It isn’t difficult to make half-decent wines, so long as you have some good fruit and a bit of know-how. However, it takes time, dedication, craft and love to make great wines. Winemaker Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards knows all about this, and has now brought out no less than forty-three distinct vintages, and his highly sought-after wines have consistently benefited from his hands-off, knowledgeable and practical approach for which he has become renowned. Indeed, Ridge Vineyards regularly produces Californian wines which are often compared to some of the great wines of the world, such as first growth wines from Bordeaux, and the finest white Burgundies. For those seeking the classic heart of Californian winemaking, Ridge Vineyards really isn’t a bad place to start.
The vineyards of Ridge have a serious bit of history behind them, too. Indeed, vines were first planted at Monte Bello Ridge in the mountains of Santa Cruz way back in the late 19th century, but the project which was launched there so long ago was quickly abandoned and left to the elements. In 1959, the land was bought by a group of researchers, and then sold to Paul Draper in 1969, who immediately saw the potential of this beautiful spot. It was the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting, however, where Ridge Vineyards got their big break, and their triumphs at this particular competition saw them become cult figures almost overnight.
Then, as today, Ridge Vineyards has focused almost exclusively on using their amazing terroir to produce high quality, complex Bordeaux blends and crisp, full Chardonnay wines which continue to impress on the international stage. The land is elevated and cool, allowing for a long ripening period which allows the grapes to reach full expression, before the winemaker’s distinctly Old World production techniques of careful blending and ageing come into play, resulting in beautiful depth and complexity in every bottle. Draper puts the success of Ridge Vineyards down to a couple of simple factors: Minimal intervention, and trust of the fruit. Draper is renowned for the fact that he has faith in his land and his grapes, allowing them to reach full ripeness in the beautiful sunshine of the Santa Cruz mountains, and then allowing them to express his prized land in the ageing process and eventually in the bottle.