March 2008                               


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

Ask a Silly Question - Ridge Vineyards

As someone who is viewed as knowledgeable about wine, one question is posed to me again and again. I refer to it as the “insider secret” question: “What’s the best wine out there that can be had for a reasonable price?” My answer is typically as vague as the question itself: “Well, that depends on your personal preferences, what food you want to serve with it, your preferred price range,…” Then, based on what I think that person likes (not necessarily what I like), I’ll rattle off a few winery names, and that’s that. But occasional, when hard pressed, I’ll reluctantly blurt out a single word: “RIDGE.” Some of the more common responses to this, besides “Huh?”, are “Oh, I’ve heard of that winery,” “Don’t they make Zinfandels?” “Are they really that good?”. There’s my opening.

Ridge Vineyards has been making wine in the Santa Cruz Mountains, overlooking Silicon Valley, since 1962. Their chief winemaker/master of operations is Paul Draper (like the first name and the initials), a CA legend in his own time, who has been at Ridge’s helm since 1969 (a great year for underdogs; Jets, Mets, Apollo 11…) and still going strong. Ridge consistently makes some of the best Cabernets, Zinfandels and Chardonnays found anywhere and they’re not hard to find (even in Montgomery county). They aren’t cheap; entry level wines are about $20 and world class examples are about $30 or so; but they deliver high QPR (quality to price ratio). Many of their competitors in Napa Valley charge 2-3 times their price for comparable wines. Also, if you’re ever in the CA wine country, don’t hesitate to pay a visit, as their tasting rooms (one in Sonoma and the other in the St. Cruz Mtns.) are very visitor friendly.

Their most readily available wines are listed below and tasting notes on these can be found at

Geyserville (Zin blend) $ 32               St Cruz Mtns Cabernet $ 35 *
Lytton Springs (Zinfandel) $ 32         St Cruz Mtns Chardonnay $35 *
Paso Robles (Zinfandel) $ 28 *
Pagani Ranch (Zinfandel) $ 34
Ponzo (Zinfandel) $ 27
York Creek (Zinfandel) $ 30 *
Three Valleys (Zin blend) $ 20 *

* indicates available in Montgomery County