Reliable and High Quality Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards is another estate I wrote about several times previously, largely because they are a “go-to” or “ole reliable” producer for me thanks to their consistency. To read any of my notes on other bottlings from Ridge, check out the 2015 Syrah/Grenache/Mataro, 2012 Geyserville Vineyard, 2012 Lytton Springs, or 2018 Adelaida Vineyard Roussanne.

Ridge Vineyards, a 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.

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: 2016 Estate Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14.3% ABV

The 2016 Estate Chardonnay is transparent pale gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of pear, golden apple, lemon zest, white florals, slight smoky reduction, crushed rock, butter, nutmeg, and exotic peppery spice. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of white peach, pineapple, golden pear, green apple, crème brûlée, chamomile, dill, dried vanilla, mild oaky spice, and bright stony mineral. This is medium- to full-bodied with racy medium (+) acidity, and oily and well-rounded mouthfeel, and a long finish.

Price: $55. I think there are better value Chardonnays out there closer to the $40 mark, however the pricing here is certainly not excessive. As always, the Ridge Estate Chardonnay is of impeccable quality and offers an incredibly enjoyable tasting experience now. The Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay, priced $20 to $30 higher, is a very special wine though if picking between the two.