AWG Correspondent

Martin D. Redmond

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Photos

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Review

Regions: Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, California

Reviewed: March 16, 2014 by Martin D. Redmond
Published: March 24, 2014

Ridge Vineyards is an iconic California winery that has long been benchmark for world class wine. They are best known for producing a single-vineyard, premium, Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay. Ridge has two estates - Monte Bello, located in the city of Cupertino in Santa Clara County, and Lytton Springs, located in the city of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. The Monte Bello estate is nested on a summit high atop Monte Bello Ridge, in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA.

Ridge Vineyards commenced full-scale production as a commercial winery in 1962, but the history of the original winery dates back to 1885 when Oseo Perrone, a doctor from northern Italy, purchased the land. He terraced the steep slopes and planted vineyards. Using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery, producing the first vintage under that name in 1892. The winery included a unique cellar built into the mountainside on three levels. Today it is Ridge's production facility.

In the 1940s, William Short, a theologian, bought the abandoned winery and vineyard just below the Perrone property. He replanted several parcels to Cabernet Sauvignon in 1949. David Bennion and his three partners, all engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI), purchased the land from Short in 1959. The partners initially intended to sell the grapes on the property, but Bennion made a half-barrel of wine from the 1959 harvest. Its quality convinced the partners to re-bond the old winery and undertake the venture that became Ridge Vineyards.

By 1968, production had increased to about three thousand cases annually. In 1969, Paul Draper, a Stanford graduate in philosophy, joined the partnership. Soon thereafter, Ridge gained an international reputation when the 1971 Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Draper, took fifth place in the 1976 “Judgment of Paris” against nine other French and California wines. Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

Draper, a pragmatic winemaker vice an enologist, has been the guiding light at Ridge ever since. His knowledge of fine wine and traditional methods complemented the minimal intervention, “Pre-Industrial Winemaking” approach pioneered at Ridge. Today, Ridge is on the forefront of providing consumers with information about what’s in the bottle, including a list of actions and ingredients. Ridge has four estate vineyards, Monte Bello, Geyserville (first release 1966), Lytton Springs and their newest property East Bench. Additionally, they source fruit from other high-quality vineyards.

Tasting Experience:  The trek up Monte Bello Road to Ridge is along a winding road that, at one point, is one lane with two way traffic. On weekends you’ll be sharing the road with many brave souls on bikes heading up the mountain. The trip to Ridge takes about fifteen minutes from the base of Monte Bello Road, but many will breathe a welcome sigh of relief when they reach their destination. Once on the property, visitors see the rustic tasting room surrounded by vineyards on all sides. Next to the tasting room is the Torre Ranch barn, which is used to host member events and semi-private tastings. The entire property has been refreshed recently and looks fabulous. Once inside the tasting room, guests are enveloped in a bright, airy environment with beautiful, rug-covered wooden floors and an inviting wooden tasting bar.

Ridge offers four unique tasting flights: Single-Vineyard ($5), Estate Single-Vineyard ($10), Estate Single-Vineyard w/ Monte Bello ($20), and Historic Vineyard Tasting ($30 by appt.). The tasting room staff is friendly and among the more knowledgeable (without being too pretentious) that I’ve experienced. You might need to bring your patience on weekends because the tasting room at Ridge can get pretty crowded. If you’d like a more intimate experience book the semi-private tasting.

The Wines:  It’s always a challenge to choose which wines to purchase from Ridge, but the following wines made their way home with us:

• 2010 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine known by many as the “Baby Monte Bello” is one of the most captivating values in Cali Cabernet Sauvignon. It was voted one of Decanter's Top 50 Wines of 2013. It is sourced from the same vineyards as the iconic Monte Bello which retails for 3x, but is vinified to be more open-knit and accessible when young. It’s well-structured with a cassis, blackberry, black spice and mineral character.

2009 Ridge Syrah/Grenache – One of my favorite Ridge wines because it’s so food-friendly. It’s a 50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache that offers plenty of value. It’s smooth and sophisticated with currant, raspberry, dried herb, and violet aromas with plenty of red fruit, along with mineral and spice flavors.

• 2011 Ridge Zinfandel East Bench – This is one of only two 100% Zinfandel wines produced by Ridge. It’s a delicious mix of ripe black and red fruit, and spiced licorice.

• 2011 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch – There are not a lot of Cali producers making varietal Carignane. Ridge’s is a beauty sourced from 60-80 year old vines. It shows enticing black cherry, raspberry and slight floral smoky aromas. It is medium-bodied with lively acidity, well integrated tannins and black cherry, raspberry, and vanilla flavors.

2011 Lytton Springs – Ridge has produced this wine since 1972, and it is a perennial 90+ point wine. The 2011 is a blend of 82% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, and Carignane. It’s well-structured with bramble, red fruit, and floral aromas and black cherry, currant, and licorice flavors.

Insiders Tip:  The view of the Santa Clara Valley and the Mt. Hamilton range from Ridge’s property on Monte Bello is incredible. For the best vantage point, head to the left as you exit the tasting room and make the easy hike to the top of the knoll that is beyond the picnic area just outside the tasting room. There you will find tables with patio umbrellas. Bring a picnic, buy some wine, and take in the view with a great bottle of wine!

Address & Contact Information: 17100 Montebello Rd Cupertino, California 95014. Telephone: 408-867-3233, email:, website: Tasting Hours: Apr-Oct: Sat-Sun 11:00-4:00 and by appt..

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