Just three years after our first Lytton Springs vintage in 1972, it was clear from the consistency of character and quality that this was one of those sites where soil, climate, and varietal were perfectly matched. Accordingly, we take our stewardship of the land and the vines into account in both our sustainable farming practices and the winery itself. The winery at Lytton Springs is essentially an above-ground cave whose walls are made from a simple mixture of clay from the vineyard, sand, and straw. It is equipped with vents that open automatically at night to bring in cool air, straw bale insulation to maintain ideal temperatures, and photovoltaic cells on the roof to generate energy. It is our belief that minimally impacting on the land is the only way to maintain the equilibrium and character of this unique site.
Lytton Springs is home to 100-plus-year-old zinfandel vines interplanted with petite sirah, carignane, a small amount of mataro (mourvèdre), and grenache. For decades, the field blend from this site has produced the quintessential example of Dry Creek Valley zinfandel. Lytton Springs is a prime example of Ridge’s commitment to championing Heritage varietals – varietals planted more than a century ago and surviving in numerous locations. We honor the individual character of these vines by fermenting each variety and each lot separately using natural yeast fermentation, letting the wines undergo natural malolactic, and employing minimal egg white fining.
Lytton Springs has become synonymous with classic Dry Creek zinfandel. It shows potent, ripe boysenberry and blackberry, but also a pronounced rusticity and earthiness often attributed to its blending varietals; petite sirah and carignane. Acid and tannin are firm, yet not overwhelming; in youth, at least, fruit predominates. This balanced, powerful wine becomes more nuanced with age, and it often holds for more than a decade.
Lying just north of Healdsburg on the benchland and gently rolling hills separating Dry Creek from Alexander Valley, Lytton Springs has proven to be an ideal site for zinfandel. Here, foggy mornings are eclipsed by warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. Soils are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay, which aids in moisture retention, ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. These weathered, agronomically poor soils in the benchlands provide better balance to zinfandel vines and the wines made from them.
The vineyard we now call Lytton Springs was part of the land once owned by Captain William Litton, who during the last half of the nineteenth century developed the springs and built a hotel just east of the vineyard for San Franciscans who arrived by train to “take the waters.” Paul Draper first saw the vineyard in 1972 and, based on its age (then already 80 years old), purchased grapes and produced Ridge’s first Lytton Springs bottling that year. In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of our first vintage, Ridge purchased the Lytton Springs winery and the old vines surrounding it, making it a true estate vineyard.