I’m very excited to be launching a new feature here on 4488: A Ridge Blog. I call it
“The Official Ridge-Ite 20 Questions Questionnaire”
and today is the day we debut the first installment!
(Before doing so however, I need to credit my good friend Lenn Thompson, esteemed wineblogger extraordinaire and host of the site Lenndevours.com; it was a similar feature on his site that inspired me to launch this.)
And now, on with the show!
The idea here is that I’ve drawn up a set of 20 questions that I’ll be posing to members of the Ridge staff, with the goal of posting a different person’s answers each week. I’m already enjoying reading some early responses tremendously, and I hope you’ll experience the same; I think it’s a really fun and fascinating way to find out a bit more about the people here, and the answers I’ve seen to date truly form an inspired encapsulation of the passions that drive these wine lovers to bring their individual talents to the collective RIDGE table.
Anyhow, I’m proud to debut the feature with a gentleman I consider it an honor to work beside. His name is Michael Riese, and he’s been affiliated in one fashion or another with Ridge Vineyards for over 30 years. Although he currently only works part-time in the Monte Bello Tasting Room, his every appearance on the mountain is a valued opportunity for myself and all the staff members to steep themselves in a little more Ridge history; I learn something new every time. So that said, I give you the debut of The Official Ridge-Ite 20 Questions Questionnaire, featuring Michael Riese!
The Official Ridge-ite 20 Questions Questionnaire
1. Can you briefly describe the first time you remember “consciously” drinking a bottle of wine (meaning, you were aware of what you were tasting, and to what extent you were enjoying it)?
Age 7 (I’m not kidding!). My father slipped me a jelly glass of Buena Vista Cab. It took a bit of getting used to, but obviously it made a lasting impression.
2. Who first “turned you on” to drinking good wine?
College friend (and one-time Ridge employee).
3. Do you remember the first time you tried a wine from Ridge? (What was it, where did you try it, etc.)
Per # 2, at the winery in the spring of 1970. Had Riesling drawn from a carboy and a few zins, including ’68 Lodi.
4. When did you first realize you had an interest in wine that went beyond that of the “casual” consumer?
Late sixties. By mid-seventies, I was working at Ridge and making wine at home.
5. What was your first job “in the industry?”
Am I being repetitive? Ridge, of course.
6. When did you first join Ridge, and what led you here?
See nos. 1 – 5.
7. If you had to pick, is there one Ridge wine that you prefer above all others?
Year – over – year, I think I’d have to pick Geyserville.
8. Do you have a favorite food and wine pairing?
Nope. Good wine makes any good food better.
9. If you could have any Ridge wine, served with any meal, cooked by any chef, with any companion, anywhere in the world, what would you select?
Gotta confess one of my favorite meals / locales is the Bracebridge Dinner at The Ahwanee in Yosemite. There certainly is better food to be had, but the combination of place, season, dining companions (a dear friend of mine and another couple we’ve come to know well) and an older Monte Bello – ’96 has been the recent pick, but I’m down to my last two bottles, so I’ll have to move on soon – and a couple of zins and / or syrahs is most satisfying. Ask me that question if I ever get to Europe again and fulfill my fantasy of sailing down the Canal du Midi and hitting the local eateries.
10. Is there a common “myth” or “belief” or supposed “truism” in the world of wine that you’d like to take the opportunity to debunk? (white wines only with fish, wine is made in the winery, alcohol levels in California are too high, the 100-pt wine rating scale is obsolete, etc.)
I’d like people to understand a little better when higher sugars at picking are desirable and when they detract from the finished wine. For that matter, I would simply like those who make such global statements about wines as those you’ve chosen as examples to challenge these notions and themselves by being open to broader experience. As to the 100 – point rating system, I don’t think it’s especially meaningful, but it drives sales of wines and wine publications and I don’t especially want to tilt that windmill.
11. Outside of California, what is your wine region of choice?
12. When you’re not drinking wine, what is your beverage of choice?
13. If you could have any other job in the food/wine industry than the one you have now, what would it be?
If I were younger, I’d go back to school and get my degree and work in production.
14. Wine & Cheese, or Wine & Chocolate?
15. What has been the best wine experience to date in your life? (Where were you, who were you with, what did you drink, etc.)
1977, 30th birthday, ’47 Chateau Cheval Blanc shared with five friends of the same age.
16. What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen happen in a wine tasting room?
Not exactly side – splitting, but I will never forget the taster who wanted to know what that Whitten Ranch cardigan was all about.
17. What do you consider to be the five most important items in your fridge right now?
Chardonnay, scallions, capers, a few wedges of cheese, eggs.
18. If you could offer one piece of advice to someone who is interested in getting a job in the wine industry, what would it be?
Be prepared to put in your time doing the not-so-romantic grunt work, no matter where you want to go in the end.
19. How do you feel about the “aroma wheel”?
It’s interesting and it does start people thinking about what they associate with certain aromas.
20. What’s the desktop photo on your computer?
A spot along the Tuolumne River following the trail down into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, accessible only on foot.
Thank you Michael!