Friday - Ridge, Santa Cruz Mountains

Tour, tasting & lunch

One word: wow.

I was literally swept off my feet here.

We were given a very detailed and inspiring tour and tasting with Eric Baugher, vice president of winemaking, who began his journey with Ridge in 1996.

Ridge is an amazing winery located at the very peak of the Santa Cruz mountains. An estate comprising 39 hectares of vines planted on fractured limestone. The vines were planted back in 1892 by an Italian family, as they believed that great wines came from mountainous locations. An acre of land here now would set you back around $1 million dollars – this is around twice as much as an acre would cost in Napa Valley!

The grapes here are organically farmed as the fog is lower down the mountain and therefore the grapes are less susceptible to diseases. All of the wines are made from estate grown fruit and by hand. In fact, the tanks are checked 5 times a day, every day!

The estate began commercially producing wine is 1962, with current winemaker Paul Draper starting in 1965. The estate was then bought in 1986, by Otsuka, a Japanese gentleman, purely as a piece of art!

The wines are built around a Bordeaux style. 35,000 cases produced annually of 22 different wines. The winery may be off the beaten track (and up a fairly scary windy narrow mountain track) but apparently it’s busier than any Napa Valley winery at the weekend!

The flagship wine is ‘Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon’ – a wine generally released in September and sold out En Primeur by October. A very tight allocation wine, which we were fortunate enough to taste from barrel;


Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 2011 (French Oak)
Monte Bello absorbs new oak brilliantly because the quality of the fruit is excellent. The barrels used are the best money can buy. A real wow nose of coffee, toast, espresso, mocha, steel and vanilla. A very concentrated wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 2011 (American Oak)
From barrels made especially for Ridge under medium toast (which rounds the wine). Intense ‘Halloween’ purple in colour (see snap). Sweeter style aromas of crème brulee, caramelised sugar and baked dessert. Mid palate richness.

We then enjoyed a casual lunch in the most beautiful spot (again see snap) where we tasted the following wines;

Zinfandel Geyserville 2010
Single vineyard. Perfumed with bright cherry fruit. Elegant, rounded tannins with a pretty blast of berries on the finish. Not a muscular monster, it’s more restrained in style - there’s clearly a different philosophy here with Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Lutton Springs 2010
Single vineyard. Although these two Zinfandels are only 1.5 miles apart there is quite a distinct difference between the two – this has higher acidity. Personally I prefer the Geyserville as I think it’s a prettier wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 2009
The new release vintage. A wine determined by vintage and not man. It would be difficult not to drink this now as 2009 was a great vintage, but this has years and years in it!

Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 1995
What a treat! Eric thought that this wine was just hitting the beautiful period of its life. It’s so Bordeaux in style – taste it blind and you would never know!

I think it’s easy to see why Ridge were one of my highlight winery visits of the week. They know exactly which direction they’re taking and they are doing it so very well! Thank you to Eric for giving us his time and being such a passionate host.
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Posted on 05/07/2012
by Danielle
in categories:
California 2012,


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