Today’s Story: Ridge Vineyards
Ridge Vineyards, another historic California winery, found its beginnings near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in 1885. Osea Perrone, an Italian doctor in San Francisco, bought 180 acres and constructed the winery into three levels of the mountain using native limestone. He produced the first vintage under the Monte Bello Winery label in 1892, however later as Prohibition crippled the wine industry the facilities were abandoned.
Once Prohibition ended (thankfully), a man by the name of William Short purchased the winery and replanted several parcels to Cabernet Sauvignon in the late 1940s. The breakthrough came, however, in 1959 when the winery changed hands again to Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler and the partnership produced a quarter-barrel of “Estate” Cabernet. One of the greatest Cali Cabs at the time, this Monte Bello wine inspired Dave Bennion to leave Stanford Research Institute (where all partners worked) to focus on winemaking full-time.
As winemaking ramped up at Ridge, I would be remiss not to mention their Zinfandel, first made in 1964 from vines further down the mountain. In 1966, they produced their first Geyserville Zin that many of you should be able to find at your local wine store. By 1968, the winery was approaching 3,000 cases of annual production and had grown from 15 to 45 acres following an acquisition of the original Monte Bello terraces. Ridge demonstrated a quality and character in the upper echelon of California wines, with their 1971 Cab ultimately entered into the Paris Tasting of 1976, which I briefly talked about in my Chateau Montelena post.
As further background on Ridge, I’d like the opportunity to discuss their winemaking practices as well. Calling their style “pre-industrial,” Ridge shies away from chemicals and additives prevalent in the industry nowadays. They ferment their wines only with natural yeast, do not use commercial enzymes or nutrients to affect color, flavor, or tannin in the wines, and are certified organic. Further, one of my favorite features of a bottle of Ridge is the back label that tells the winemaking process and lists ingredients, which is not common.
Today’s Wine: 2015 Syrah/Grenache/Mataro
35% Syrah, 23% Grenache, 42% Mataro; 14.3% ABV
Most of you who know me know how much I love Syrah, and Rhône varietals in general, so I was very excited to find this bottle of ’15 GSM to taste and review. Our wine is medium ruby in appearance and fairly transparent. On the nose are aromas of black and blue fruits, redcurrant, lavender, mild earthy white cheese, cured meat, and slate. This was still somewhat tight as a pop-and-pour so I gave it about 30 minutes of air before drinking. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of blueberry, ripe blackberry, dried cranberry, parched dirt, mushroom, underbrush, and a touch of blood. Full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long (surprisingly bright fruit) finish.
Price: $40. Though I’ve watched the prices for Ridge rise over the past several years, I still think their wines (especially the range of Zins) are some of the best values for the quality. Today’s GSM blend is no different and, quite honestly, this was better than I expected. Pair this with red meat and mushroom sauce.