72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. In most California vineyards, yields were cut by a cold, rainy spring. At Monte Bello, where it was colder still, flowering and set were put on hold. When summer finally came, the clement weather allowed a perfect set. Even after severe thinning, yields were two and a half tons per acre, equalling 1997's record. We harvested the separate parcels from the end of October through mid-November, as they ripened. In this vintage, fermentations destined for in-barrel malolactic were started with selected yeast; the rest - including all malolactics - were natural. 93% of the wine was racked to air-dried American oak and - as part of our ongoing comparison - 7% to the best French oak. In February, we chose 23 of the 36 parcels for the Monte Bello.
Fragrant, perfumed, fresh and cedary, still so fragrant and youthful on the nose. More Bordeaux-like than the other two vintages tasted. Rich, deep and so complex but without loss of freshness. Again some minerality and cedary damson sweetness of fruit still there. Long and remarkably fresh. Holds your attention. (JH)