The history of this prestigious California wine estate has its origins in 1885, when Osea Perrone acquires 70 acres in the Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1989, the winery Paul Draper, a doctor of philosophy at Stanford University, took over this domain and applied the knowledge he had acquired in Chile in a pragamatic way. His goal is to naturally get the most out of the aromas and the intensity of the grape. Ridge Winery is a unique company that makes wines that are almost always matched among the top bordeaux in blind tastings. Wine with finesse. A second feature is the incredible storage potential of Ridge's wines.
Ridge wines are among the absolute California top year after year and never fail. Long before it became fashionable in California, Paul Draper worked with “Vineyard designated” wines (terroir wines), with “wild yeasts” (natural yeasts) and with “low tech” wines (natural, little treated, unfiltered, ...). This friendly, humble man received a philosophy and not an oenology education. Yet it is considered by many to be one of the largest winemakers in the world. He also recognized early on that Zinfandel is a noble grape if you choose a good terroir and preferably with old vines. Both Geyserville and Lyttons Springs are among the absolute top in Zinfandel. Paul Draper always chooses a 'blend' of Zinfandel with smaller amounts of Petite Sirah, Carignan, Grenache,… The pioneers more than 100 years ago already knew this recipe for greater complexity and the grapes were mostly planted together ('field blend') . We have been importing the wines from Ridge Vineyards for 15 years but the interest in the top wine Monte Bello has never been so great. Undoubtedly, the recent “Judgment of Paris tasting” has generated a lot of media attention. This notorious tasting of 30 years ago was recently repeated with at least a surprising result. In 1976 Steven Spurrier organized a tasting in Paris where some Californian top Cabernets and Chardonnays were tasted against top wines from Bordeaux and Bourgogne (blind of course). The predominantly French tasters almost unanimously chose the Californian wines and that hit immediately. Now I am extremely skeptical of such comparative tastings. In addition to the well-known 'apples and pears' argument, you can choose a year that was strong in California, for example, and less in Bordeaux or vice versa. You may also want to take a sample of 100 wines and not ten or twenty. The most cited criticism from French or European connoisseurs was that a tasting of young wines favors the more ripe and sweet Californian wines and that after a long aging the real truth would emerge. But woe for the French, as was now evident in both the American and the European tasting panel: the best California Cabernets aged very well and the big winner was the Monte Bello 1970! A nice surprise for French chauvinism, but what can we conclude from this? In fairness, we must confess that the storage potential of most Bordeaux class wines remains greater than that of the California Cabernets. However, some top California wines can age beautifully and none have a better track record than Monte Bello. The next question is whether Monte Bello is a typical example of California or rather an exceptional outsider? Monte Bello can actually be called a pronounced representative of a small (counter) current within the California wines that strives for a modest maturity of the grapes, freshness in acids and a great elegance and complexity of taste. This is of course only possible in a cooler climate. The 'Monte Bello ridge' is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains at an altitude of 400-600 meters. The grapes ripen beautifully with great effort but never overripe. The Cabernets range between 12.5 and 13.5 in alcohol. Just like in the Médoc, the contribution of Merlot is not a luxury but necessary to tame the solid structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon. The best tickets go to Monte Bello and the rest goes to the 'second wine'; the 'Santa Cruz Mountains' (excellent price / quality!).