The history of Ridge Vineyards can be traced back to 1885, when Osea Perrone, an Italian doctor, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. Because of the steep terrain, he had to terrace the slopes in order to plant vineyards, and in 1892 he produced his first vintage in the Monte Bello Winery. In 1940, a theologian by the name of William Short purchased the winery and vineyards, replanting several parcels in the middle vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon in the late 1940’s. These vines produced some of the estate’s best wines, recognized for their quality and distinctive character.
Shortly after, the new owners – Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen and Howard Ziedler – rebranded the winery and produced their first Zinfandel under the Ridge Vineyards name in 1964. The famed Geyserville Zinfandel produced its first vintage in 1966. By 1969 Paul Draper joined the partnership. This Stanford graduate in philosophy with an affinity for traditional wine making complemented nicely the estate’s straightforward approach to winemaking. With Paul Drapper at the helm, the estate first gained recognition for their 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon when it placed fifth at the Judgment of Paris wine tasting in 1976. Paul Drapper continues to earn an international reputation as one of the finest winemakers in California.
Only native yeasts are used during fermentation, and no chemical treatments are undertaken. Malolactic fermentation occurs naturally without inoculation. Minimal sulfur is used in order to avoid the risk of wine oxidation or spoilage. Fine egg whites are occasionally applied, if excessive tannin is present and this gentle fining improves the balance, helping to integrate the wine. No filtration is used, as this is believed to strip away the character of the wine..
Ridge is known for producing site-specific wines and is especially celebrated for their 125 year old Monte Bello vineyards. The sixty year old vines produce some of the most age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon wines in California. This vineyard sits atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, with a foundation of decomposing limestone and Franciscan rock. The Monte Bello vineyard is planted with the classic Bordeaux varietals, showcasing the finest example of this classic blend, often referred to as America’s First Growth.
Geyserville vineyard, with Zinfandel vines that are now one hundred and thirty years old, produce wines of great intensity and complexity of flavor. No chemical treatments or filtration is undertaken. Instead, a non-industrial approach is chosen to winemaking. The vineyard is also planted with complementary varieties: Carignan, Petite Syrah and Mourvedre – essential elements giving each vintage of Geyserville unique flavor characteristics. These are among the most age-worthy of Ridge wines.
Lytton Springs produced its first vintage in 1972, from vines planted in 1902. These centennial Zinfandel vines are inter-planted with other varietals, such as Petite Syrah, Carignan, Mourvedre and Grenache. This blend displays classic Dry Creek characteristics of ripe boysenberry with hints of earthiness. A red that is firm in its youth, but becomes quite nuanced with age.