Nestled high up in the northern reaches of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and surrounded by historic vineyards, is a winery with rich history and early ties to Silicon Valley. Four Stanford researchers purchased the Monte Bello vineyards and re-bonded the winery in time for the 1962 vintage. Jancis Robinson’s article for Financial Times explores the beauty of the Monte Bello Estate, high above the tech hub, and the significance of celebrating Ridge’s 60th anniversary in London.
“Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen and Howard Zeidler were hard at work in the virtual sphere, but in search of a place where they could have weekend fun in the real world (preferably surrounded by nature). They began brewing beer, but when Bennion bumped into the owner of a ramshackle winery on a ridge high above what we now call Silicon Valley, the four of them clubbed together to buy it.”
Robinson goes on to write, “What Bennion and friends had bought was not just a winery (conveniently built into the mountainside on three levels decades before the term “gravity fed” had become fashionable winemaking parlance). It also came with an abandoned vineyard known as Monte Bello, a planting of ancient Cabernet vines on an isolated slope above the winery with views of the Pacific on one side and that now famous valley on the other. They coaxed it back to life, and it has come to produce Ridge’s most famous wine.”
From a quarter barrel of cabernet to international distribution, Ridge’s growth in the industry is due in large part to Paul Draper, Chairman of the Board. Jancis Robinson writes, “Monte Bello is also the California wine with the longest history in the UK, which remains Ridge’s leading export market. The first vintage was shipped to Britain in 1973. It was the 1971, which was delivered to John Avery of Averys of Bristol. Since then, Draper has been the most faithful California wine exporter to Europe by quite a margin. Until recently, he would come over to London every November to ensure that the distinctive wines of which he is so proud (which arguably include the finest Zinfandels in the world) were placed on the right shelves and lists. It contrasts with the on-off export strategies of most California wine producers.”
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