Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Chardonnay: Relying on Nature and Tradition
Ridge Vineyards and its Monte Bello Chardonnay, which is made in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Santa Clara County, Ca., is a nominee for a Luxist Awards' Readers' Choice Award for best domestic white wine.
RIdge Vineyards' history dates back to 1885 when Osea Perrone bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. Perrone terraced the slopes and planted vineyards; using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery, producing the first vintage under that name in 1892. This unique cellar, built into the mountainside on three levels, is to this day Ridge's production facility.
Cabernet and zinfandel account for most of the production at Ridge; syrah, grenache, carignane, and petite sirah constitute a small percentage. Ridge has also made limited amounts of chardonnay since 1962.
Gallery: Ridge Vineyards
Since 1986 Ridge has been owned by the Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka, but the Ridge team is anything but corporate. Formal oenological training is eschewed. Paul Draper, who joined Ridge more than 40 years ago, claims that his wine training was tasting the great wines of Europe and remains suspicious of anyone inculcated with winemaking orthodoxy. 'We have to retrain anyone who arrives with an oenology degree'', he says. Current winemaker Eric Baugher is a microbiologist who came to Ridge in 1994 via a graduate project in its surprisingly high-tech lab.
Ridge offers two unique tasting flights at its winery in Cupertino, Ca. on Saturdays and Sundays between 11 am and 5 pm from April through October (and until 4 pm November through March). The Guest & Member Tasting is typically comprised of two "Guest" offerings poured complimentary, and four "Member" wines; this flight is available for $5 per person. Its Monte Bello Tasting features the four Member offerings, bookended by its limited-production estate chardonnay, and its flagship Monte Bello; this flight is available for $20 per person.
Ridge offers many of its wines at its online store. Its 2006 Monte Bello Chardonnay retails for $60 for a 750 ml bottle.
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