Hard to believe that in my little hometown of Cupertino, CA, there is a world renowned winery tucked deep into the hillside. Cupertino is a part of the Silicon Valley- it's where you can find 1 Infinite Loop aka Apple HQ; and all sorts of other hi-tech companies within a 15 mile radius (turn right for eBay, left for Google, straight ahead for Yahoo).
But drive down Stevens Creek just a bit, and make your way through a little bit of greenery to the Cupertino Reservoir (lots of juvenile moments a la Dazed and Confused here), climb high into the hills, and you'll eventually reach Ridge Vineyards, a winery that has won numerous awards throughout the years. In CUPERTINO! HOLLA!
According to their website, a San Francisco family started the winery after buying a plot of land on "Monte Bello Ridge" in 1885. They've since expanded, having taken over much of the land around the original property. Today they own seven vineyards total including Monte Bello, in Napa and Sonoma counties, and also in Paso Robles.
My family and I went up recently (er, Mother's Day- no joke, I've been slowly piecing together this post for months!) for the first time to check it out. It was a scary ride on the windy, narrow path, teeter-tottering to the edges of the mountainside, but we made it.
Find yourself a parking spot (good luck!), and walk up to their tasting room.
Ridge is mostly known for their zinfandels, but their chardonnay was recently ranked #2 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2007. Here is our full tasting of 6 Ridge wines ($5 for the entire tasting for "non-members"). I know I sat on this post for a while, but I did take notes (and I'm adding in the Ridge pamphlet notes, cause let's be real- do I really know what I'm talking about???).
2006 Chardonnay Mikulaco
"The Mikulaco vineyard was planted in 1982, at an elevation of 1700 on Monte Bello Ridge. Even in warm vintages, its northwest orientation limits afternoon sunshine, making ripening a challenge."
Akabori Notes: clean, crisp, citrusy. We liked this best of all the 6 wines.
1998 Lytton Springs
"During the 1998 vintage, El Nino set back the growing season by a full month. After 14 months in air-dried american oak barrels, the 98 Lytton Springs is full and well-structured. The thinning needed to achieve this richness and complexity reduced yields considerably. A fine wine from a difficult year."
Akabori Notes: grapy, oaky, charcoaly.
2003 York Creek
"The firm structure of this classic York Creek required extended barrel aging. Beautifully balanced and approachable now, it will benefit from a year or two in bottle, and develop fully over the next ten years."
Akabori Notes: light. (At this point we must be a little drunk cause that's all I wrote).
2005 Zinfandel Carmichael
"97% zin, 3% petite sirah. The two parcels of 20 year old vines that make up this zin were hand-harvested, fermented on their natural yeasts in small, open-top tanks, then drained and pressed after 6 days."
Akabori Notes: fruity.
2006 Zinfandel East Bench
"This is our fist wine entirely from vines on the benchland that separates Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. The original vines were abandoned in 1920; we replanted in 2000, using budwood from our own old-vine vineyards."
Akabori Notes: jammy, deep fruit, soil (soil??? I am clearly fargone at this point).
2005 Syrah Lytton West
"94% syrah, 6% viognier. Five lots were chosen for this fine syrah, and aged for a total of 21 months in air-dried american oak. Enjoyable now for its forward, spicy fruit, it will develop greater complexity over the next ten years."
Akabori notes: light. (See how descriptive we are as a family?)
I just realized that I didn't take any pics of the actual glasses of WINE! What a schmuck!!! Although I really do have an affinity for the Ridge label, which is probably why I got distracted. It's just really clean and minimal, yet so identifiable. Also like the green and purple color combination.
I actually geeked out and asked our winegirl about it, and she said that John Robertson designed this label back in the 60s or 70s, and it was the first time the Optima font was ever used! She said that the label has never changed since.
Our winegirl was totally knowledgeable and friendly. I am totally in awe of people who know their wines- it's so neat.
Very old bottles of a line of wines, "Montebello" that was harvested on their property decades ago.
They have a really gorgeous garden full of colorful wildflowers, and many tables for people to come, get some nice bottles of wine, and picnic.
Vineyards to the north, south, east and west of the tasting room.
My beloved hometown: Silicon Valley, Cupertino, Santa Clara, San Jose, Mt. View, Sunnyvale, it's all here, all the same. Despite its hitech-ness, it's just a really ordinary suburban landscape full of traffic lights, highway signs and megamalls. Ironically, it's not at all as scifi as William Gibson would have liked (has anyone read SPOOK COUNTRY yet?). Look, there's my house!
After the tasting (a bit drunk?), getting down this hill is the hardest part. BE SAFE!!!
17100 Monte Bello Road