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!
It’s another day on top of the mountain here, and the sun is shining at last. It’s clear, and we can see San Jose and even a bit of San Francisco in the distance. It’s time for a visit to Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino! We start our tasting with the 2009 Estate Chardonnay, which is aged in a mish mash of barrels from new to 4 year old American and French oak. I found creamy vanilla custard, spicy oak, and lemon flavors with a healthy dose of tropical fruit. This blend is harvested and vinified separately, and then finalized after a blind tasting of each component is done to determine the possible blends that could be made. Most of the contents of this blend come from the Jimson Ranch vineyard which is at about 1500 feet elevation, giving the wine a lot of minerality and acidity. Next up, the 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. I loved this cab because it was racy and had some nice acidity. The wild yeast fermentation shows a ton of mineral flavors with dusty sandlewood finish. There were big black and blue fruit flavors, with plum and rich figs with juicy cherries on the palate. It was rich without being overblown, a total winner in my book. The 2009 Geyserville Zinfandel is the 44th vintage of this wine, which makes it the longest continuously produced Zinfandel in the state, which, quite frankly with the ever changing wine industry – is quite a feat. Given that our state is known for it’s Italian immigrants and the traditions of Italian field belnds (mostly zin) that they brought over, the Ridge style of zin is a dying art. The grapes come from properties that are interplanted and dry farmed with wild yeast fermentation and I tasted tradiitonally big blackberry jam, with some black pepper and cherries on top. I also found some hibiscus zing which gives this 74% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouchet, 1% Mataro (Mouvedre, or if you prefer Monastrell) mutt some life and body. Compared to the 1999 Geyserville, the 09 was tapdancing on American Idol. The 99 was chewy, dark and earthy witha healthy dose of cigar box to round out the rusticity (this is my new favorite word, and since Christopher loves $20 words….) The 99 is 68% zin, 16% Carignane, 16% Petite Sirah and was chewy and dense. The fruit is still there after 12 years, but it’s brooding and not bright and zingy – which, is amazing and delicious in an entirely differently way. The 1985 Monte Belle Cab was a rare treat. The color is an astounding browning bronze and the nose is rich and caramelized touch of white pepper. It had quite meaty characteristics, with some floral notes on the palate and a bit of wood on the back end. THe companion 1995 Monte Bello, a blend of 69% Cab, 18% Merlot, 10% Petite Verdot and 3% […]