60th Anniversary

Welcome to the Celebration of RIDGE

Three founding partners—Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, all Stanford Research Institute engineers—purchased a piece of land on Monte Bello Ridge in 1959. Sitting on a ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the land was a sanctuary for their families to enjoy after their workweeks in the Silicon Valley. The land also had a vineyard and winery on it. Watch and listen to Paul Draper, Sue Crane, and Sue’s sons as they guide you through the beginning years of Ridge Vineyards, up until Paul Draper’s arrival as winemaker in 1969.

We will be ‘opening the vault’ to share more of our favorite memories, connect with our members and fans, and explore plans for our continued growth and impact in the industry. We look forward to having you alongside!

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60 Years of Fine Winemaking at Ridge

“In looking back at our last 60 years, I’ve focused entirely on production, that is, the winery and vineyards. From the beginning, our success has been built on our attempt to make some of the finest wines being produced today. However, any successful company depends on much more than just production. In the last twenty years, we have assembled an incredible team that has brought the other essential aspects of our operation to a level that has placed Ridge among the most respected wine producers in the world.

“We look forward to the next 60 years and attempting ever finer quality with each new vintage.”

Read Paul Draper’s Blog

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Key Milestones Since 1962

1959 – 1962
Three scientists from Stanford University’s Research Institute (SRI) and their families form a partnership and buy Dr. Short’s property on Monte Bello Ridge. The partners re-bond the winery and name it Ridge Vineyards. That year they produce their first Monte Bello.

1964 – 1972
In 1964, Ridge produces its first zinfandel from 19th century vines on the Pichetti Ranch near the base of the Monte Bello Ridge. In 1966, Ridge produces the first Geyserville, from vines planted in 1882 in Sonoma County. In 1972, Ridge produces the first Lytton Springs, from vines planted in 1901.

Paul Draper joins Ridge as winemaker.

1976 – 1977
Judgement of Paris, 1976: Steven Spurrier organizes a tasting of California cabernets and chardonnays and top French wines. To everyone’s surprise, California beat the French in both the red and white flights. The 1971 Monte Bello comes in 5th. In 1977, Ridge launches the Advance Tasting Program, ATP, America’s first winery wine club.

John Olney joins Ridge as Cellar Worker at Monte Bello. In 1999 he becomes Assistant Winemaker/General Manager. In 2001 he becomes Vice President of Winemaking at Lytton Springs and in 2016 he also attains the title of COO. In 2021, John Olney is named Head Winemaker & COO, overseeing winemaking operations at both Monte Bello and Lytton Springs.

30 year repeat of the Judgement of Paris. The 1971 and 2000 Monte Bello cabernets win first place in both the original vintage wine and new vintage wine categories in London and California.

2015 – 2016
Through an exchange agreement with the Mid-Penninsula Regional Open Space District, 42 acres of land that was originally planted to grapes before prohibition is acquired at Monte Bello. In 2016, Paul Draper retires at age 80, after 47 years as winemaker. Mark Vernon is promoted to CEO. Ridge purchases Whitton Ranch, a 36-acre parcel which is the heart of the Geyserville wine.

Member Stories

“In thinking back, I define my affinity for Ridge wines generally, and Monte Bello specifically, with the memories I associate with individual bottles. I've given birth-year vintages to each of our kids (1986 and 1988), bought a case of the 2005 as a wedding year wine for my wife, Jen, and I, and we still enjoy a bottle on our anniversary from time to time.”
• John P, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

“At the time, I was a single mom and didn’t make much money, but I asked one of the knowledgeable salesmen working in the wine shop, “If I could only afford to belong to one wine club, which one do you recommend?” Without hesitation he said, ‘Ridge. They produce probably the best wines made in America.’ I have been a happy wine club member ever since.”
• Sandy H, Z List Member

“My first contact with Ridge was in the 1960s when a friend who was an investor poured this fantastic wine out of a bottle whose label was hand-written on adhesive tape! It was so early in the winery's history that you hadn't printed labels yet!”
• John D, Member

“By my rough math, I have been a Z List & ATP member for 30+ years. When last I was in the Geyserville tasting room, I asked one of your wonderful employees if they could tell me exactly how long. After searching on the computer for a few seconds, her response was "Our member records don't go back that far.”
• Tim D, ATP & Z List Member

“We expect high quality, consistency, and creativity, and Ridge delivers time and again. That should be enough for any wine lover, but I can tell you that I stay year after year after year because of its staff and the company's willingness to let its customers peek behind the scenes and learn how the magic is made.”
• John C, ATP, Z List, and Monte Bello Collector Member

Farming & Winemaking

We are committed to sustainability and farming our vineyards organically. Ridge is the largest grower of organically certified grapes in Sonoma County and in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation. All of our Estate vineyards will be 100% certified organic by harvest of 2022. All of the vineyards that we farm are certified by the Fish Friendly Farming Environmental Certification Program, which acknowledges agricultural properties working to restore fish and wildlife habitats and improve water quality. As a result, the Sonoma County Winegrowers have recognized our Sonoma County vineyards as Certified Sustainable.

The best measurement of the health of our soils is the wine made from the grapes grown on them. We call our approach to winemaking “pre-industrial.” We believe that for anyone attempting to make fine wine, modern additives and industrial processing limit true quality. From natural yeast fermentation and field blends to listing all actions and ingredients on our labels, we take pride in the authenticity of our winemaking.

Our Philosophy

Cultivating Our Future

Last fall, Ridge Vineyards joined the International Wineries for Climate Action (IWCA), an association of wineries dedicated to decarbonizing the global wine industry. This continues our long-standing belief that we are good shepherds of the land, which has included regenerative agricultural practices, organic farming, and sustainability. Ridge has also been recognized for environmentally friendly practices in the inaugural Robert Parker Green Emblem selection.

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