Ridge Vineyards is one the most enduring producers from the early days of the California wine industry. The historic Monte Bello vineyard, perched high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, was originally planted in the 1880’s by the Italian-born doctor Osea Perrone. Like many other historic estates, the Monte Bello property fell into disrepair during Prohibition. With the purchase of the land by four Stanford engineers in 1959 new life came back to this historic site. Only a few years later, the arrival of winemaker Paul Draper in 1969 heralded the true start of modern fame for Ridge Vineyards.
Under Draper, Ridge Vineyards gained notoriety for their Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend “Monte Bello”, especially after the 1971 vintage earned fifth place in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Drawing on plantings from the 1940’s and aged in predominantly American oak, this wine balances bright fruit with fine-grained tannin in a style most would associate with the Old World.
The Monte Bello is probably the wine most people associate with Ridge Vineyards because of its subtlety and grace, not to mention its aging potential, but Ridge Vineyards was also one of the early champions of single-vineyard old-vine Zinfandel. Ridge’s Pagani Ranch and Lytton Springs have helped dispel many of the doubts the broader wine community had about making serious wine from Zinfandel. Ridge’s Zinfandels not only show incredible complexity but also the structure and concentration to age beautifully.
Ridge Vineyards is now owned by a Japanese parent company, but they appear to have only helped the winery thrive and grow in organic ways. Investment in new buildings and selective replanting have reinforced the quality of the wines. Ridge is expanding its estate holdings, looking to new varieties as they continue to explore what the Santa Cruz Mountains have to say.