2012 Honorary Winery of the Year Award

Ridge CaliforniaThe Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta is pleased to announce that Paul Draper, CEO/Winemaker at Ridge Vineyards, will attend the 2012 event to receive SFWC Fiesta’s Honorary Winery of the Year Award. An internationally celebrated winemaker, Draper has been making wines for Ridge Vineyards since 1969.

Best know in North America for their long-lived zinfandels, particularly single- vineyard Sonoma old vine zinfandels such as Ridge Lytton Springs and Ridge Geyserville, Draper is best know internationally for making Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet, one of the world’s top Bordeaux blends.

Ridge Monte Bello 1971 finished fifth in the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris, a blind tasting of 4 of Bordeaux’s top wines against 6 California Cabernets. To everyone’s surprise, the best taster’s in France rated a California wine over the top Bordeaux wines. The response of the French judges was that California wines would not age and that if the same wines were tasted in 30 years the French wines would win.

So, thirty years later, in 2006, Steven Spurrier, the Englishman who set up the original tasting, set up the tasting again, this time with simultaneous tastings in London and in Napa. Paralleling the 1976 event, nine expert tasters at each location judged the original red wines. The winning wine in both the US and UK was the Ridge Monte Bello 1971. In the combined results, it finished eighteen points ahead of the second-place wine. This was quite an honor for Ridge, especially given the prestige of the tasters, including Michael Broadbent, Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, and Michel Bettane.

To see more on this tasting, see the New York Times post at  http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2006/06/02/judgment-schmudgment

 Results 2006
137 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 1971 

119 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 

112 Mayacamas Vineyards 1971

112 Heitz ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ 1970

106 Clos Du Val Winery 1972 

105 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1970 

92 Chateau Montrose 1970 

82 Chateau Haut-Brion 1970 

66 Chateau Leoville Las Cases 1971 

59 Freemark Abbey Winery 1967 

Largely due to its cool-climate location and its limestone soil, Ridge Monte Bello is unique from the other top Cabernet wines from California. In view of and located only 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Monte Bello vineyard is high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, ranging in elevation from 1300′ to 2700′ above and is composed of unique green stone and clay soils layered over decomposing limestone. Limestone does not exists in the well-known Cabernet producing areas of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, making the soil composition at Monte Bello a unique contributor to the wine’s distinctive character. The cool climate and limestone soil combine to make a moderate-alcohol wine destined for long-term aging, with firm acidity and a consistent streak of minerality. 

Often called America’s First Growth, Monte Bello is one of the finest examples of a classic Bordeaux blend in which cabernet sauvignon predominates. The blend in each Monte Bello vintage is different, the cabernet sauvignon showing cassis and adding tannin, small amounts of merlot giving plum character and a bit of softness, a touch of petit verdot contributing dark color and earthiness, and cabernet franc adding fragrance and a hint of spice.

Year after year Monte Bello proves to be a consistently compelling wine with great structure, complexity, and balance and it has been known to lay down for several decades with elegance and ease. 

Taken from their website at http://www.ridgewine.com  the history of Ridge Monte Bello is a fascinating California wine story:

“In 1959, four Stanford Research Institute engineers bought acreage on top of Monte Bello Ridge, a site that had first been planted to grape vines in the late 19th century. In the early years, Dave Bennion took the reigns as winemaker, and in 1962, after three years of producing small amounts of some of the finest wine in California of that era, the four owners re-bonded the winery and released the first commercial Ridge Monte Bello. Production was now located in the old stone winery built by Dr. Osea Perrone in 1892 and acquired from the Trentadue family. Paul Draper joined Ridge in 1969, took over production of red wines the next year, and in 1971 became winemaker, a position he continues to hold today.”

Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta could not be more pleased to have Paul Draper returning to Santa Fe to receive the event’s Honorary Winery of the Year Award. It is anticipated that Draper will host a six-vintage vertical tasting of Ridge Monte Bello on Friday September 28th. Following the tasting, Draper will be honored at the Live Auction Luncheon where four of his Ridge Vineyard wines will be paired with courses from four Guest Chefs.

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