During my recent visit with Chris, I was lucky enough to taste several vintages of Monte Bello, Ridge’s flagship Cabernet blend. Not a single bottling was less than excellent, and I found exciting transparency as to vintage conditions across years.
This particular bottle was tasted in a lineup that included Grosset Gaia, Penfolds Bin 707, wines from Cayuse, Clonakilla and more. In other words, some stiff competition. It jumped out at me immediately, though, as the most appealing wine in the moment, and I couldn’t get enough of its power and layers of flavour.
Some wines leap lithely into the mouth, placing flavour delicately and with finesse. This isn’t one of those wines. New World Cabernet this most definitely is, and joyously so. This has presence in the mouth, real impact and body, but it’s only mid-weight, and its charisma instead comes from density of flavour combined with a cascade of notes that land on top of each other, both sweet and savoury, meshing and building down the line.
Texture weaves in and out of these flavours and is an integral experience of the wine; I wouldn’t say it’s forbiddingly tannic, but there’s a firm framework of acid and gloriously luxurious tannin within which this wine’s components rest. All in balance and certainly with a few years ahead of it yet. More than any one thing, though, this wine just begged to be tasted again and again when the other wines in the lineup had said all they had to say.
Is it a matter of absolute quality? No more than in art or friendship.