Besides the relationship between Peter Martin Ray and Paul Masson, there’s another incredibly important story in the rebirth of the Santa Cruz as a major wine growing region; keyed into a famous site overlooking Cupertino on the eastern side of the mountains is Ridge’s Monte Bello Vineyard. While the site has been planted since the 1880s, its modern history begins in 1959, when a group of doctors and amateur winemakers working at the Stanford Research Institute purchased the site.
Founding winemaker David Bennion passed the reins to Paul Draper in the late 1960s, beginning one of the most legendary careers in the entirety of American wine history. The 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon placed 5th in Steven Spurrier’s famous Judgement of Paris tasting in which top American Cabernet were compared to the great classed growths of Bordeaux; every other American wine was from Napa.
Ridge’s Monte Bello remains one of the finest wines of the world, and rightfully commands its reputation to this day. More than that, in Paul Draper’s 47 vintages at Ridge, his focus on expressing the powerful individuality of vineyard sites is a key takeaway for us. Paul championed the idea of not so much “making” a wine, as getting out of its way and letting great farming do most of the talking.
Ridge’s hard work over the past half century, humble and grounded, can be clearly tasted today; if you’ve ever been lucky enough to crack a bottle of Ridge from the 70s or 80s or 90s, the wines today are still delectable and often have decades in front of them still. More than anything we’re always struck by the humble transparency of their work, labeling, and craft. Ridge’s work inspires us deeply here at Sandar and Hem.