A Very Special Black Friday Tasting Opportunity!

EXTRA! EXTRA! Historic Vineyard Series Wines Available To Taste On Black Friday!

It’s becoming quite the tradition for us to do a little something special on Black Friday, that semi-infamous post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy that so regularly pocks the countenances of our collective social marketplaces.

Last year, we put on quite a delightful series of tastings (you can see a run-down on the 2010 Black Friday here: https://blog.ridgewine.com/2010/11/22/turn-black-friday-red/), and I think for all concerned it was a very welcome alternative to being trampled underfoot by a maddened gate-crashing mob storming the doors of their local Wal-Mart at 4am, in search of one last remaining copy of “Halo” or one last “Let’s Rock Elmo.”

This year will be no different!

You will have two choices, this:

Or this:

The choice seems clear to me.

In all seriousness, while avoiding the lunacy of Black Friday is certainly incentive enough, we actually have a much better reason for you to visit. As part of the private tastings on offer on Black Friday, we’ll be showcasing … wait for it, wait for it … two of our new, never-before released, Historic Vineyard Series wines! Ah, the volta …

Have you heard about these very special wines? If you’re a Ridge Vineyards Wine Club Member, you certainly have. And if you’re not a member, well, this might just be a really good chance to experience just why membership is so decidedly the grooviest of badges to affix to the cub scout or brownie outfit of your aesthetic life. Meaning, these very rare wines are only available to members, but for just one day, and one day only, we’re going to make them available for tasting to all who secure a reservation! And, if you’re a member, you’ll be able to purchase as well. And if not yet a member? Well …

Anyhow, just to back track a bit and give you the rundown on these wines, the gist of the story is this;  courtesy of a long and educational engagement with our own unique history here on the Monte Bello Estate, we have been able to delve deeply into the pre-Ridge story, and part of what we’ve been able to do is not only identify the key families who first planted on our mountain, but also ascertain their stories, and the boundaries surrounding their original plantings. And with those families, lines, and properties properly identified, we’ve been able, in a sort of feat of viticultural gerrymandering, to conceptually redraw the lot lines on our property so as to make wines that hew to the original plantings, and bottle them under the names of the original families! It’s quite a unique addition to our primary bottlings from this property (the Monte Bello and Estate Cabernets), and we’re very excited about this extraordinary new series.

2009 is the very first vintage of our Historic Vineyard Series wines on offer, and this Black Friday will be the first “public” opportunity to taste two of them, the 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot. This is truly a tasting opportunity not to be missed, as these wines couldn’t possibly be more rare, more significant, more cachet-laden, or more delicious! Did I mention these are also single-varietal wines! That’s right, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% Merlot. How’s that for rare and special?

Here is a bit of history of the two families:


In 1890, John Torre, a successful Nevada cattle rancher purchased one hundred acres on Monte Bello Ridge, planted vines, and built a barn atop a cellar dug into the hillside. In 1908, John’s nephew Vincent and wife, Dominica, left Nevada to run the vineyards and winery at Monte Bello, acquiring the property upon John’s death in 1913. The Torre winery produced mostly zinfandel, selling it for shipment by rail to New York.

Prohibition closed the Torre winery in 1920 and the vines died out over time. After several changes of ownership, William Short acquired the property and replanted to cabernet sauvignon and a small amount of chardonnay. By 1959, Short, weary of the work, sold the land to four scientists from Stanford Research Institute.

Initially, the partners intended to sell the grapes, but one of them, Dave Bennion, made a half-barrel of wine from the 1959 harvest—his first foray into winemaking. Its quality convinced the partners to re-bond the old winery, and to undertake the venture that would become Ridge Vineyards.

Dave, with his partners, went on to make seven commercial vintages (1962-1968). Paul Draper—impressed by the exceptional 1962 and 1964—joined the group as winemaker in 1969. Paul assisted with that vintage and made the 1970 and 1971 on his own, the last to be made in the old Torre Winery.

Today the oldest vines are those planted by William Short in 1949. The old Torre winery building now houses the Monte Bello tasting room and group facilities.


Pierre Klein (1855-1922) was an Alsatian who came to California in 1875. For years, as manager of the restaurant in San Francisco’s Occidental Hotel, he championed the best of California wines. In 1888 he purchased 160 acres on Monte Bello Ridge (currently known as the Jimsomare Ranch.)

Determined to produce a fine claret in the style of the Médoc, he planted Bordeaux varieties on their own roots. In the early 1890s, he began selling his Mira Valle wines to several San Francisco restaurants; in 1895, he entered his wine in the Bordeaux Exposition, where he took an honorable mention At the Paris Exposition of 1900, he won two gold medals—one for his Claret, the other for his “Grand Vin”—known as the “Château Lafitte of America,”

When phylloxera attacked his vines after the turn of the century, he did not replant. Retiring in 1910, he sold the property in 1913. In 1936, it was purchased by the Schwabacher family of San Francisco who renamed the property “Jimsomare” from their names Jim, Sophie, and Marie.

Although Klein’s Bordeaux varietals had died out, a small nineteenth-century zinfandel vineyard survived. Ridge bought those grapes, and made its first Jimsomare Zinfandel in 1968. Ridge convinced the family to replant the Bordeaux varietals, and a small amount of chardonnay. In exchange, Ridge provided rootstock, and a promise to purchase the grapes. The first cabernet bottling was in 1978.

By the late 1990s, the Schwabachers no longer wished to manage day-to-day farming, and signed a long-term lease with Ridge. Today, Ridge farms the original Klein property as part of its Monte Bello Estate.

And if all that isn’t enough to pique your curiosity, I’m now going to get going on some tasting notes, to hopefully & proverbially whet your viticultural whistle as regards these extremely rare and historic, limited-production, member-only, single-varietal offerings:

2009 Ridge Vineyards Torre Ranch Merlot

Tremendous post-decanting development on aromatic display; at first whiff, the nose is dominated by strong baker’s chocolate notes, with only minor hints of peppercorn and tarragon, but as the wine airs out, fascinatingly strong strains of fig and amber liqueur emerge. The bowl-view bespeaks a fair amount of girth to come; big, slow-moving legs languidly taking their time down the bowl-sides (raise up mama, get yer big leg offa mine!), and first taste does nothing to dispel this foreshadowing; the wine is mouth-filling to the nth, with strongly granular tannins on full display, and a good wallop of low-tone fruit spreading out all across the front-palate. Layered under this hearty spread of harvest berry and plum lays a layer of beurre noir and toasty caramel, and across the top, a slightly minty, cool-climate herbaceousness. The wine is still quite young, no doubt about it, and structure is still the dominate component, but again, with air, there is a good array of fruit notes beginning to show their colors as well. Mirroring the color, which is decidedly concentrated and rich, the fruit notes are dense as well; not at all extracted, mind you, but expressing their collective essences with a vengeance. This is a lot of wine in the glass, and a fascinating inversion of the Merlot-Cab relationship; here, the Merlot is structure, depth, tannin, and concentration, bringing muscularity and girth to the table, albeit in a broodingly romantic package. A most baroque wine, this is viticultural poetry of the most saturated kind … Purple prose-ish, if you’ll forgive the pun …

2009 Ridge Vineyards Klein Cabernet Sauvignon

Unbelievable aromatics; the quintessentiallity of cool-climate cab in action; minerality, spice, herbality, spice, percolation, spice, and spice! And a singular relationship between color and body; if anything, denser and more vibrant than the merlot, yet swifter of leg and less-viscous of body; rivulets a-runnin’ (brooks run into the ocean, ocean run into the sea!). Extremely elegant mouthfeel, with acidity on display for days upon days upon days; such vibrancy and bounce for a California solo-varietal cab! The fruit here is definitely high in tone, lots of both sweet and sour cherries, strong pluot notes, and a bit of young raspberry as well. The tannins here are of the extremely refined sort; soft, supple, resolved, and covered, and the mid-palate structure retains its bounce while spreading its fruit in a comparatively wider arc.  The finish is a deceptive one; at first swallow, the youth of the wine seems almost restrictive as regards retaining some flavor in the aftermath, but lo and behold, with 5 or 10 seconds of wait-time, a delicious lingering decadence starts to emerge, perhaps hinting at the richening to come. This is a wine with a lot of growing still to do, no question, but it’s expressive and buoyant now, and exciting beyond compare. It’s easy to see how the ying and yang of cab and merlot from this mountain work together, but there is something sweetly, intimately refreshing about seeing these varietals in their solo and separate fleshes; they have a home-ness to them that, for all their grace and power, the assemblages of Monte Bello and Estate don’t necessarily evidence; this is the farmgirl or boy that you fall in love with for their innocence, their purity, their honor and their integrity. They don’t flash, but they’re honest, and there is no more reassuring lap to rest your weary head in.

To secure a reservation for these very special tastings, at either our Lytton Springs or Monte Bello Estates, please follow the following links:

Lytton Springs

Monte Bello

As an alternative, you can also e-mail us at reservations@ridgewine.com.

And last but not least, here is a bit of video documenting a tasting session of these wines earlier today:

Categories: Events, Lytton Springs, Monte Bello, Offerings, Tasting Flights, Tasting Notes, Tasting Rooms, Video, Wine Clubs, Wine Tales, Winemaking

Tags: , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Count me in! Sounds like a perfect Black Friday to me.

  2. A much appreciated pair of tasting notes, Christopher. As well as the more detailed history of the vineyards, and the inspiration for the wines. As always, the efforts Ridge goes to, to inform buyers of just what’s in the bottle, is exceptional. All too often with most producers, that remains a mystery. And tho’ “mystique” is an essential facet of the romance of wine, “mystery” is just plain frustrating. Knowing just what went into the bottle, how it got there and why, increases one’s appreciation of the product – and the art.

    Very many thanks to you for the informative and entertaining post about these special wines. And also to the Ridge management for taking the risk to produce them.

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