Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountain California Wine Cabernet Sauvignon

Ridge Vineyards

Everything about Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains California Cabernet Sauvignon wine producer profile, wine tasting notes, wine and food pairing tips, best vintages, history of the property, information on their wine making techniques, terroir and soil. You can also read about the Grapes used for California wine and learn about the extensive History of Napa Valley, California Wines

Ridge History, Overview

Ridge Vineyards has a rich history as a California wine producing estate that dates all the way back to 1885. During the waning days of America’s wild west, a San Francisco doctor, Osea Perrone purchased 180 acres of land on the Monte Bello Ridge. Perrone began planting the vineyard following year. Osea Perrone built the original winery for the property in 1886. Skipping ahead to 1949, the new owner, William Short replanted the vineyards with Cabernet Sauvignon on the Monte Bello parcels. The modern era for Ridge Vineyards begins 10 years later in 1959. That was the year three Stanford scientists pooled their money to purchase the estate from William Short. That purchase marked the official start of Ridge Vineyards in the modern age.

The 1960’s were an important decade for Ridge Vineyards. The Doctors bought the now famous Monte Bello vineyard, produced their first vintage of Geyserville as well as the debut vintage for Ridge Monte Bello vineyards, the 1962. Ridge Montebello became the first, important, vineyard designated wine in California. A few years later, the young Paul Draper joined the company as their wine maker. In 1971, Ridge was the first producer to make a vineyard designated wine from the famous Eisele vineyard. The extremely rare wine was only produced in that one vintage. Paul Draper was quoted as saying the reason they did not produce additional vintages is that the wine was too high in alcohol at its then 12.5% level. In 1986, Ridge Vineyards was acquired by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.  Paul Draper remained with the company and eventually instituted sustainable farming techniques. Ridge Vineyards shifted to 100% organic farming techniques by 1999.

Ridge 1971 - Copy

Ridge Vineyards, Wines, Winemaking

Much of the success for the wines of Ridge Vineyards is due to their terroir. The vineyards are located in perhaps the coolest, if the not coldest terroir in California for growing wine grapes. Situated only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the vineyard site for the estates top wine, Ridge Monte Bello vineyard is located at extremely high elevations that range from 1,300 feet 2,700 feet above sea level. The higher elevations were where the owners first planted vines for the production of Ridge Mont Bello. Aside from the elevation, the soils contained large deposits of limestone.

The flagship wine for Ridge Vineyards is Monte Bello. The wine is aged in a combination of 95% American Oak and 5% French oak. Ridge Vineyards owns a whopping 525 acres planted with vines. Of that total, 125 acres belong to the Monte Bello Vineyard. Ridge Monte Bello uses mostly American Oak barrels. There is a second wine for Ridge Montebello, Santa Cruz Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards produces a massive array of wine including Chardonnay, Petit Sirah, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, proprietary blends, assorted Rhone varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and their flagship wine, Ridge Monte Bello. Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello is probably the sole remaining California wine that was known for producing outstanding wine in the 1960’s and 1970’s that is still on top of their game today. The wine ages for decades and remains popular with wine lovers. In total, Ridge Vineyards produces close to 100,000 cases of wine per vintage.

For all the grape varietals produced by Ridge Vineyards, the vineyards are not all situated in the Santa Cruz mountains. They have vines in Sonoma, the Alexander Valley and Paso Robles as well. Their oldest vines are used to produce Zinfandel and the Geyserville blend that comes from 130 year old vines.

Ridge Vineyards is the first, popular, California wine produce to embrace the concept of providing consumer with back labels that provide a list of all the additive ingredients found in wine. The list includes items like; indigenous yeast, naturally occurring malolactic bacteria, oak, calcium carbonate, sulfur dioxide, tartaric acid, minimum effective S O2 and egg whites.

With the 2011 vintage, Ridge Vineyards began producing a wine from 100% Petit Verdot, Torre Petit Verdot from the Monte Bello Vineyard. Only 275 cases are produced each year.

Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay is whole-cluster pressed, barrel fermented, and held on its lees for close to 11 months. For Red and white wines, the wines are racked, unfiltered and aged in 100% American oak. 

Serving and Decanting Ridge wines with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips

Ridge Vineyards wines are best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift. Young vintages of their red wine can be decanted for 1-3 hours, depending on the character of the vintage. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment.

The red wine of Ridge Vineyards is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, ribs, hamburgers, barbecue, roasted, braised, grilled dishes and stews. Ridge Vineyards is also good with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, salmon, mushrooms and pasta.

The white wine of Ridge Vineyards is best served with all types of seafood and shellfish, sushi, sashimi, chicken, veal, pork and cheese.


Ridge Wine Tasting Notes

38 Vintages 213,279 Views Sort by Vintage-Rating

2014 Ridge Petite Sirah Lytton Estate  (Dry Creek Valley) 90

With a deep, dark color, with the wine is big, robust and backwards, with a blast of dark berries, but it is slightly monolithic, hence the good, but not great score. 90 Points

3,364 Views   Tasted
2014 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate  (Dry Creek Valley) 85

Lots of bright, peppery, crisp red fruits on the nose, but on the palate, the wine is tannic, tight and drying in the finish. This could improve, but I am not sure how much. 85 Points

2,261 Views   Tasted
2014 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch  (Sonoma County) 82

Rustic, drying, harsh textures with sharp, crisp, bright red fruits and spice. This is clearly not my style of wine. 82 Points

2,022 Views   Tasted
2013 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 97

It's a good deal. I have friends with the younger vintages and I open the older years for them. Yes, this is frightfully young, yet, with its wealth of perfectly ripe, fresh, refined, bright, energetic fruits, it is disarmingly easy to drink now. Full-bodied, concentrated, rich and also light on its feet, the nose, with its blackberry, currant, tobacco leaf, vanilla, smoke and espresso bean it just great. But it is the length, purity and elegance paired with all that power on the palate that knocks you out. Another decade in the cellar will only add more complexity. This is a top vintage of Monte Bello that fans of this wine should not miss. The wine is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Merlot. 97 Points

8,490 Views   Tasted
2012 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

Don't confuse 2012 Ridge Monte Bello with all those lush, sexy wines from Napa Valley, because you will be sorely disappointed. That being said, this is a beauty, but in a completely different style. From a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot, this wine would be quite at home in the Left Bank Bordeaux, with its crisp, fresh, ripe, but firm tannic structure. The fruit has a great sense of purity, and a crisp, vibrant character, that will demand 10-15 years of age. If you have the patience, it will be worth the wait. My treasured 1991 Ridges are now drinking great, and I am sure this will age along the same path. 95 Points

13,440 Views   Tasted
2010 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

On the fresh, bright, crisp, structured side of the style range, the wine is powerful, restrained, firm and you would expect, quite young. Give it another 8-10 years of sleep and lets see what we really have. Ridge Monte Bello has such a great track record for aging, I am sure it will be worth the wait. 93 Points

5,623 Views   Tasted
2010 Ridge Carignane  (Central Coast) 82

Earthy, bright, cherry, red berry, light, short. Not much fun to taste. 82 Points

1,774 Views   Tasted
2009 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 96

Clearly Ridge is the most consistent producer of quality Cabernet Sauvignon over the past several decades. Classic is often a pejorative term when used for California wine. That is not the case. Blending 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot, not that different than what you might from a top estate in the Medoc the wine pops with fresh, blackberry, earth, oak and spice. Full bodied, concentrated and structured to age, there is symmetry to the wine and a softness to the ripe sweet tannins that feels great on the palate. I like trying these young when I can, before I lay them down to sleep for a decade or two. I am just now starting to pop my 1991's. 96 Points

9,461 Views   Tasted
2008 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

It's all about the potential here with this stunner. From a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot, the wine is ripe, powerful, balanced, complex and rich. Ridge Monte Bello takes a long time to come around, but it's worth the wait. 95 Points

9,236 Views   Tasted
2007 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

A fresher, bright, crisp, focused styled wine here, with sweet, dark, red berries, earth, tobacco and a blackberries. Blind, I thought it was a Left Bank Bordeaux. Classic and classy in character, this should be even better with another 5 or more years in the bottle. 93 Points

8,612 Views   Tasted

Ripe aromas of licorice, blackberry, vanilla and earth, rich, full bodied, concentrated, tannic and structured to age, this elegantly styled, California Cabernet Sauvignon, made from a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc is a perfect ringer to insert into a blind tasting of California versus Bordeaux. 93 Points

10,030 Views   Tasted
2007 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate  (Dry Creek Valley) 91

With 12% Vioginer blended with Syrah, the wine offers a juicy mouthful of spice, earth, back raspberry, blackberry, pepper, herbs and earth. Rich textures, good freshness and a plush, dark berry finish. Give this another year or two to soften and develop. 91 Points

2,109 Views   Tasted
2006 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

Still young, this tannic, fresh, crisp, crunchy, concentrated, full bodied wine offers a lot of potential. But 5-10 more years are needed before the blackberries, cassis, oak and earth come together, soften and become fun to drink. The wine was made from a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc. 93 Points

5,898 Views   Tasted
2006 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Lytton Estate  (Dry Creek Valley) 88

Spicy, jammy, peppery blackberries, good concentration, with a drying sensation in the finish. 88 Points

2,187 Views   Tasted
2005 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

From a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux styled expression of California Cabernet Sauvignon is another winner from perhaps one of the most consistent producers in the Golden State. Deep in color, with a nose packed with licorice, coffee, cassis, earth, smoke and spice, it's powerful, full bodied, tannic, concentrated and harmonious. Ridge Monte Bello is a contender for the California Cabernet Sauvignon that demands the most aging before it matures. I'd leave it for at least another 10-15 years if you want to enjoy its display of secondary aromas and textures that accompany old Monte Bello. 95 Points

8,464 Views   Tasted
2002 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

From a blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot, the wine remains deeply colored. With a nose of truffle, cassis, tobacco, blackberry, dark cherry, earth and smoke, this concentrated, dense, full bodied, tannic wine needs time in the cellar to come around fully. Ridge Monte Bello is one of the best California Cabernet Sauvignon wines for aging, give it 5-10 more years. 93 Points

4,710 Views   Tasted
2001 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 96

The first bottle from the case is always fun to taste, as you do not know what to expect. I was not let down. From a blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot, the wine pops with cassis, blackberry, earth, spice, tobacco and forest floor notes. Big, rich, concentrated and packed with layers of ripe, juicy, dark berries, soft tannins and freshness, everything is in place for a long life. This is still young. For a wine that's over a decade old, the color still looks like a young wine! You can either enjoy in its earth, or lay it down for another decade or more. When mature, this will probably deserve another Pt or two! It's really great example of California Caberent Sauvignon. 96 Points

7,381 Views   Tasted
2000 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 91

Tobacco, earth, cigar box, cassis and fennel aromatics opened to a medum/full bodied wine of freshness, soft textures, cassis and blackberries. This is not a wine of depth and power. It's about freshness meshed with elegance. There is no need to hold this wine as it's probably in prime time drinking mode today. 91 Points

8,223 Views   Tasted
1997 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 92

Medium/full bodied, with a fresh, vibrant, crisp, clean personality, the serves up a beautiful display of fresh, ripe, cherries and plums with the right amount of lift to keep things going. But it lacks the weight and depth of the better vintages for this often stunning wine. 92 Points

6,404 Views   Tasted

This must be the earliest drinking vintage of Ridge Monte Bello I have ever tasted. This forward Cabernet Sauvignon offers earth, cassis, blackberry, tobacco and forest floor aromas. Medium/full bodied and soft in texture, for Ridge, this is not a vintage that requires additional cellaring. It's already drinking perfecly today. 93 Points

8,530 Views   Tasted
1996 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

Tobacco, peppery herbs and blackberries on the nose move to a fresh, crisp, juicy, refreshing mouthful full of ripe, juicy, sweet fruits. This is quite stylish. 95 Points

3,650 Views   Tasted

If anyone wanted to state Ridge Montebello is the best example of a classic style of California Cabernet Sauvignon, I'm going to agree with them. This stunning wine is just what the doctor ordered, with its concentrated layers of fresh dark berries, earth, spice and tobacco scented personality. Mouth filling, multi-layered, long rich, the wine builds in the mouth and captures your attention with each additional sniff, swirl and sip. Still young, this should age for decades. 97 Points

5,515 Views   Tasted
1995 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 92

Is this the longest lived California Cabernet Sauvignon produced today? Perhaps, as this is still so young, fresh and vibrant, in color, aromatics and flavors, I was thinking this was 10 years younger than its true age. Medium/full bodied, with a real freshness to the red fruits, with liberal doses of smoke, tobacco and forest floor sensations. As a guess, 5 more years should add more softness, but this will always be on the classic, bright side of the style range. The wine was produced from blending 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It is interesting note that starting with the 1995 vintage, the blending was conducted later, during the aging process. 92 Points

4,364 Views   Tasted
1994 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

I’m always going to be a sucker for this style of wine. Freshness, power, ripe fruit and the structure to age, what’s not to like? The wine lacks the same level of concentration found in the best vintages, but the style remains the same. Age this, or pop a bottle now, either way it’s a treat. 93 Points

3,706 Views   Tasted

If I needed to pick a wine that exemplifies the classic style of California Cabs, I’d pick Montebello. Combining red & black fruits with spices, herbs and licorice notes, blind, I might have guessed St Julien. 94 Points

3,079 Views   Tasted
1994 Ridge Geyserville  (Sonoma County) 89

Slightly past its prime, but this charmer offered a lot of earth, spice and tobacco character. I remember this from years ago. The fruit is not what it used to be. But most of us are not what we used to be either. Drink up. 89 Points

4,523 Views   Tasted
1992 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 90

Tobacco, cassis, earth and spicy dark berry scents led to a medium/full bodied, tannic wine. It was surprising to find this much tannin in a 20 year old Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine felt dry in the mouth and could be seen as an austere style of Ridge. It shows like it needs more time. but at 20 years of age, it is what it is. Some tasters are clearly going to enjoy this wine more than I did. I sensed the quality, but this blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot and 9% Cabernet Franc did not offer nearly as much pleasure as the 1991. 90 Points

5,313 Views   Tasted
1991 Ridge Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

Just a fabulous, classic California Cabernet drinking in the sweet spot. The complex set of aromatics offers cedar, tobacco, cassis, blackberry, forest leaf, pepper, herbs and a tinge of smoke. The ripe red fruits are bright and fresh. The wine is balanced, earthy, long and complex, making you want to check it out again and again. Popped and poured, well-stored bottles should be great for at least 15-20 more years. 95 Points

3,352 Views   Tasted

At more than 20 years of age is still young. This powerful, concentrated, dense wine is filled with rich, ripe black fruit, anise and cassis aromatics. While the wine offers ample concentration, there was a lack of complexity. 92 Points

6,020 Views   Tasted

This powerful, concentrated, dense wine is filled with rich, ripe black fruit, anise and cassis aromatics. While the wine offers ample concentration, there was a lack of complexity. 93 Points

5,941 Views   Tasted
1985 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

Drinking perfectly today, with a nose dominated by earth, dark red and black fruits, wood and tobacco, the wine was round, clean, fresh and pure, finishing with ripe red and black fruits. It's not the 1991, but it's a very nice example of a mature, traditional, California, Caberent Sauvignon. 93 Points

4,064 Views   Tasted
1978 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

Brick in color, with green olives, cedar, smoke, peppery spice and cassis on the nose. Fully mature, with a spicy, herb, tobacco and cherry core of fruit, the wine has lift, fruit, length and concentration. This is a classic example of California Cabernet Sauvignon drinking at peak. 93 Points

3,390 Views   Tasted
1974 Ridge Merlot Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

A rare bottle I am not likely to see again, this stunner brings you a blend of vanilla, spice, coffee bean, tobacco leaf, forest, cigar box and cherries. Rich, round, full and amazingly youthful, the cherry toned finish is a beauty. This is the debut vintage for the Merlot Monte Bello. 95 Points

1,792 Views   Tasted
1974 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 95

The color was dark. On the nose scents of cedar, flowers, mocha, chocolate and herbs filled the glass. Full bodied with a slightly tannic finish. The mouth rejoices in a bath of red & black fruit. The finish was long. 95 Points

3,590 Views   Tasted
1974 Ridge Lytton Springs  (Dry Creek Valley) 93

Unbelievably good wine. Served blind, it was a dead ringer for a very good, fully mature, Chateauneuf du Pape. The fruit here was still going strong. Kirsch, kirsch and more kirsch, with pepper and herbs, soft, elegant textures and freshness remained. This was purchased on release and perfectly store all these years, so your YMMV. 93 Points

1,880 Views   Tasted
1974 Ridge Petite Sirah York Creek  (Spring Mountain District) 65

Blind, I would swear it was an Amarone with its overripe, raisin character. This might be of historical interest to some, and if that style of aged Petit Syrah is your thing, you might like it more than I did. But one sniff and sip was all I needed, or could take. 65 Points

2,527 Views   Tasted
1973 Ridge Zinfandel Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 83

Red tea in color, the wine is medium-bodied, with a peppery, cherry core of fruits on the nose and palate. Not a bad wine, just not much left in the tank. 83 Points

2,189 Views   Tasted
1971 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Eisele Vineyard  (Napa Valley) 97

There are some wines that due to their extreme rarity and so elusive, I never think I am going to taste it. 1971 Ridge Eisele was one of those wines. I will probably never see another bottle. But the experience is not one I will forget. Spice box, coconut, earth, black cherry liqueur, tobacco, cedar and fennel notes were enough to keep my interest. On the palate, the wine is soft, clean, fresh and packed with blackberry and cherry notes. This was still going strong at over 40 years of age. 97 Points

5,249 Views   Tasted
1969 Ridge Riesling  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 55

Sporting an orange hue, this wine proves what happens when you blend vasoline with gasoline and wine. Vile is how I would describe it. But, I admit, others enjoyed the wine more than I. The wine, a rare bottle was late picked and the label read 13.5 alcohol. The 5 points were added for being wet. 55 Points

2,187 Views   Tasted
1968 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 96

WOW! The blast of tobacco, cedar wood, smoke, herbs and cassis could have come from Pauillac, and a serious Classified Growth at that. Full-bodied, a little rustic, but long and dense, the wine is rough and ready, leaving you with a lengthy flash of red fruits and herbs. 96 Points

4,159 Views   Tasted
1965 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 93

The fruit is still remarkably fresh, bright, sweet and pure. There is length, balance, freshness and all the red fruits you find on the nose, manage to remain with you on the palate and in the finish. This tasted 20 years younger than its true age. Good luck finding a bottle, but if you do, grab it as it shows California Cabernet history at its best. 93 Points

2,278 Views   Tasted
1964 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 90

Currants, red berries, bright, crunchy and crisp on the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with accents of lead pencil, tobacco wrapper and wet earth. Not profound, but quite the treat when you consider its age. 90 Points

2,305 Views   Tasted
1963 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 91

Predominantly tertiary in nature, with little effort you find hay, tobacco leaf, cedar, cinnamon, cigar wrapper, flowers and bright red cherries. Medium-bodied, crisp and fresh, this was still showing well. 91 Points

1,961 Views   Tasted
1962 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello  (Santa Cruz Mountains) 90

Every now and then you come across a wine you thought you would never see, the debut vintage of what would be become Ridge Monte Bello is one of those true, unicorn wines. Medium-bodied, dusty and chalky in the mouth, the wine is loaded with bright, red currants, tobacco leaf, crushed stone, lead pencil and cedar, finishing with crunchy, red fruits. This is a dead ringer for an off-vintage Pauillac. 90 Points

2,026 Views   Tasted