As the previous year’s harvest comes to a close, the winemaking calendar never stops. Our production teams at Lytton Springs and Monte Bello have been busy with cellar work, bottling, and lab work. Even as the weather cools and the vineyards go dormant, we remain active. Read on for the latest update on bottling at Lytton Springs and laboratory improvements at Monte Bello.
“With the 2021 harvest in the rearview mirror, one would think the production team here at Lytton Springs would be basking in the glory of yet another great Ridge vintage, but that is not the winemaking way. The new 2021 wines completed primary and secondary fermentations swiftly. We were able to get everything racked, sulfured, and sent to barrel by December, which meant it was time to revisit our old friend 2020 without skipping a beat. Commence bottling season!
“We have kept a close eye on the 2020 vintage over the past year, but it wasn’t until we began racking our 2020 Buchignani Carignane out of barrel in November, followed by 2020 East Bench Zinfandel, that we were able to take a look at these wines as a whole. If these early examples are any indicator, it is looking like 2020 should be a stellar vintage across the board. We began bottling the Buchignani Carignane the second week in December, followed by the East Bench Zinfandel on the third week. We anticipate these wines will develop beautifully in bottle and look forward to trying them at the spring release.
“After a well-deserved holiday, we began the New Year bottling the 2020 Lytton Springs, which, like the previous wines, is showing beautifully. It will go on to spend the better part of the year developing in the bottle until its release this Fall. We will continue bottling several small production and ATP wines through February and March, finishing with Rhone reds and Petite Sirah in April. It is too early to guess what 2022 will bring, but the wet fall and continuing La Niña weather conditions are a great start. We ended the year with around 20 inches of rainfall at Lytton Springs. By comparison, we only saw 13 inches over the entire 2020/2021 rainy season. The average for this part of northern Sonoma County is around 42 inches, so we are well on our way. After two years of watching the lakes, rivers, and our ponds go dry, it is uplifting to see them rise again.”
Michael Bairdsmith, Assistant Winemaker
“A sometimes-overlooked aspect of winemaking is laboratory analysis, particularly the ability to get fast and reliable data in-house. This is especially important for us at Ridge to be able to keep up our minimal intervention winemaking practices.
“The laboratory at Monte Bello underwent several improvements in recent months. These upgrades allow us to continue our goals of quality, excellence, and continued improvement. The three instruments that we were able to bring in are a new Spectrophotometer, an AntonPaar Alcolyzer, and an Admeo Spica. The Spectrophotometer is arguably our best friend in the laboratory. It measures the wavelength of light through a solution, which has many applications when it comes to measuring wine components. One part of wine that is particularly difficult to quantify, but very important to know, is the alcohol content. The instrument we have instituted for this task is the AntonPaar Alcolyzer, which measures alcohol fast with accuracy and consistency. The Admeo Spica is an enzymatic automated analyzer, which means that it allows us to run multiple analyses with enzymes at faster speeds. Some of the tests we use the Spica for are measuring the residual sugar, malic acid, and volatile acidity. This instrument is newly developed and Ridge Vineyards was selected to get one of the models before it hits the shelves. All three of these instruments are allowing us at Monte Bello to track the wine fermentations more closely than ever before, which we believe will result in some remarkable wines in the coming years.
“Along with physical upgrades to the Laboratory at Monte Bello are some advances in what we are measuring and when. With these new instruments, we are undertaking the data collection and analysis of the phenolic compounds in our Bordeaux varieties. Phenolic compounds in wine include a large group of several hundred chemical compounds that affect taste, color, and mouthfeel of the wine. The groups that might sound familiar are anthocyanins and tannin; these two are mostly responsible for color and mouthfeel. The goal of this undertaking is to be able to measure various phenolic levels on berry samples and fermenting must which will allow us to make both picking and pressing decisions that will result in the highest quality wine with the best aging potential. As we move into 2022, we are excited to see the direct impacts of these upgrades on our winemaking practices and wine quality.”
Hannah Hanlon, Laboratory Manager, Monte Bello