By Chris Gill
I was remiss not to include Ridge Monte Bello in my recent list of California alternatives to 2010 Bordeaux, as Monte Bello is a Bordeaux-style blend that can stand up to France’s best. But don’t just take my word for it—Ridge Monte Bello came in fifth place at the legendary 1976 “Judgment of Paris” tasting of French and California wines, and the 1971 and 2000 vintages took first place honors in the vintage and new wine categories at the “Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary Wine Tasting” event in 2006.
Ridge Monte Bello wines are consistently compelling, but the 2001 vintage, which is also the wine’s 40th anniversary vintage, is among the best of Ridge’s best in recent years. Made from 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot, the 2001 vintage has a much lower percentage of Cabernet than Monte Bello’s usual 70 to 80 percent range. As a result, it is a fascinatingly complex wine that changes in the glass from sip to sip and delivers a tantalizing progression of black fruit, red fruit, licorice, mint, dark chocolate, tobacco, and vanilla flavors after a few hours of decanting.
Although most drinkers would be tempted to pair this powerhouse with a simply prepared grilled prime porterhouse or ribeye steak, I think it’s better to pair it with a mild cheese like gruyere, gouda, or brie to mellow the tannins but still allow all the subtle nuances to emerge and caress the taste buds. The flavors are so fascinating on their own that it seems like a waste to force them to compete with anything much stronger.
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