A Fun New Bottling From Ridge

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.

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.

I previously wrote about Ridge with their 2015 Syrah/Grenache/Mataro, 2012 Geyserville Vineyard, and 2012 Lytton Springs.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Adelaida Vineyard Roussanne

100% Roussanne; 13.8% ABV

The 2018 Adelaida Vineyard Roussanne is transparent pale to medium gold in color with straw yellow hues. This needs some time to open up in the glass, but once it does the nose lets off aromas of apricot, peach, lemon, chamomile, wet stone, dried vanilla, and oak. On the palate, this showcases notes of lemon, quince, underripe pear, apricot, wax, white florals, brioche, and oaky spice. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with fairly high viscosity and medium (+) acidity into a medium (+) length finish. This is the first 100% Roussanne produced by Ridge and they only made 4 barrels of it.

Price: $25 direct from winery on release. Unfortunately Ridge is sold out of this bottling and I cannot find it anywhere in store or online, though thankfully we have 8 more bottles left of a case hiding in the cellar. This is a really fun wine that I think is a steal at $25, though I’d like to wait another year or two before revisiting it.

Refreshing Small-Batch Languedoc Blanc

Today’s Story: Domaine Saint Sylvestre

Domaine Saint Sylvestre was established at the end of 2010 by husband and wife duo Vincent and Sophie Guizard. Located in the small commune of Puéchabon within the Terrasses du Larzac appellation of the Languedoc region in France, the domaine consists of roughly 8 hectares of vines planted to Roussanne, Marsanne, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. They produce two white wines, denoted Blanc and Le Coup de Calcaire Blanc, as well as one red, denoted Rouge. At young ages, both Vincent and Sophie joined their respective grandfathers in family vineyards and learned how to grow wine grapes. Vincent ultimately went on to learn how to produce Languedoc wines from Olivier Jullien at Mas Jullien between 1998 and 2000 before venturing on his own to clear hillsides of rolled pebbles and oak trees to plant his own vineyards. Between 2003 and 2010, Vincent worked at Domaine de Montcalmès in an effort to raise their status to become one of the top producers in Puéchabon, with the domaine using fruit from his parcels Fon de la Coste, Red Défriche, and White Défriche. These three parcels laid the foundation of Domaine Saint Sylvestre and are the source of their fruit today.

Vincent and Sophie are both highly involved in their vineyards, said to consider each vine an individual person that demands the same attention in each parcel. All vineyard work (including pruning, trellising, and de-budding) is accomplished by hand and green harvesting limits yields to a low 20 hl/ha. The vineyards are completely tilled and the only treatments used are with copper and sulphur. When it comes time to harvest their fruit, Vincent and Sophie pick by hand controlling for varietal and parcel with some picking being more selective to include only the highest quality grapes on a vine when necessary. The fruit is destemmed at the winery and crushed by variety and parcel before being fermented using only natural yeasts. The two white wines are aged in Burgundian oak for 12 months, while the red is aged in Burgundian oak for 24 months.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Domaine Saint Sylvestre Blanc

45% Roussanne, 45% Marsanne, 10% Viognier; 14% ABV

The 2016 Blanc is transparent medium gold in color with water-white variation near the rim. On the nose, this showcases aromas of lemon, apricot, stone fruit, beeswax, chamomile tea, limestone, tropical minerality, light vanilla, and brioche toast. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of lemon and lime zest, dried orange peel, quince, mango, honeysuckle, white florals, wax, and bright spicy minerality. This wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a long, dry finish. 150 cases produced.

Price: $45 (though closer to $26 if you can find this in France). This is a delicious and well-made Languedoc Blanc and will be, I presume, unfortunately hard to find. The domaine’s low yields were lowered further thanks to weather with this vintage, but the quality is all there. Pair this with herb-roasted chicken, vegetable stir fry with Asian spices, or prawns.