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!
Sitting on top of a mountain, over looking the Silicon Valley, I was standing watching the planes fly by in the warm spring weather. I always enjoy climbing Monte Bello in Cupertino, ending up at Ridge Vineyards, over looking everything below. You are only an hour from San Francisco, but you feel like you are a world away. This was an unusually warm spring day, and the crowds were out picnicking on the hill top and enjoying the views. On this trip, our illustrious leader Christopher Watkins, brought together a group of wine and food bloggers at one of his quarterly media tastings – which are always eventful. On this visit, Christopher, a musician at his core, had something up his sleeve. There would be no traditionally tasting, as we had come to know it. This time, when we walked in the barn, we found bottles that were brown bagged, hiding the gold within. On the screen in front of us, the history of jazz. In our ears, we had Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk.What was this madness? Our task was to take each of four wines and pair them with the song that we found most provocatively paired with it. Given that I know zilch about jazz, the only word that came to my mind was skat! Yes, I said skat. That’s what I think of when I think of jazz; I was feeling much like the beatnik in Peggy Sue Got Married – you know the line, “Change your destiny Peggy Sue! Marry me and change your destiny!”. In my head, I’m thinking, listen to the jazz Thea! Listen to this, and change your destiny! First up, the 2001 Monte Bello. The smoky rich berry notes were mirrored by bright acid, black pepper and allspice. There was delicious chewy leather, and blackberry spice but it was subdued and not jammy. My pairing was Paul’s Pal by Sonny Rollins. Wine number two, the 2000 Monte Bello, was dark and smoky, and a bit bold. I found fig notes and heavy sediment. There was more fruit coming out as it opened up in the glass, with some excellent earthy background. It was a mysterious wine and So What by Miles Davis was on my mind. Next, we tasted the 1999 Lytton Springs zinfandel. This older wine hid sticks and stones in the smoky prune background, with cigar box and spice rack. I found a hint of strawberries in balsamic vinegar and cranberry on the end, with lingering thoughts offruit roll up.. The Bemsha Swing from Thelonious Monk seemed the natural pairing. The final wine in the first flight was the 1997 Geyserville. This was an in your face wine for being so old, and was quite candied with brambly notes. There was quite a bit of dirt and white pepper as well as cedar and sweet cherry. I could see a sarsaparilla at an old west bar in this wine, and even though I was supposed to pick the 4th song, I still chose […]