Back to the Future: Technology & Ridge

I’ve always been fascinated by the dichotomy between Ridge’s patient evolution over the last half century contrasted against Silicon Valley’s meteoric rise over that same period.  For those that may not be familiar with our history, Ridge was founded by a group of Stanford Research Institute engineers who had purchased the vineyards and abandoned winery in the hills above Cupertino as a weekend camping location.


However, their curiosity was sparked by the existing vines planted on the property and the significant viticultural history of the land.  They purchased the property in 1959 and it only took three years for them to decide to officially rebond the winery, with one of the partners, Dave Bennion, taking on full time winemaking duties.  Since that time, we have been perched high on the hill above Silicon Valley making single-vineyard wines in a century-old, stone winery using pre-industrial methods reminiscent of a time forgotten.  We’ve successfully co-existed with the fast paced community below us, serving as a contrast to the plugged in, always on culture of the valley.  Yet, despite the contrast, we’ve embraced this community over the decades and it seems, it has embraced us.

Robert Scoble, one of the most prominent tech journalists in the business, called Ridge “The drink that best reflects Silicon Valley”

Then there was even the photo of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg showing his preference for Ridge.

And just this week, Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a great piece titled A thirsty pilgrim’s trip to Ridge’s Monte Bello, following his visit to the property for our first Assemblage event.  In it, Jon does a great job overlaying our history with that of our various tech neighbors at the base of the hill.  Here are a few excerpts from the article:

The oldest of Monte Bello’s current vines date to 1949, a decade after Hewlett-Packard was formed in a Palo Alto garage. As the technological world was being hatched below, Ridge was embracing happily archaic winemaking techniques on the mountain above, ones rooted firmly in the 19th century.

His (Draper) devotion to old-fashioned methods provided “this balance to the world that was developing below us in Silicon Valley.”

Still, the world below barreled ahead at the speed of electrons. Today, the Googleplex and Infinite Loop thrive below, along with the swarming hive mind of the modern media-technology complex, while Monte Bello remains in its state of grace.

I got yet another reminder of this constancy during a recent retrospective tasting in Carmel, with vintages spanning 2010 to 1977, and all wines poured, for the first time, from magnums.

What of that 1977? Harvested just months after a virtually unknown computer firm, Apple, had incorporated, a deviously small crop yielded a wine that even today is musky, still deeply tannic and full of intense red fruit, in addition to the aspects that always mark Monte Bello: dried mint and bay laurel, and a dustiness that makes me think of a summer drive through the back roads of the Santa Cruz hills.

The 1984? Tobacco, yerba buena, a pleasing herbal greenness. With a full nod to George Orwell, Apple had just introduced the Macintosh. The ink-jet printer was being unveiled.

1997? A lavish and hot year for California, but the Monte Bello clocked in at just 12.9 percent alcohol. I could taste the sun in the wine, in a dried-cherry aspect, along with the typical minerality. That year, as harvest rolled up on the mountain, graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin registered the domain name

Through it all, Monte Bello was still being made in a way barely changed from the first experimental vintages of the early 1960s.

Regardless of where our culture is headed, or what the next or new technology might be, it is comforting to know that Monte Bello will endure.  A beautiful mountain indeed.  Perched high on that hill making wines of distinction from special plots of land.


Categories: Monte Bello

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1 reply

  1. Great history, amazing wine. Need to make a trip your direction soon!

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