Early this year, Ridge completed a land exchange with the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District—an arrangement first proposed by the District some forty years ago. The complex agreement grants Ridge agricultural rights, in perpetuity, to forty-two acres of former Monte Bello vineyard land abandoned during Prohibition. The land surrounds our 19th-century production winery on the south and east, and adjoins our 2600’ vineyards. A key provision of the understanding is that an equal amount of Ridge-owned land visible from the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve’s hiking trails can never be developed. In addition, all new vineyards on the District’s land must be farmed organically or biodynamically.
We have developed plans to plant, over time, thirty-two acres of the land now available to us. These parcels were first planted to vines in the late 1880s by Osea Perrone, founder of the Monte Bello winery. We will replant in five stages, with four year gaps between each phase. Clearing of eight acres for Phase One will begin next year, planting will commence in 2017. For all stages, the vines will be primarily cabernet sauvignon, with some cabernet franc, petit verdot, and merlot. We expect that the fruit will be of very high quality; as the vines mature fully, at least half could be included in the Monte Bello. The vine mix will consist of four or five of our favorite 19th-century Santa Cruz Mountains and California clones. The petit verdot is also a 19th-century California selection; there will be a few acres of old-clone chardonnay as well. Ridge is one of the few California vineyards that does not irrigate vines once their roots are established. This, combined with the staged planting, eliminates future stress on the mountain’s aquifers.
In the near term, we could see up to fifteen tons of cabernet from the Phase One plantings just five years from now, these additional 1000 cases most likely destined for the Estate Cabernet until the vines mature. In the longer term, once the entire thirty-two acres are planted, these new vineyards should provide up to 5000 more cases for the Estate and Monte Bello together. A forty-year-old dream is coming true; some things are worth the wait. —David Amadia, Vice President of Sales and Marketing