We finally visit Ridge, my favorite winery

We finally visit Ridge, my favorite winery

When our friend, Ben, worked at a wine store in Chicago, he was always discovering interesting bottles and generously sharing them with us. This is how I had my first taste of Zinfandel from Ridge. I’ll always remember the bottle of Geyserville 2003 (or 2004?): the simple, clean label, the unexpectedly complex and delicious flavors. After my Ridge introduction, I was always on the lookout for sales or for excuses to pick up a bottle for a special occasion. Ridge is kind of expensive. I became a self-professed Ridge Zin expert, with preferred vineyards and vintages. I could identify different vintages of Zin from the same vineyard during blind tastings, much to Paul’s amazement (or amusement). But I crashed and burned when we blind tasted a bottle of Ridge Chardonnay that Ben had gifted us, not able to tell the difference between the pricey Ridge and the Two Buck Chuck Chardonnay we’d picked up from Trader Joe’s (and then “aged” for a few years in our wine fridge). Paul won that one; I’m still ashamed.

Ridge has a great history — the winery was started by a few Stanford employees/grads who thought they could make better wine using a simpler approach. Each label includes detailed notes on the wine’s production, making you feel like you’ve participated in the process, from the growing of the grapes to the fermentation and bottling of the wine. They take a very nerdy approach to winemaking that I love. Within 10 years of starting up, one of Ridge’s wines was featured in the infamous Judgement of Paris, where French expert tasters accidentally preferred Californian wines over French wines in a blind tasting. A whole book and movie (Bottle Shock) were created about it. It was earth-shattering, to say the least.

We shared that first bottle of Ridge with Ben right after we returned from Sonoma — I was so upset that we’d missed out on a visit. So I was elated to finally visit Ridge’s Lytton Springs winery and vineyards in Sonoma this time through. It was like a pilgrimage, in a way.

Ridge offers 4 samples for $5 (not refunded with purchase). There are two different lists with no overlap, so Paul and I each picked one and shared the pours. For an extra $15 or $20, you can taste the Monte Bello, the wine featured in the Judgement of Paris. Monte Bello will have to wait for another day for us, not that I’m too sad about it. The wines we tasted were tasty enough. As much as I tried to find a replacement for Ridge, it’s just irreplaceable. I think I’ll start working on a specific wine budget, with room for both highs and lows.

Ridge's Lytton Springs vineyards.
Ridge’s Lytton Springs vineyards.
Grapes in the midst of veraison (ripening and changing color).
Grapes in the midst of veraison (ripening and changing color).
The outdoor tasting bar.
The outdoor tasting bar. In the winter, we thought the head-trained Zin vines looked like zombies. In the summer, Paul thinks they look like Sideshow Bob’s hair (see vines in the background).