Posted on March 29 2017
If you navigate to the California section of this site, it will quickly become obvious that we really rather have a thing for Ridge Vineyards. Is it because their flagship wine is distinctly Bordelais in nature? Perhaps.
Perhaps it is the pioneering spirit that brought 4 scientists from the Stanford Research Institute together to take on such a project that leads us to admire them so much? Or perhaps it is just the quality of the wine...
Where are they based?
Ridge are based in the cooler North Coast region of California. Here, cool air blown off the pacific ocean in the morning can help to protect the vines from being too ripe. Ridge go one step further. Their prestigious Monte Bello vineyard is essentially at the top of a mountain, hence the name! The terraced vineyards here produce some of the most splendid Cabernet Sauvignon that you are ever likely to find.
Ridge also have vineyards in Sonoma. From here we get their other great wines, made from Zinfandel. Unlike much Zinfandel from California, which is generally grown in hot areas further south, the relatively cooler Sonoman climate helps to create wines of finesse and nuance - which often surprises those who have labelled Zinfandel an alcoholic brute!
What wines do they produce?
Ridge's top wine is their Monte Bello. This is produced from the best parcel's at its namesake vineyard. The winemaker here takes a very 'Bordeaux' approach to wine making. Blending of parcels is key to produce the best possible wine each year. On top of this, other Bordeaux varieties: Merlot, Pertit Verdot and Cabernet Franc are used to add to the character of the wine. Monte Bello is, however, ready to drink at a younger age than many fine Bordeaux due to the slightly riper and fuller tannin. However, it will reach its best after 10-12 years and age well for 30+ years!
Ridge's ability to produce nuanced, delicious, not over-ripe Zinfandel is possibly best demonstrated by the wines coming from their Lytton Springs vineyard. This is in Sonoma (Russian River Valley), an area that is cool enough that it makes wonderful Pinot Noir. However, Lytton Spring's fortune is that the vineyard was planted with a field blend over 100 years ago. This means that the Zinfandel, which can produce lots of sugar, is interspersed with Carignan and Petite Syrah, which help to lower the overall sugar. The alcohol is distinctly modrate considering. This is partly achieved by picking at least a week earlier than anyone else, meaning that the wine tends towards elegance and restraint, rather than fruit bomb and gusto. The Geyserville tends to be more fruit-forward, whilst the Lytton Spring itself more structure and tight on release needing a year or so to open up in the bottle.