90+.
Here’s how I ranked them in order from favorite to least favorite (along with my guess as to what wines they were)…
After sharing our rankings, Christopher gave us each a taste of the 1995 Monte Bello while he crunched the numbers. It was a fantastic wine with a good cloudy red color. The funky good nose gave way to delicious blueberry and plum fruit and spice. A tasty 92+ in my book.
Next, was the reveal…
As it turns out, all of the wines were recently reviewed by Antonio Galloni. I have them listed them in the order in which I liked them. Galloni’s scores will be found in parentheses.
Wine B: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon (94)
Wine A: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Estate Merlot (90)
Wine D: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc (92)
Wine E: Ridge Vineyards 2010 Geyserville (88)
Wine C: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Monte Bello (98)
Now… Here’s what’s crazy…
Galloni gave the Monte Bello a 98. I liked it, but ranked it dead last… and I wasn’t the only one. I’m looking forward to seeing Christopher publish his data, but I recall him saying that 7 of us ranked wine C our least favorite. He also revealed that 7 of us ranked wine B as our favorite.
So, here is where the idea of scoring gets a little crazy…
Galloni did not taste these wines blind. When it came to the Monte Bello, he knew that he was tasting a wine that was tasting a $150 from a legendary estate. He knew that he was tasting a wine that was meant to be laid down for 20+ years.
Is it a 98 today? No way.
Could it become one? Check back with me in 20 years.
When it came to the Geyserville, Galloni knew the history of that vineyard. He has tasted several vintages of the wine.
Is the 2010 as good as other recent Geyservilles? Probably not.
Is it better than most wines that I would rank an 88? Definitely.
The reality is that scores will always be subjective.
Scores will always rely on the context in which the wine is served.
There will always be external variables that play a role in our perception of wine.
At the end of the day, scores are what people want to see.
Scores are what people want to compare.
Scores are what people want to debate.
It is because of this that I will continue to provide scores in my reviews.
PS – Since this tasting was done on a Sunday afternoon, I missed the end of the 49er game. Could somebody tell me the score?
Guess where I was this past Saturday…
Kara and I went to Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello (2600 feet above Cupertino) for the 2011 Monte Bello Final Assemblage Event. This is the last chance to get a barrel sample of the 2011 juice before it’s bottled up.
So let’s quit with the yappin’, and get our taste on.
I was very stoked to find out that before we got to taste those iconic Bordeaux blends, we would be given a vertical of Monte Bello Chardonnays. Check it!
After the Chards, it was time to check in on the reds…
From the barn to the tasting room, the hits just kept on a-comin’…
Oh, Ridge Vineyards…
Why are you so good to me?
Saturday was a good day…
A REALLY good day.
This last Saturday, Kara and I woke up bright and early to head over to Ridge Monte Bello in Cupertino for their 2011 Monte Bello Component Tasting (Our first as members of the Monte Bello Collector Club).
Now, all of these Ridge events are sick, but the Component Tasting has to be the most sickest.
When we arrived at the Monte Bello tasting room at 11:30am, there were already folks lined up to get their taste on.
While tasting the Chardonnay, Kara and I took a moment to look over the tasting menu.
The idea of the Component Tasting is to sample the four different varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot) to get a good sense of how the different parts of the 2011 Monte Bello will come together to make one of the consistently epic Bordeaux blends of California (and the world). There is also a barrel sample of the first assemblage of the 2011 Monte Bello (to be released in 2014), as well as the recently released 2009 Monte Bello, the 2006 Monte Bello (from the library), and some other surprises.
One look at that menu, and I was stoked to the hella!
Kara and I took our glasses (and palates) to the barn to get our taste on!
The Petit Verdot is the only varietal that did not make it into the Monte Bello assemblage, but don’t get it twisted. This wine is a beast. The PV brings a beautiful pinkish purple color. On the nose, there’s a bunch of blackberry fruit, chocolate, and oak. The tannins on this wine dominate the palate, giving it a lovely grip. On the palate there’s a nice play between sour cherries and red bell peppers. I sure hope Ridge does something fun with this wine.
You know what I want to do?
I want to figure out how to make scented candles.
I want to make one that smells just like this Cabernet Franc.
On the nose, there is an immediate, undeniable scent of fresh ground espresso. The good stuff. You know what I’m talking about. Add in a touch of cocoa powder, raspberry, and orange zest.
On the palate, there’s a great acidity of cranberry and a touch of green bell pepper. It’s medium bodied with big tannins.
After that Cab Franc, I needed a little food break…
Back to the components…
There’s a great dense red color to this Merlot. The nose is loaded with blueberries. Behind the blueberry fruit are some nice herbaceous layers and tobacco leaf. On the palate, this is a juice monster of cranberry, cherry, and red apple. Very nice.
The backbone of Monte Bello, this Cabernet brings it from all angles. Dense reddish purple color. Chocolate, orange, and (yup) espresso on the nose. Firm tannins. Lively acidity. Beautiful cassis and cranberry fruit.
Before getting to the 2011 Monte Bello first assemblage, we went back in time to the 2009 Monte Bello…
Blackberry, blueberry, espresso, and a nice herbaceousness to the nose. There is some good cranberry fruit along with black tea and olives, rounded out with fine tannins.
Just released, the 2009 Monte Bello is very young. This is one to stash a way for a long time. I’d love to see how the flavor profile comes together in a few years.
Back to the future!
There’s a really neat process of blind tastings (with controls and everything) that goes into assembling the Monte Bello. I suggest you check out what Christopher Watkins (Tasting Room Manager and Assemblage Participant at Monte Bello) had to say about it in his blog. It’s hella interesting… That, and he’s a much better writer than I am.
As a result of the first assemblage, this 2011 Monte Bello Barrel Sample consists of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc. Of course, as the wine develops in the barrel, (winemakers) Paul Draper and Eric Baugher may decide to add in grapes from other blocks to round things out.
Color: Dark red.
Nose: Espresso (now I’m just obsessed with that scent), chocolate, and orange zest.
Taste: Cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and red currants are all present up front. There is a layer of red apple skin. There are some very nice fine tannins that smooth this wine out.
Another very young wine (considering my bottles don’t arrive until 2014), but I’m excited to see how this wine evolves over the next couple of decades. And that espresso thing is just driving me crazy.
I asked Eric Baugher about those espresso notes. I was wondering if that was representative of the vintage. His take was that it was more reflective of the wine’s youth. He says that those toasty espresso notes are primarily a result of the American oak barrels. As the wine ages, he would expect the espresso to mellow out and give way to the fruit.
Later, in talking to Christopher Watkins, he suggested that a lot of the Earthy notes (like the espresso) are going to marry well with the acidity. The expectation is that the fruit of this wine is really going to flesh out as the wine develops in the bottle.
I can’t wait until 2014…
This wine is gonna be F-ing rad!
Onto more tasting…
2009 Estate Merlot:
It’s been a while since Ridge has released a Merlot on its own. I’m glad they’re bringing it back. This bad boy is juicy. Tons of red apple with layers of tobacco leaf and black olive. The goods!
2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon:
I’ve always loved the Ridge Estate Cabs. Pound for pound, these wines are some of the best cabs for their price ($35). Dark red color. Sweet oak and plum on the nose. Bright raspberry and plum on the palate with chalky (you know I love chalk) tannins. The bomb!
This was my second time tasting the Klein Cab. The first time at the Ridge Blogger Tasting in December of last year (You can read my original notes here).
3 months later… I’m loving this wine more than I did originally.
Hella chalky. Cranberry. Plum. Elegant.
What a great way to close out the tasting.
The 2006 Monte Bello has just enough age on it to give that fleshy fruit that people love, but you know that it has the structure to keep developing for another decade or two (or three).
Great concentration of red fruit. Bright acidity. Earthy notes of black tea leaf.
The ’06 was my favorite wine of the day.
With some time to spare, Kara and I decided to go play in the vineyard…
The only thing that was left to do, was figure out how to get off of the mountain.
I’m just gonna say it.
Somebody has to.
It may as well be me.
Ridge Vineyards is the raddest winery in the history of all that is awesome.
A couple of months back, after visiting their Monte Bello tasting room in Cupertino, Kara and I decided to become members. The membership allows us free tasting, discounts on wine, and the ability to buy futures of their Monte Bello at a DEEP discount. One of the really neat things we’ve discovered since joining Ridge is how many cool members-only events we get to take part in. Recently we were able to go to two different events on back-to-back days.
Here’s the rundown…
July 1st: First Friday at Monte Bello
During the summer season, the Monte Bello tasting room will serve a special flight to club members on the first Friday of each month. Although Ridge is most known for their zinfandel and Bordeaux blends, for July, they offered a vertical tasting of chardonnay.
The tasting consisted of the 2003 and 2004 vintages of the Monte Bello Chardonnay, as well as the 2005 and 2006 vintages of the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Charonnay. The great part about this tasting was seeing just how well chardonnay can age. The two Monte Bellos were very much smooth and balanced. They both had really nice acidity. The 2005 Estate was a crowd-pleasing chardonnay with a beautiful creamy finish. The 06 Estate had this amazing smell of figs, but the taste did not live up to the nose. The winner of this throwdown was…
After the chardonnay vertical, I had a hankering for a zinfandel and a picnic. Now, if you’re talking zins, Ridge has ’em. Based on a recommendation, we got a bottle of this bad boy…
This zin had a nice spice and ripe fruit, without being too jammy. It was a great way to cap off the day…
Seeing this thing on the road on the way back was pretty cool too…
July 2nd: Zins, Blends & BBQ
For an early 4th of July celebration, the next day, Ridge offered barbecue paired with many of their fine wines. Here’s what we had…
After these pairings, there were three more wines for us to try in the main tasting room…
We were such fans of the Buchignani Carignane that we got another bottle to have with our picnic leftovers from the day before.
And there you have it!
4 barbecue dishes.
1 dope time.