Winding up to Ridge Monte Bello

After making your way up a winding road in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ridge Vineyard’s Monte Bello location feels a world away even as you look over expansive views of Silicon Valley just bellow. The wooden tasting room structure looks and feels a lot like an elegant mountain cabin with warm vibes that make you want to relax with your wine(s).

That said, this is a very popular spot and it gets pretty busy. If you’re planning on going on a weekend, it’s definitely a good idea to aim to get there early as parking fills up fast and the mountain road sometimes funnels into one lane. It can also get chilly and windy up there–it’s 2,300 feet up–so do bring a jacket. The wines and the views are completely worth it though! Both are gorgeous.

Ridge refers to its winemaking style as “pre-industrial” and aims to be as non-intrusive as possible during the winemaking process, while still making use of modern technology. They use all native yeasts for their fermentations and use minimal SO2. Their estate vineyards (they do also source fruit) are farmed sustainably and will soon be certified organic. They use primarily American oak to mature their wines, however, it is kept very much in balance. If you’ve ever wondered about what goes into your wine, Ridge happily helps you out by listing it all on the label. Their labels are amongst the most detailed I’ve ever seen.

They’re well known for their Zinfandels and their Monte Bello Cab is a cult classic, but you’ll find also find a selection of other varieties, particularly from Rhône grapes, as well as Chardonnay and Merlot. In my experience, their wines tend to be beautifully balanced, displaying ripe California fruit in an elegant style. Despite being really well known with high quality standards, many bottles are quite reasonably priced.

Click here for one recipe and pairing:

(Please note that my tasting fee was comped as a member of the wine industry. I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.)

The Basics

Hours: Saturdays and Sundays: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, and Weekdays by Reservation.

Experiences and Prices:

Tasting Room: Ridge offers three tasting flights, each with a different focus and at different price points: “Single-Vineyard” ($10), “Estate Single-Vineyard” ($15), and “Estate Single-Vineyard + Monte Bello” ($25, and includes our flagship Monte Bello). No reservation required for groups of 8 or less on weekends. Contact the winery for reservations M-F.

Estate Tastings: Semi-private tastings of their single vineyard Estate offerings, including the current release of the Monte Bello.  This includes a short vineyard walk (weather permitting) and a tour through the Old Winery barn. At $35 a person, this experience is definitely worth it, particularly if it’s your first time. Altogether, this last about 90 minutes and reservations required 7 days a week, with 2 appointment slots available each day, and all guests must 21+ years old. (You can make reservations online.)

Private Tastings: also available by appointment.  

Extra Details:

They do have a picnic area and it’s available to customers on the weekends on a first-come, first-serve basis. It’s also available M-F to guests with reservations. (Check their site for full picnicking policies.) Dogs are not allowed due to the presence of rattlesnakes in the area.

Member Benefits:

Ridge has three different membership programs, however, each gets access to special bottlings that are often hard to find. Wine Club Members also receive Estate and Single-Vineyard tastings complimentary for up to 4 guests, among other perks.

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