Ridge Montebello Release Party(ies): Cheese & Wine Done Right.
Situated in the Santa Cruz Mountains on the top of a steep hill rife with hairpin turns and crazy bicyclists who gravitate towards the middle of the slim and often one-way road, Ridge is one of the best, and most scenic, wineries in the United States. They rock a Bordeaux varietal like no one's business. Oh, and Zin. And Chardonnay. Officially in un-incooporated Cupertino, but for appellation sake, in woodsy Santa Cruz, Ridge was one of the famed wineries that shocked the world at the Judgement of Paris blind tasting when the world learned that California really knew what it was doing with those Bordeaux grapes.
Ridge continues to be a force today. They more wine these days, and stay true to their practice of making many small single vineyard and small blends bottling of amazing quality. Plus, worth mentioning because its a little rarer than one might think, Ridge also treats the people who work for them very well- from the people who seasonally pick the grapes to the people that sell loads of their wine.
This year I was asked to join Ridge for its Montebello release tastings this year to curate the cheese and talk to people about the offering. These folks know how to put on a party. I loved it. The team there is fantastic, from the resident chefs, the winemaker Eric Baugher, to the hospitality manager Amy Monroe and greeter-charmer-wine blogger Christopher Watkins. Plus, I got to eat a lot of Fatted Calf Charcuterie and Gayle's bread every day I was there.
Did I mention the wine? I did that do. Drank it. A fair amount of it.
A cool part about being at the Montebello release and barrel sampling events is that.... you get to taste the Montebello releases and barrel samples. Yup. And they are worth braving bicyclists in tight pants who breathe like pugs while zig-zaging in the road in front of you. I tasted through 2000, 2008, and 2013 Montebellos, one the prettiest and most vivacious Merlots I've sampled in a while, aged Zins like only Ridge can do them, and a lovely Santa Cruz Estate Chardonany. And also salt and vinegar potato chips with Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico.
Upon entering the tasting barn, guests are greeted with a pour of a Chardonnay, then lead through tasting two wines inside, then an aged, and a current Montebello blend. After tasting the Montebello, guests head downstairs and work their way through six or seven aged Zins. The event lasted from 11-5pm and many people picnicked outside, minding the "watch out for rattlesnakes" sign.
The cheese I selected was California, Ridge style. We ordered some direct, and some from wholesalers. I mainly picked hearty, layered aged cheeses to highlight the wines, then threw in a few delicious treats that were just damned tasty. I picked ones I adored and ended up by chance mainly in Northern California. Just a few of the ones served were Achadinha's Broncha, Bohemian Creamery's Cowbunga, PennyRoyal's Boont Corners, Garden Variety Hollyhock, and Vella's Mezzo Secco. I told folks about the delicious, had a newsletter for signups, and signed a book or two.
I was honored to be asked, taste the new releases -2013: a good Montebello thing-, and was so happy to work with the wonderful people there. The attendees were pretty awesome too. As was the Fatted Calf mortadella. (And In case you missed it, here's one of the most interviews I've done, on Ridge's blog).
Have you had a chance to taste Ridge with your local cheeses? Any memorable picks?