1998 Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA
Robert M. Parker, Jr. - 29/06/2002
About this WINE
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.
Discover the story behind our Own Selection Zinfandel, made for us by Ridge. Read more
Dry Creek Valley
Dry Creek Valley, approximately 16 miles long and 2 miles wide, is based around the Dry Creek river in Sonoma County, a tributary of the Russian River. The AVA has earned a reputation for its Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. The valley remains a rural setting for small family wineries, yet at the same time it is home to the Sonoma wing of the industry giant, Gallo Wineries .
Zinfandel has long established its position as the valley's top red grape, and its second revival since the late 1990s' brought Dry Creek Valley back in the limelight. Dry Creek Valley has actually succeeded in rivaling Amador County in the Sierra Foothills as a stronghold of Zinfandel. Sauvignon Blanc is the valley's signature white grape.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah have also made successful inroads in Dry Creek Valley. Both are growing in acreage as Zinfandel has reached a peak.
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.
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A wine of great balance, finesse and grace. Well-focused, the ripe, tart, rich blackberry and currant fruit is intense yet elegant, picking up earth, mineral and sage notes, and finishing with fine, well-integrated tannins
(Wine Spectator, June 00)
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