Ridge & Pinot Noir – The Story Starts in 1971

Blog Post

The Beginning

Ridge made its first and only Pinot Noir in 1971 from an old vineyard above Los Gatos, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Following that single vintage, our focus outside of Bordeaux varieties and a small amount of chardonnay remained largely on old, field-blended vineyards of zinfandel, carignane, petite sirah and other complementary grapes.

Label from our first bottling of Pinot Noir. Label text is written by David Bennion (DRB), one of RIDGE’s founding partners.

A Chance Discovery

In 2013, we undertook a project to identify and map each vine within our Lytton Springs vineyard to learn more about the intent behind the field-blend planting that had occurred over 100 years earlier. Among the 23,800+ vines within the vineyard, DNA testing revealed a single vine of pinot noir.  Most likely a mistaken inclusion back in the early 1900s, this still-thriving vine is likely to be the oldest living pinot noir vine in California. This exciting discovery prompted us to take buds from the vine to Foundation Plant Services (FPS) at UC Davis, where they were cleaned of any viruses and other diseases using a procedure called meristem cell culture. After this procedure, which takes three to five years, FPS returned cuttings of these certified clones to us, which we then planted at our Monte Bello vineyard as an experiment. This process once again sparked our interest in the pinot noir grape and the wine that can be made from it. 

The Gali Vineyard in the Corralitos area of Santa Cruz County

Our First Modern-Day Vintage

We began looking around the Santa Cruz Mountains at unique sites that were ideally suited for pinot noir. That led us to the Gali Vineyard in the Corralitos region of the appellation. Located in the rolling hills near Corralitos, between the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville, the vines are just below the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation limit (400’) on weathered, well-drained, sedimentary soils. The vineyard is owned and meticulously farmed by Janice and Joseph Gali, in close collaboration with Ridge’s Senior VP of Vineyard Operations, David Gates. While we are in the early stages of our return to producing pinot noir, we are excited about quality of fruit from the Gali Vineyard. After producing a small bottling from the 2018 vintage, we look forward to sharing the 2019 vintage with our ATP members.

Ridge 2019 Corralitos Pinot Noir