Santa Cruz Mountains
Translucent gold color. Fresh tropical fruits layered with apple, pear, melon. Honeysuckle nectar, wet limestone. Cool-climate firm acid. Barrel toast and caramelized apple in finish. -Eric Baugher (2/11)
Winter storms brought below-average precipitation, but late spring rains supplied the vines enough water to survive an unusually warm summer. In each parcel, we picked the stressed vines before the “green” ones, giving us fourteen separate lots. After natural primary and secondary barrel fermentations, we racked off the lees in August. We then combined the finest lots for our new Estate Chardonnay designation. The firm acid is well-matched by rich, wonderfully-complex fruit. This fine wine will be most enjoyable over the next five years. EB (9/10)
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 then a half-ton per acre; the younger ones, planted in the 70s, were providing the majority of grapes. These newer plantings were on the Klein 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 an Estate Chardonnay (formerly Santa Cruz Mountain Estate) 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, both from the Monte Bello vineyard.
Rainfall: 28 inches (below average)
Bloom: Late May
Weather: Dry winter, late spring rains followed by a mild summer.
Harvest Dates: 12 – 27 September
Grapes: Average Brix 24.3
Fermentation: Whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented. No inoculation. Natural primary and secondary (malolactic).
Selection: Seven of the ten Monte Bello Vineyard chardonnay parcels or fractions thereof.
Barrels: 10% new, 15% one year old, 25% two year old, 30% three and four year old air dried oak.
Aging: Fifteen months in barrel
Fresh estate grown grapes, hand harvested. Fermented on the naturally occurring native yeasts, followed by a full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria. No inoculation. No additives of any kind other than minimum effective sulfur for this wine (35 parts per million initially tobarrels with juice; 80 ppm over the remaining fifteen months of barrel aging). No processing whatever, other than whole-cluster pressing, and pad filtration at bottling.
Wine Advocate (Issue 196, August 2011): “The 2009 Chardonnay Estate is an impeccable, classy wine layered with bright citrus, flowers and just a touch of sweetness from the oak. Crushed rocks and lime peel add complexity on the textured, long finish. In 2009 none of the blocks were designated for the Monte Bello bottling, all of the fruit went into the Estate. This is a stunningly pure wine from Ridge. I came back to the 2009 Estate after having tasted all of the reds and the wine showed beautifully. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019
I tasted a breathtaking array of wines during my recent visit with Paul Draper at Ridge. Draper is a true American icon, so it’s great to see him doing well after a bout with illness. I also tasted a number of older wines, including several Monte Bellos going back to the 1970s. Heretical as it may sound, I think the wines Draper is making today will prove to be far superior to the wines of decades past, many of which are rightly considered legendary. For ease of reference I have also included notes on all of the Ridge wines made outside the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Chardonnays are fermented with native yeasts and go into barrel with their gross lees, which are stirred once a week. The malos usually start the following spring. The wines are assembled just before the following harvest and go back into neutral oak. Aging is about 15 months for the Estate and 17 months for the Chardonnay Monte Bello, with a maximum of 25% new barrels. The reds are fermented with ambient yeasts, undergo malolactic fermentation in tank (except for the Monte Bello which is mostly done in barrel) and stay on their gross lees until the following spring.” -Antonio Galloni, (Rated: 95)
Wine Spectator (30 June 2010): “Well-oaked, with smoky, toasty notes, this is rich, intense and full-bodied. The tangerine, floral, white peach and nectarine flavors are enlivened by acidity. Drink now through 2016. -James Laube (Rated: 90)
DailyGrape.com (April 2011 newsletter) – “Nice focused, citrus and apple fruit on the nose with little hints of licorice and peppermint candy. Very exotic and structured wine, with beautiful mouth feel — nice lemon, apple, vanilla bean, and great balance. Very Burgundian, not too over the top on the oak, and vibrant. It’ll last another 5-7 years and has the flexibility to pair with most fish and poultry.” -Gary Vaynerchuk (Score: 90+ points)
California Grapevine (Vol. 37, No. 2, April-May 2011): “Light to medium-light golden yellow; attractive, elegant, complex, spiced apple aroma with notes of minerality and vanilla; medium-full body; plush, slightly creamy, spicy, green apple flavors with oaky undertones and notes of cinnamon and roasted hazelnut; well balanced and structured; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended.” (My Score: 90)
Average Rating: 91.5
No. of Tasting Notes: 130
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