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2010 Ridge Geyserville, Sonoma County, California
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Ridge Vineyards makes wines that compete in terms of quality and desirability with Bordeaux First Growths and Grand Cru White Burgundies. Winemaker Paul Draper has crafted 43 vintages at Ridge and his practical, hands-off approach to winemaking has resulted in an exceptional and highly sought-after range of wines.
Although a vineyard was first planted near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1885, it lay abandoned until four Stanford Research Institute engineers bought it in 1959. Ridge Vineyards was formed in 1962 and Paul Draper was appointed as winemaker in 1969. After stunning the world by their triumph in the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting, Ridge Vineyards shot to fame and gained cult status almost overnight.
Since then, Ridge has concentrated on producing fine Bordeaux blends and Chardonnays from Monte Bello's exalted terroir as well as renowned Zinfandels from the Lytton Springs and Geyserville vineyards in Sonoma County.
Ridge's ethos is simple: 100% dedication in the vineyards to grow the most concentrated and flavoursome grapes followed by 100% dedication in the winery with minimum intervention to draw all the fruit's natural richness into the wine.
Paul Draper has studiously dedicated himself to employing traditional Old World methods in the creation of his wines, resulting in silky smooth reds with fine tannins and glorious fruit. The wines are racked and fined but remain unfiltered so as not to lose any character before being matured in new American oak barrels.
Ridge Monte Bello, once pure Cabernet, has been a Cabernet-dominated blend since 1975 with varying quantities, depending on the vintage, of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc to add complexity to the final wine. The Monte Bello Chardonnay, arguably California's most respected white wine, is elegantly structured and rivals the finest White Burgundy Grand Crus.
Since 1972 Ridge has also specialised in top-quality Zinfandel blends from the Lytton Springs and Geyserville vineyards in Sonoma County and in 1979 the Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet blend joined the range to offer a softer, earlier drinking companion to the famed Monte Bello.
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.
North Coast's Sonoma County is California's largest AVA with 19,800 ha (2005) of vines. It has forever been the home of the meek and mild small grower as compared to the grandeur and might of neighbour Napa; more picturesque too, as much of the sandy, gravely loam land belonged to true orchards and fruit farms until the 1970s.
Sonoma Valley covers a small part of Sonoma County but its wines often outshine its illustrious neighbours in Napa County. Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon are cultivated here with much success. Sonoma Valley has long enjoyed a special place in the history of California wine. The first vineyards in the valley were planted by Franciscan monks in 1823. In 1857 Agoston Haraszthy, one of the founding fathers of California's commercial winemaking, opened here the highly successful Buena Vista Winery.
Closer to the coast are the region's top producing AVAs for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay: Russian River, Sonoma Coast and Green Valley, while the slightly warmer Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys have earned a reputation as a hotspot for Cabernet, and increasingly, Zinfandel and Merlot.