1962: Ridge is founded by 3 scientists from Stanford’s Research Institute 1966: Ridge produces the first Geyserville 1968: Ridge buys the old Perrone Winery 1969: Paul Draper joins Ridge 1972: Ridge produces the first Lytton Springs 1976: Monte Bello featured in the Judgment of Paris tasting 1991: Ridge purchases the Lytton Springs vineyard 2006: Monte Bello wins Judgment of Paris anniversary tasting 2012: Ridge celebrates 50 year anniversary

Celebrating 50 Years of Ridge

With the 2012 vintage Ridge Vineyards is celebrating 50 years as a bonded winery. The first vines were planted and our historic winery built in 1886. The first vintage of Monte Bello was in 1892, one hundred and twenty years ago. However, the winery closed during Prohibition, reopened with repeal, but closed definitively in the early 1940s. The Ridge partners re-bonded 50 years ago for the superb vintage of 1962.

Back in the 1880s the climate on Monte Bello was too cool, as it is today, to consistently ripen zinfandel, the dominant California varietal of that era. The grapes chosen instead were principally the Bordeaux varietals. The vines and their deep roots have been transforming the fractured limestone sub-soils of Monte Bello Ridge for much of the last one hundred years. The original vineyards were abandoned by the 1940s, but a limited number were re-planted to cabernet in 1949. Those vines produced the very first Ridge Monte Bello in 1959 whose quality convinced the partners to re-bond the winery three years later. They began re-planting more of the abandoned old blocks in the 1960s, but not until the mid-seventies were those vines mature enough to be included. Over the years, we have been able to lease or purchase a number of the remaining nineteenth-century parcels and continue re-planting.

Our appellation, the Santa Cruz Mountains, separates the North Coast from the Central Coast, but is not a part of either and is cut in two by the San Andreas fault. The climate of the eastern segment, on the North American plate, where the Monte Bello vineyards are located, is influenced primarily by San Francisco Bay. The western segment, on the Pacific plate, is influenced entirely by the Pacific Ocean. Though both are cool, the eastern is above the Bay's inversion layer and warm enough to ripen the Bordeaux varietals. The western segment, however, is deeply affected by the ocean's summer fogs; it has proved most suited to pinot noir and chardonnay. Monte Bello's higher vineyards (2000' - 2700') are within sight of the Pacific fifteen miles to the west, and cooled by winds off the ocean.

We made our first Geyserville Zinfandel in 1966, from vines planted in 1882 on the gravelly western edge of Alexander Valley. In 1990, we took over the vineyard, replanting non-zinfandel blocks to their original zinfandel and its nineteenth-century complementary varietals. Our first Lytton Springs Zinfandel was the 1972, from vines planted in 1902 on the benchland above Dry Creek Valley. In 1990, we purchased the eastern vineyard, which includes the oldest vines; in 1995, we purchased the western vineyard, which had also been owned by Captain Litton who had first planted both in the 1860s.

Ridge traces its lineage to San Francisco physician Osea Perrone, who established the Monte Bello vineyard and winery in 1886, and to Emmett Rixford who planted the nearby La Cuesta vineyard. In 1883, Rixford published a book describing the best growing and winemaking techniques that became the basic text for fine winemaking in California for the next forty years. Those traditional practices, and those described by Rixford's mentor Raimond Boireau (Two volumes, pub. Bordeaux, 1876/7) form the basis for the approach we have followed for fifty years. Within the bounds of these practices, we continue to refine our approach through experience, and our ever-deepening understanding of our vineyards. In replanting Monte Bello, our main source of cabernet has been a selection massale originally from Rixford's La Cuesta vineyard. That selection came from the commune of Margaux in the early 1880s. (Unsubstantiated reports name the source as Chateau Margaux, which Rixford greatly admired.)

Our viticulture is sustainable and almost entirely organic. From the beginning, we have kept all vineyards separate, seeking those sites that show distinct, individual character and quality. In the cellar, we avoid additions other than the minimum effective SO2. There is no mechanical processing except for gentle filtration at bottling and traditional desteming and pressing. Both primary and secondary fermentations are natural. Our estate wines that together make up over seventy five percent of our production are from the Monte Bello, Geyserville, and Lytton Springs vineyards. We work with nine smaller vineyards as well.

We consider ourselves caretakers of the land. We own most of our vineyards, hold long-term leases on others, and have agricultural easements in perpetuity. We collaborate with the Regional Open Space District - maintaining the original vineyard land as they preserve the wild space - assuring the land will be kept free from future development.

Paul Draper
Monte Bello Ridge, 2012

Click here to read about our retrospective event in 2010 celebrating Paul Draper’s 40 years at Ridge and our founding in 1959.