Today’s Story: Ridge Vineyards
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.
Ridge is somewhat of a staple producer for me, so I’ve reviewed a number of their wines previously. If you missed my prior notes and are interested in exploring my thoughts on other bottlings in the portfolio, feel free to check out the 2016 Estate Chardonnay, 2018 Adelaida Vineyard Roussanne, 2012 Lytton Springs, 2012 Geyserville Vineyard, and 2015 Syrah/Grenache/Mataro.
Today’s Wine: 2018 Grenache Blanc
75% Grenache Blanc, 15% Picpoul, 10% Roussanne; 14% ABV
The 2018 Grenache Blanc is pale yellow in color. This is still rather young, but given about 30 minutes to open up in the glass it blossoms. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, golden pear, honeysuckle, almond, a hint of vanilla, and a touch of buttercream. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of lemon zest, ripe pear, white peach, saline mineral, mild toffee, honey, and toasted bread. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Fairly big of a Grenache Blanc, but this is downright delicious.
Price: $30. I think this offers very solid value, which seems to be the case with a number of wines from Ridge. This is their first vintage of the Grenache Blanc bottling, and I will certainly revisit it in a couple more years and continue to check these out in future vintages.