Ridge Vineyards was founded in 1962 as a partnership by four Stanford Research Institute engineers; Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler.
These excerpts were taken from an interview with the founders conducted on March 9th, 1993.
“It was in early 1964 that we started to think seriously about a label for the first wines. Dave and Fran (Bennion) had met a San Francisco architect who recommended a young commercial artist, Jim Robertson. He was enthusiastic about designing a wine label. Maybe more important, he agreed to take his fee in wine. Fran and Sue made several trips to San Francisco and he spent a Saturday on the ridge with us to get to know us better. During this time we were compiling lots of different names for the winery. One was “El Camino Vino,” our joke name. We wanted a name that would distinguish us from a valley winery, that hinted at where we were. We also wanted a clean label, with no pictures, no curlicues, no fancy words, nothing French or German. Also, we wanted a label to be informative. We were ahead of our time in emphasizing completeness and honesty with a wine label. Ridge Vineyards was a good choice. It was easy to say and it described our location. Jim Robertson liked it too, and he suggested that we use Optima type font. It had just been developed in Germany, but we were the first on the West Coast to use it. It has since become very popular. Our label for the 1962 Cabernet won an award for industrial design.”Hew Crane
“We were concerned about what we saw happening in California with wine. We talked a lot about the honesty factor. We were going to make an honest label, and all the information that a real wine lover would want was going to be on it. We were going to tell where the grapes came from, how much of each, how the wine was made. That’s one of the reasons we ended with the big double label, to get everything on it we wanted.”Charlie Rosen
For $495 (33 hrs X $15/hour) worth of wine the partners had their label design. It was clean, in the spirit of the mid-century modern aesthetic of the time and presented information about the wine in a straightforward easy to read style the founders were looking for.
The result is seen below with the label for the 1962 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon; grown, produced and bottled at Monte Bello. The term Monte Bello was not used because the trademark was still controlled at the time by the corporate decedent of Osea Perrone’s Montebello Wine Company. Happily, a number of years later Ridge gained control of the Monte Bello trademark.
More than 50 years later we are proud to continue to use Jim Robertson’s design elements for our labels while adhering to our founder’s philosophy of providing the customer with useful information about the wine. There is no other label in the industry like it, and it makes it easy for our customers to instantly recognize a bottle of our wine.
For those of you interested in the details, here is a guide to the information provided on our label.
The front label is composed of two main elements – the “Top Block” and the “Bottom Block” The Top Block is the most prominent portion of the Ridge label and is used to quickly establish the identity of the wine for the customer. Key elements of the Top Block include the Ridge brand, the vintage, as well as a designation for the wine. The Bottom Block provides additional facts about the wine.
The 2013 Estate Cabernet label below shares much in common with the original 1962 label. In this example the Top Block is composed of four lines of text with each element explained in detail below.
As Ridge’s focus has been, and will continue to be, the production of single vineyard wines, we will often base the identity of the wine on the name of the vineyard where the grapes are grown. In the label below, York Creek is the name of the vineyard. The TTB requires that 95% of the grapes used to make the wine must come from the named vineyard and that the name used is the one currently found on official maps of the vineyard. In some cases we have chosen to use a historical name for the vineyard, in which case the TTB will consider it to be a Proprietary Name (see TOP BLOCK – Proprietary Name below).
The label below is an example where the proprietary name Three Valleys is used as the designation for the wine in the Top Block. When Ridge uses a proprietary name in the Top Block, in most cases we will not include a grape variety in the Top Block. This allows for the production of a wine in which no single varietal must account for 75% or more of the wine. In the example below we have chosen to add the Sonoma County AVA to the Top Block to further inform the customer as to the origin of the grapes used to make the wine.
AVA stands for American Viticulture Area. These areas are defined by the TTB for the purpose of providing consumers with information about where wine grapes are grown in the United States. The label below is an example where the AVA, Paso Robles, is used as the designation for the wine in the Top Block. Ridge uses an AVA in the Top Block if the wine is made from grapes from multiple vineyards within the AVA, or as in the case of Paso Robles if the AVA provides for a stronger identity for the wine.
Ridge uses the Bottom Block to provide additional information about the wine. Some of this information is required by the TTB to be on the front label, while other information is presented to give the customer more information about the wine.
The Back Label is used to provide a short description by the winemaker of what unique or important events occurred that contribute to the unique character of the vintage as well as other important information including a number of items required by the TTB.
The following example shows the different elements used on the Back Label of the 2012 Monte Bello which is generally representative of all Ridge Back Labels.
*Grapes must be 100% certified organic in order to make the statement “organically grown.”
The following is a list of ingredients that are only sometimes used during winemaking at Ridge and included in the ingredient list when used: