The history of Ridge Vineyards begins in 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor who became a prominent member of San Francisco’s Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. He terraced the slopes and planted vineyards, and built a winery from native limestone. The first vintage was produced in 1892. This unique cellar, built into the mountainside on three levels, is still Ridge’s production facility.
In the late 1950’s, four Stanford Research Institute engineers made a quarter-barrel of “estate” Cabernet from these vines. That Monte Bello Cabernet was among that era’s finest Californian wines. Its quality and distinctive character convinced Dave Benion and his partners to re-bond the winery in time for the 1962 vintage. The first Zinfandel was made in 1964, from a small nineteenth century vineyard farther down the ridge. This was followed in 1966 by the first Geyserville Zinfandel. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year, and in 1969, Paul Draper joined the partnership.
A Stanford philosophy graduate, Don was a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. Under his guidance, the old Perrone winery (acquired the previous year) was restored, the finest vineyard lands were leased or purchased, and the consistent quality and international reputation of the wines was established. Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel account for most of the production; Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, and Petite Sirah constitute a small percentage. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made small quantities of Chardonnay since 1962.
“If the US had a formal classification of estates or vineyards, such as those in Bordeaux or Burgundy, Ridge would be at the top of the list. This iconic property has been turning out spectacular wines for several decades under the inspired leadership of Paul Draper.” – Decanter on Ridge Vineyards, California Special Feature, Sept 2013
“Ridge’s commitment to quality, value and customer service has no equal in this country. Although the flagship Monte Bello, Lytton Springs and Geyserville bottlings get most of the attention, the Three Valleys Zinfandel is a reliably outstanding value, while the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is without question the single finest California Cabernet Sauvignon in its price range. Best of all, Monte Bello remains one of the finest relative values in cellar worthy wine readers will find anywhere in the world. Monte Bello takes time to fully blossom, but the rewards for waiting are nearly immeasurable.” – Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Aug 2015
In 2000 Paul Draper was named Decanter Magazine’s “Man of the Year”, and in 2006 The San Francisco Chronicle’s “Winemaker of the Year”.
17-time Winner, “American Winery of the Year”, Wine & Spirits Magazine