Ridge Vineyards is a multi-estate enterprise with vineyards and wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma County and Paso Robles. It is a leader in organic, sustainable winemaking and is the largest grower of certified organic grapes in the appellations of Sonoma County and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The business was founded in 1959 when three Stanford Research Institute engineers bought an abandoned winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The vineyards had been planted in the late 19th century by a San Francisco physician who produced his first vintage in the original winery, called Monte Bello, in 1892. The first Ridge vintage was in 1962. For more than 50 years Ridge’s winemaker and CEO was Paul Draper, a legendary figure in California winemaking. Draper retired in 2016 and Ridge veteran Mark Vernon became CEO. Each winery has its own winemaker. Ridge makes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah and Rhone style wines. Robert M. Parker Jr. writes that Ridge “is undeniably one of California’s top wineries.”
Santa Cruz Mountains AVA includes high elevation territory in the counties of Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo. The AVA follows the coast line from San Francisco to Monterey with elevations from 400 feet to 3,000 feet above sea level. There are 1,500 vineyard acres and the AVA was established in 1981. Despite the challenging terrain in these rugged mountains and hills, highly esteemed wineries have been located here since the early 20th century, when Paul Masson, a Frenchman by birth, started making sparkling wine in the area. By the 1970s vineyards were growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Numerous microclimates within the AVA offer viticulturists diverse growing conditions, and many varietals are grown successfully.