The Pre-Industrial Approach to Farming at Ridge Vineyards at Lytton Springs Estate

During the 2022 BevFluence Livermore Experience we ventured west to the Santa Cruz Mountains in order to visit the famous Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Estate. Thus we deemed it appropriate during the recently concluded 2024 BevFluence Sonoma Experience to travel to the Dry Creek Valley and visit the Ridge Vineyards at Lytton Springs Estate. Alongside 115-year-old vines we sipped several Ridge wines and learned about the winery’s Pre-Industrial Approach to Farming that was a forbearer to an upcoming lesson on Regenerative Farming by Grgich Hills Estate

Whereas Ridge Vineyards is not formally Regenerative Organic Certified, they have adopted virtually all the practices recommended by the alliance.  As of 2022, Ridge has received organic certification for 100% of the vines at their Monte Bello, Lytton Springs, Geyserville, and East Bench vineyards.  In addition they protect and increase the fertility of soil microbes by applying home-made compost; planting cover crops that add  nitrogen and organic matter and control erosion; practice no till (mow only) on their hillside vineyard blocks to help minimize erosion and build organic matter in the soil. 

Ridge also encourages beneficial insect and bird populations as an alternative to pesticides. Planting hedgerows harbor  beneficial insects as well as break up the monoculture of vineyards.  They have installed raptor roosts and bird boxes to help with insect and rodent control. And their Integrated Pest Management activity monitors for pests and insects to quickly ameliorate crop damage.

These practices have greatly enhanced the survivability of their old vines like those within the Lytton Springs Estate. During our tasting we sat at the base of these vines, sampling several fantastic Ridge wines. The first was the 2023 Alder Springs Falanghina ($35) which includes 18% Vermentino and is sourced from the Alder Springs Vineyard in Mendocino County. Interestingly, they discovered a warmer micro-climate within the overwise cooler Mendocino region to grow this southern Italian grape variety and the delicious wine shows peach and tropical notes with racy minerality.  The 2023 Lytton Estate Rosé ($35) was the first Lytton Springs estate wine on the tasting menu and this is a strawberry inspired blend of 36% Grenache, 26% Zinfandel, 15% Mataro (Mourvédre), 14% Cinsaut, and 9% Counoise. 

Moving to the red wines, the 2022 Green & Red Zinfandel ($42) includes 2% Petite Sirah with the zin coming from the Green & Red estate at a high elevation in Napa Valley. Grapes from two vineyard sites (Tip Top vineyard and Chiles Mill vineyard) are co-fermented and show abundant acidity.  Moving to estate wines, the 2021 Lytton Springs ($55) is a delicious blend of 72% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Cinsaut, and 1% Counoise. This wine includes vines planted in 1901 plus eighty-year-old Counoise inter-planted with Cinsaut. Luscious as our party would say.  The 2021 Lytton Estate Syrah, Grenache, Mataro ($44) features 74% Syrah, 17% Grenache, & 9% Mataro where the G floral notes, the S provides richness, and the M – spiciness. This was a must purchase. The 2021 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($90) includes 16% Merlot most of which is sourced from Monte Bello’s Klein Ranch. Layers and layers of fruit. Finally, a tasting at any of the Ridge tasting rooms requires a sampling of the famed Monte Bello – in this case – the 2016 Monte Bello which was a 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, & 6% Cabernet Franc blend. A mild summer allowed the grapes to slowly ripen, retaining acidity, which are still prevalent after the 18 months in oak and six years in the bottle. A classic wine. 


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