Ridgw 1.jpg

We were honoured to be joined by Eric Baugher, Vice President and wine maker at Ridge Vineyards, for the first of what we hope will many Winemaker Dinners last week. The Library Room at Vauxhall’s Brunswick House provided an intimate and dramatic setting for a most enjoyable evening. Jackson Boxer served a delicious and well-chosen menu to complement 9 wines that highlighted exactly why Ridge has earned its reputation as one of the world’s leading wineries.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ridge, the winery was founded in the early 1960s by a handful of engineers from the Stanford Research Institute. Starting initially with a small amount of Cabernet, Zinfandel followed shortly after in the Geyserville and Lytton Springs vineyards – sites that are still in use today, producing some brilliant old-vine Zinfandel. The wines were well received and expansion was steady. Ridge was one of the first quality wines to export to the UK from California and it remains their most important non-domestic market. Paul Draper has been the driving force behind the success at Ridge and with Eric Baugher now at the helm the future looks very bright indeed.

Email Attachment for Event 7371 - Ridge Dinner with Eric Baugher

After a glass of champagne we sat down and kicked things off with the Estate and Monte Bello Chardonnays from 2011. Eric explained how the vineyard is split into a mosaic of parcels that are picked separately depending on their individual ripening patterns. At this stage, the Estate is leaner and lighter on its feet than the brooding Monte Bello that clearly has more to give. They both paired well with the delicious sea bream and laverbread hollandaise.

The first flight of reds was a pair of Zinfandels from Ridge’s historic vineyards – Lytton Springs 2012 and Geyserville 2011. These divided opinion, at least on my side of the table. The Geyserville was soft and supple and drinking nicely. The Lytton is very young and backward. It’s so tightly-wound at this stage but I suspect that this will grown in to a very enjoyable wine. The braised shin of dexter with parsley and tarragon did not divide opinion – everyone loved it.

Email Attachment for Event 7371 - Ridge Dinner with Eric Baugher

The first round of Cabernets was the Estate Cabernet 2009 (from magnum) and 1999 Monte Bello. I’m a huge fan of the Estate Cab and it’s always one of the harder wines to find. 2009 was a classic Californian vintage, big and ripe with years left in the tank. The 1999 Monte Bello was just starting to open up. The vintage saw a near perfect fruit set so the team had the drop a lot of fruit to keep yields in check. The growing season was cool so the 99 is a refined, elegant Monte Bello with a lot more to give. Roast leg of lamb with spiced cauliflower helped break down some tannin to reveal the complexity in the fruit of both wines.

Finally, with a selection of cheese, the group enjoyed a trio of glorious mature Monte Bello – 1991 (from magnum, 1989 and 1985). It is worth noting that we had a few bottles of all 9 wines and all were in great condition, including these 3 beauties. The 1991 was singing, a truly great wine that would hold its own against almost anything you could throw at it. Herbs, cassis, mushrooms, vanilla…it just gave and gave and gave.  The legendary 1985 lived up to its name, still showing a real density of fruit behind the secondary and tertiary notes. The 1989 laughed in the face of anyone who paid any attention to Robert Parker’s 75 point score.

Email Attachment for Event 7371 - Ridge Dinner with Eric Baugher

Eric spoke about each wine with passion and, as you might expect, deep knowledge. It was a real pleasure to have him with us so we’d like to say a huge thank you. Thanks also to Jackson Boxer and his team for putting on such a great show. This dinner sold out in minutes so we are sorry if you tried to book a place but were too late – we hope to see you at the next dinner!

Will Evered
Mobile: +44 (0) 7595 602 782
Office:   +44 (0) 207 738 2406