One of my favorite times of the year, besides the day egg nog hits grocery store shelves or when the summer blackberries are ripe at my hiking spot, is serving the cheese at the annual Ridge Montebello releases.
The Ridge Montebello Release spells spring like strawberries, bunnies, and blooming flowers.
And sometimes Ridge Montebello even smells like blooming flowers. And black pepper, and boysenberries, and red currants, and herbs and… ah… Ridge Montebello.
Considered one of the best wineries in California and easily one of the top Bordeaux-grape focused producers anywhere, Ridge Winery helped to put the country on the wine map. When it and other Cali producers like Chateau Montelena took top scores at the 1976 Paris Judgement, they proved that California didn’t just make ooey-gooey, boring wines meant for boxes. It made lively, age-able, well-structured wines that could fool French wine journalists into thinking they were swirling Bordeaux. And they did it again 40 years later.
How I come into the story beyond admiring the winery, and years of selling and swilling Ridge Montebello release at tastings and wine shops and hoping that someone offers to share their bottle, is that I am the lucky girl who gets to select the cheese for releases every year.
For one weekend a month, three months in a row, I present cheeses from my favorite California cheesemakers (Cali only- Ridge rules) that shine with the wine. The Montebello blend is made up of the winemaker’s favorite vineyards and aged in the best oak and is always a blend of Bordeaux grapes- Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot. Then there is always a Chardonnay as crisp as an apple, and single varieties like Cab Franc (my fave) and splashes of their age-worthy Zins to try.
Choosing the cheese for it is an extreme pleasure. Plus, I get to work to with really cool people, like Ridge’s chef of over twenty years, Kathy Martinich.
I’m already gearing up for April and May’s.
Hope to see you there!