Santa Cruz Mountains
Aromas of pear, apple, melon, pineapple, and orange blossom; crushed limestone. In the mouth, sweet integrated oak, lemon rind, quince. Elegant texture, lively acidity. A burst of pineapple fruit in a lingering finish.
In this cool, mountainous region, each season presents its own grape-growing challenges. Our goal, as farmer and vintner, is to fine-tune the vineyard so the grapes will ripen before the first storms. We anticipated an early harvest this year; that changed abruptly when cold weather stalled the vines. We picked in late September. After whole-cluster pressing, the juice was racked to barrel for natural primary fermentation. Lees were stirred weekly through April, maintaining freshness and adding texture. We blind-tasted the lots, choosing the most elegant and approachable for this fine chardonnay. Once assembled, it settled for five months and was bottled without filtration. The wine shows complex fruit, firm acidity, and mineral elements. It will be at its best over the next five to seven years.
Ridge produced its first chardonnay in 1962 from fully mature vines planted in the late 1940s on the Monte Bello estate vineyard. In the ’60s, we replanted a number of the abandoned 19th century vineyards to cabernet sauvignon, but did not extend the chardonnay planting. Production never exceeded ten barrels, and the Monte Bello chardonnay was sold principally at the winery. Several great vintages, among them the 1973, ’74, ’79, and ’84, showed that our cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to the varietal. By 1985, the old vines were producing less than a half-ton per acre; the younger ones, planted in the 70s, were providing the majority of grapes. These newer plantings were on the “lower” vineyard, which was not yet farmed as part of the Monte Bello estate, so the wine was designated “Santa Cruz Mountains”. The vines are now included in the estate, and produce a Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay annually. In years when differences among the twelve small lots are sufficiently pronounced to warrant a separate bottling, we make a limited amount of Monte Bello Chardonnay as well.
Rainfall: 30 inches (just below average)
Bloom: Early June
Weather: Moderate summer and fall, long cool growing season.
Harvest Dates: 26 September – 8 October
Grapes: Average Brix 24.9
Fermentation:Whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented. No inoculation. Natural primary and year-long secondary (malolactic)., Selection: Nine of the ten Monte Bello Vineyard chardonnay parcels or fractions thereof.
Aging: Air-dried oak (29% new, 43% one and two years, 28% three, four and five years old)
Time in Barrel: Sixteen months
San Francisco Chronicle (29 November 2009) – Gift Wines – “Ridge’s low-key winning streak for Chardonnay continues too, with its 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, defined by a polished oak presence and creamy mineral-edged Meyer lemon.” -Jon Bonne
Wine & Spirits (October 2009): “Plump and tender, this is a polished chardonnay that yields its richness seamlessly. It’s both round and completely dry, a sleek, high-altitude white that should develop flavor detail as it ages. If you open it now, match the smokiness to roast veal.” Rated: 90
California Grapevine (Vol. 35, No. 3, June-July 2009): “Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, floral, elegant, spicy, apple and pear aroma with notes of new oak; medium-full to full body; bright, spicy, citrus and green apple flavors; well balanced and structured; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended.” (Group Score: 15.9 of 20 points, 0/2/2; My Score: 17 [90/100], third place)
Wine Spectator Advance (30 June 2009): “Combines richness with an elegant, delicate mouthfeel, showing deep layers of ripe fig and green pear, honeydew melon and smoky oak. Balanced, focused, pure and lingering. Drink now through 2013.” (Rated: 93) -James Laube
Average Rating: 90.1
No. of Tasting Notes: 137
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