Sonoma, California, USA
Expressive precision through ‘pre-industrial’ winemaking
Four Stanford Research Institute engineers partnering to make wine with a ‘pre-industrial’ approach? A philosophy graduate that would become one of California’s most iconic winemakers? A unique range made exclusively of single-vineyard wines? There are many unconventional aspects to the excellence and cult status that Ridge has achieved. But the most important thing is that the wines speak, undeniably, for themselves.
Location: Sonoma, California, USA
Working with us since: 2020
Viticultural Standards: Certified Organic
Interesting fact: Ridge’s production facility is still housed at the original Monte Bello Winery, built by Osea Perrone in 1885 using the local limestone. Sitting at 800 m altitude it is surrounded by the “upper vineyard”, also terraced and planted by Perrone and now referred to as the Perrone Ranch.
Ridge’s history – and fascinating story! – starts in 1885 when Osea Porrena, a doctor from San Francisco, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. He terraced the slopes, planted vineyards and built the Monte Bello Winery. The first vintage relased under that label would be released in 1892.
Fast forward to 1959 when Dave Bennion, Hew Crane, Charlie Rosen, and Howard Ziedler, Stanford Research Institute engineers, form a partnership to acquire the Monte Bello property and settle there with their families. The half barrel of Cabernet that Bennion produced in his first year at Monte Bello would become one of the vintage’s finest. After equally successful micro-productions in 1960 and ’61 the partners decided to re-bond the winery ahead of the 1962 vintage, naming it Ridge Vineyards. Bennion left his role at S.R.I. to become the property’s winemaker in full time capacity. The families reclaimed the Monte Bello terraces and increased vineyard area over the coming years.
In 1969, Paul Draper, a young Stanford philosophy graduate, joined the partnership. Having just returned from Chile, where he’d set up a winery in the coast range, he came with fresh and practical winemaking knowledge based on traditional methods. His approach was a perfect match to the “hands off” precision approach already nurtured at Ridge. With Draper at the helm of the estate, Ridge developed and consolidated its viticultural and oenological programme.
Sixty years on, and now with Eric Baugher leading operations, Ridge has become a symbol of purity and craft, consistently producing some of California’s best single vineyard wines through a non-interventionist approach based on the work in the vineyards rather than in the cellar. Geyserville, Lytton Springs, Adelaida, Rockpile… all these are names of Ridge wines that have become as iconic as the winery itself.