|Location||Santa Clara County, USA|
|Key people||Paul Draper, CEO/Winemaker; Eric Baugher, Winemaking - Monte Bello; John Olney, Winemaking - Lytton Springs; David Gates, Vineyard Operations|
|Known for||Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon|
|Varietals||Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel|
|Tasting||Open to public|
Ridge Vineyards is a California winery specializing in premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay wines. Ridge produces wine at two winery locations in northern California. The original winery facilities are located at an elevation of 2,300 feet (700 m) on Monte Bello Ridge in unincorporated Santa Clara County in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, south of Los Altos, California and west of Cupertino, California. The other Ridge winery facilities are at Lytton Springs in the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County. Ridge Vineyard's 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon achieved international fame for its fifth place finish in the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" wine tasting.
Although Ridge Vineyards was founded in the early 1960s, wine production at the winery's Monte Bello location has a much longer history. Grapevines were first planted on Monte Bello Ridge by Osea Perrone, a doctor and prominent member of the northern California Italian immigrant community, in 1885. The first Monte Bello wine was produced in 1892. Following Prohibition, the vineyard at Monte Bello passed through the hands of several amateur winemakers until it was purchased in 1960 by David Bennion, Charles Rosen, Hewitt Crane, and Howard Zeidler, all engineers at nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Ridge Vineyards produced its first commercial wine from the 1962 vintage.
According to a 1987 New York Times article, Ridge Vineyards was acquired by a Japanese company. "The new owner is Otsuka U.S., a subsidiary of the Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co Ltd, a producer of nutritional drinks and other pharmaceutical products. Otsuka operates an experimental wine-making center near Fuji, in Japan."
Ridge has been under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper since 1969, when he was hired by David Bennion, and has emphasized natural, ecologically sustainable farming and fermentation. Draper is known for drying his own oak staves for use in barrels, which may be a component of the dusty "Draper Perfume" that is characteristic of Ridge wines.
The international reputation of the Monte Bello wine produced by Ridge Vineyards was established when it achieved fifth place in the "Judgment of Paris", against nine other French and California wines. Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon was acclaimed in subsequent competitions, including The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary, the 30th anniversary retesting of the same red wines evaluated in the 1976 Paris wine competition. In this blind tasting, held both in the US and the UK, judges in both countries ranked Ridge Monte Bello number one among all the wines judged.
Ridge Vineyards produced its first Zinfandel in 1964. Beginning in 1966, the winery began sourcing some grapes for its Geyserville Zinfandel and other wines from vineyards in Sonoma County. In 1991, Ridge Vineyards purchased the Lytton Springs vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. The winery produces wine at both the Monte Bello and Lytton Springs locations, and operates tasting rooms open to the public at both.
Ridge also focuses on single-estate wines where the grapes for a particular label are all grown at the same vineyard. The signature wine of Ridge is its Monte Bello, a field blend of Cabernet Sauvignon mixed with varying percentages of other grapes grown in the same location, usually including Merlot, Petit Verdot, and occasionally Cabernet Franc.
Ridge's Zinfandels (or mostly-Zinfandel field blends) constitute the bulk of the winery's production. Using grapes from selected sites from all over the state and bottling them each under their own label, Ridge Zinfandels emphasize the particular characteristics of each growing site and may show different aging characteristics than do other Zinfandels. Among the best known of the Ridge Zinfandels or Zinfandel-blends are those from Geyserville, York Creek, and Lytton Springs.
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