A little history lesson
The mountaintop of Monte Belle, in the Cupertino area of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has a long history with winemakers and vineyards. As far back as the late 1800s, city dwellers wandered south to retreat and make wine. Today, Ridge is redrawing these historical vineyard lines and producing wines from these sub plots, to see the original vineyard lines in liquid form. These wines were made from select parcels from Ridge’s vineyards, retracing the original boundaries of the historical properties. Harvested in small sub-parcels, Ridge is trying to recreate the original vineyard properties and make wine with fruit harvested in small micro climates.
Since these properties had unique boundaries in the original property, the resulting wines are quite different than the current releases. The tiniest move to a row or tow over creates a micro climate different that can have subtle and amazing impact on the wine.
The first historical property was Torre. The Torre property was the first winery on the site of Ridge Monte Bello. Now, it’s the middle vineyard, at about 2300 feet elevation. In 1903, hte first winery was built here, but Prohibition shut them down. In the 1940s, more vineyards were planted by William Short, and Ridge bought the land in 1959. That purchase was the inspiration to start Ridge Vineyards, built from a restored Torre winery. The Torre Merlot is dark and dusty, with blue fruit, and dense cherries. There were some meaty notes and it was a bolder muscular wine.
The next wine comes from what is now the Jimsomare vineyard. This property was origianlly purchased in 1888 by Pierre Klein, a bay area restaurateur with a fondness for wine. The Klein family founded Mirra Valle winery, another victim of Prohibition. In 1936, San Francisco’s Schwabacher family purchased the property, naming it Jimsomare. Today, it’s part of the lower Monte Bello Vineyard, at about 1400-2000 feet. The Klein Cab Sav had great acid, with notes of blackberries and spicy white pepper. This one is a baby but is still enjoyable.
Finally we look at the Perrone property. The Perrone winery was the second winery on the property, above the existing winery. The original 180 acres were at about 2600 feet, and gave birth to the Monte Bello Winery way back in 1892. In the 40s, with the winery abandoned, William Short bought the property and vineyards below it. Now, this is the “middle” vineyard. The Perrone Cab Franc was one of my favorite wines of the day. With smoked blueberries, cinnamon, allspice and blackberry, there were black pepper and candied ginger flavors.
The best part of these historical wines is that using the old vineyard maps, Ridge is able to recreate the lots and go back in time to see what the terroir of the original property lines is. It’s a fascinating look at the micro terroir of the Monte Bello area, and great fun.
I hope you can enjoy some Ridge wines soon!