This was a fabulous evening at Restaurant Perbacco, located in San Francisco, that was hosted by the incredibly gracious collector, Steve Wolking. Steve provided all the wines from his cellar, and the theme was Ridge Monte Bello, with vintages spanning 1976 to 1962.

Perbacco specializes in the cuisine of Piemonte and put on an incredible spread, with chef Chef/Owner Staffan Terje delivering sensational pairings for all the wines. The service was also impeccable throughout the evening, and we went through the wines over seven course. There were no duds, but some of the standouts were the Poached Lobster and Scallops, Herb Crusted Squab (which is hard to find in the US), and the Ribeye, which was to die for. If you’re in San Francisco, Perbacco comes highly recommended.

As to the wines, a magnum of 1990 Salon kicked the evening off beautifully, and certainly was the highlight white of the night, as the three Chardonnays were largely over the hill and oxidized.

The 1970 Chardonnay was the freshest of the three and offered fully mature notes of caramelized orchard fruits and hints of white truffle. It still had some life and bright acidity yet was moderately oxidized. Both the 1966 Chardonnay and the 1962 Chardonnay were largely dead and gone.

Moving to the reds for the evening, the 1976 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello was a rock star and offered a Pauillac-like bouquet of black currants, lead pencil shavings, and tobacco leaf, as well as a huge amount of cedar and spice. It was fully mature, all finesse and elegance, and a joy to drink.

The 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello was bigger and richer, with a more California vibe in its black currants, licorice, and spice-drive aromas and flavors. Unfortunately, it developed a subtle corky/off note with time in the glass yet it still offered ample fruit and texture.

The star of the show was the 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello, and it had plenty of similarities to the 1976 yet in a deeper, richer, more powerful style. Lead pencil, forest floor, high-class cigar tobacco, and cedar box all came leaping from the glass and it gained depth and richness with additional air time. It’s a brilliant, magical wine from this estate that while fully mature, is going to continue drinking nicely for another 15-20 years.

More mature yet also classic in every sense, the 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello offered a sweet nose as well as a medium-bodied, silky, lightly textured style on the palate. It’s best drunk up but certainly a beautiful wine.

The 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello was as classic Santa Cruz Mountains as it gets and offered a fully mature, Bordeaux-like bouquet of cedarwood, truffle, spice-cabinet, and mature dark fruits. As with all of these Cabernets, it was fully mature, but this is a great vintage for readers looking for a classic, incredibly high-quality Monte Bello drinking at point.

Another gem is the 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello, and it offered a darker, chocolaty, black-fruited style as well as plenty of oomph and depth on the palate. As with all the Monte Bello releases, its spine of bright acidity kept things fresh and lively. It’s another terrific wine that’s fully mature and drinking at point yet has the class to continue evolving gracefully.

There were two non-vintage wines in the lineup, both including the 1966 which was a hot, ripe year. The NV Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 66/77 (a mix of the 1966 and 1977) unfortunately had some damp cardboard and corky notes yet still offered ample sweet fruit and texture on the palate. I think the bottle was slightly suspect, but it offered some charm. Slightly better and a blend of the 1966 and 1969, the NV Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 66/69 offered a big, ripe, heady bouquet of sweet fruit, tobacco, and cedar as well as plenty of sweet fruit on the palate. Playing in the medium-bodied end of the spectrum, with sweet fruit, it had some dry tannins on the finish which lead me to believe it’s best drunk up

The only Cabernet Sauvignon not from the Santa Cruz Mountains was the 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard, and it’s from a site east of Calistoga. It offered pure California style in its sweet kirsch and dark fruits, menthol, and flowery spice aromas and flavors. This brilliant wine had an alluring sweetness of fruit, medium body, and an evolve yet balanced character. It’s drinking great and a wine to curl up with over an evening.

The 1970 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello showed a fresher, pure, elegant style with impressive depth of fruit, medium to full body, beautiful balance, and a great perfume of black fruits, licorice, and graphite. It’s a gorgeous expression of Santa Cruz Mountains and is a complete, perfectly balanced, classic Monte Bello drinking at point.

More mature and I’d wager on a downward trajectory, the 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello had some dry tannins as well as Bordeaux-like notes of cedarwood and tobacco. It still had texture and depth on the palate, but it’s not getting better. Unfortunately, the 1967 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello was completely corked.

One of the bigger, richer wines in the lineup (which is why it was probably held back and blended with the lighter 1969 and 1977 vintages) was the 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello, and it had some obvious volatile acidity yet makes up for it with its richness, power, and texture. It’s a big, fully mature, opulent Cabernet Sauvignon that stood out in the lineup of more classically styled wine. I liked it quite a bit, probably due to its beautiful texture and sweetness.

Lastly, the 1962 Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello was another elegant, regal, fully mature beauty. Mature red and black currant-like fruits, old cabinet, forest floor, and spice all emerged from the glass and it’s evolved, medium-bodied, and certainly on a downward trajectory, yet still drinking nicely.

We finished the evening with a dessert wine from the Loire and the 1945 Coteaux du Layon from Moulin Touchais showed beautifully, with a medium gold color and a honeyed, caramelized, earthy nose that carries plenty of sweetness as well as an alluring, truffle-infused, forest floor character. It had plenty of fruit and a great texture, and was a fabulous way to wrap up a killer evening.

By Jeb Dunnuck
Founder & Wine Critic
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