Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wine Tasting at Weingut Weegmüller with Stephanie and Gabriele Weegmüller – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Pictures: Annette Schiller at Weingut Weegmüller

“Die Welt trifft sich bei Weegmüllers” – “The World Meets at the Weegmüllers”. This is the slogan of Weingut Weegmüller in the Pfalz, Germany, headed by a female winemaker, Stephanie Weegmüller, with the help of her sister, Gabriele Weegmüller. The Weegmüller girls sell most of their wine in the region and in Germany, but have quite an impressive presence in New York City, where they are represented by the Moore Brothers.

Like the year before, we sat down in the courtyard of Weingut Weegmüller and had a lovely tasting with Stephanie and Gabriele Weegmüller.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut Weegmüller

Feinschmecker Riesling Cup 2014

The Feinschmecker Riesling Cup 2014, an annual contest that aims at identifying the best dry Riesling of the vintage, went to Weingut Weegmüller for: 2013 Weingut Weegmüller, Der Mineralische, Riesling Kabinett trocken. Already 15 years ago, Weingut Weegmüller won the Feinschmecker Riesling Cup (for its 1998 Weingut Weegmüller, Haardter Herrenletten, Riesling Spätlese trocken.

See: Germany’s Best Dry Rieslings – Feinschmecker Riesling Cup 2014

Pictures: Welcome

Weingut Weegmüller

The Weegmüller family can look back to more than 300 years of winemaking in the Pfalz. The origins of the Weegmüller family, an old dynasty of council members of the free town of Zuerich, lies in Switzerland. In 1657, the Weegmüllers came to the village of Haardt, today a part of the city of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, and started to make wine in 1685.

One of the first women in the field, Stefanie Weegmueller, is at the helm of the estate. She was among the first women in Germany to set foot in the male-dominated winemaking industry. Today, Stefanie Weegmüller is one of Germany’s leading winemakers, representing the 12th generation of her family’s ownership of the estate. She consistently produces classic wines that are eloquent in their expression of the unique terroir of the Mittelhaardt.

Until a few years ago, Stefanie's ex-husband Richard Scherr was in charge of the vineyard. Today, Rainer Klein und Fabian Krämer are responsible for the vineyard work. They practice what they call ecological viticulture and yields are kept low.

The dominating grape variety is Riesling. 15 hectares of best vineyards around Haardt - Haardter Herrenletten, Haardter Gimmeldingen and Haardter Mussbach - belong to the estate. Though dominated by Riesling, Weingut Weegmueller also makes Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Scheurebe and Gewuerztraminer. The wine portfolio is complemented by Pinot Noir, Merlot and Dornfelder.


We went through 13 Weegmüller wines.

2012 Weegmüller Rose
2013 Weegmüller Weisser Burgunder
2013 Weegmüller Blanc de Noir - Tiny bit of Merlot, mostly Pinot Noir
2013 Weegmüller Scheurebe – lots of grapefruit notes, pear, other yellow fruits
2013 Weegmüller Cuvee 3 Schwestern - 1/3 Scheurebe, 1/3 Pinot Gris, 1/3 Pinot Blanc
2013 Weegmüller Cuvee Fleur – 20% Gewürztraminer, 5% Silvaner, 75% Riesling
2013 Weegmüller Cuvee Grüner Veltliner
2013 Weegmüller Der Mineralische - Limestone
2012 Weegmüller Bürgergarten Gewürztraminer
2012 Weegmüller Herrenletten Grauer Burgunder
2012 Weegmüller Herrenletten Riesling
2012 Weegmüller Märchenzauber Scheurebe Spätlese – 7.5% alc., 80gr. rs
2013 Weegmüller Von den 14 Zeilen Auslese

Pictures: Checking the Sugar Level in the Grape Juice with a Refractometer

Weingut Weegmüller in the USA: Moore Brothers

Weingut Weegmüller wines are available in the USA through Moore Brothers on the US East Coast: Founded in 1685, Weingut Weegmüller is the oldest winegrowing estate in the Pfalz, older even than the big “three Bs” (von Bassermann-Jordan, von Buhl, and Bürklin-Wolf). Gaby and Stefanie Weegmüller represent the eleventh generation of winegrowing Weegmüllers in Neustadt. There are sixteen hectares of vines, with parcels in all of the best vineyards in the villages of Haardt, Gimmelding, Neustadt, and Mußbach. When Steffi took over winemaking responsibility from her father in 1984, she had an enviable advantage: a close, familial friendship with Hans-Günther Schwarz, the long-time general manager of Weingut Müller-Catoir, and the godfather of an entire generation of the best young German winegrowers. It helped that Müller-Catoir is directly next door to Weegmüller, so it was easy for Hans-Günther to walk across the courtyard to taste and offer advice, and sometimes to lend a hand.

Picture: Gabriele Weegmüller and Christian G.E. Schiller in New York City

Schiller’s Favorites at the 2013 Riesling and Co Tasting in New York City, USA

Moore Brothers currently offers 3 Weegmüller wines:

Haardter Herrenletten Alte Reben Riesling Spatlese Trocken Weingut Weegmüller 2012
While the Herrenletten - a first class vineyard just a half kilometer north of Neustadt, comprises a mere thirtieth of Stefanie's production, its excellent southern exposure and its soil (sand and clay over deep slate) has produced some of her most memorable wines. This Spätlese trocken from the Alte Reben (vines 30 and 40 years old) is no exception. Rich and textured, it displays the complex aromatics of classic Pfalz wine: dried apricot, nut, smoke and spice.

2012 Weingut Weegmuller Riesling Vom Gelben Fels
“Vom Gelben Fels, a special selection of dry, spätlese grapes from Mandelring, Herrenletten, and Herzog -- the three greatest vineyards in all of the Haardt -- may be Steffi's most exclusive dry Riesling. This wine "from the yellow rocks" is marked by fresh, forward, peach and citrus aromas and a bright, vibrant finish.” Greg Moore, Moore Brothers Wine Company, June 26, 2013.

2012 Weingut Weegmuller Pfalz Scheurebe Trocken
Her Scheurebe Trocken is aromatically intense (redolent of apricots and lemongrass) with a fine, vibrant core of acid.


Thank you Stefanie and Gabriele Weegmüller for a wonderful tasting.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Coming-up: Wine & Art Tour to Saale-Unstrut - Saxony - Franken - Württemberg: Germany-East Tour by ombiasy WineTours (June 11 - June 20, 2015)

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013

In the Vineyard and the Wine Cellar (and Lunch) with Robert Schätzle, Owner and Winemaker, Weingut Schloss Neuweier in Baden – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting Luncheon at 1 Star Michelin Röttele's Restaurant im Schloss Neuweier in Baden, with Winemaker Robert Schätzle and his Weingut Schloss Neuweier Wines – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Weingut Zähringer in Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Winemaker Paulin Köpfer – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombasy (2014)

Weingut Freiherr von Gleichenstein in Baden: Tour and Tasting with Baron Johannes von Gleichenstein – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014), Germany

Weingut Franz Keller in Oberbergen, Kaiserstuhl, Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Fritz Keller – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Lunch at Restaurant Schwarzer Adler in Oberbergen, with Weingut Franz Keller Wines – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting at Weingut Bernhard Huber – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Visit: Weingut Dr. Heger in Baden – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Weingut Karl-Heinz Johner in Baden: Cellar Tour and Tasting with Karl-Heinz and Patrick Johner – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

At Maison Trimbach in Alsace with Hubert Trimbach – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Wine Tasting at Weingut Friedrich Becker – Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Lunch, Wine Tasting and Winery Tour at Weingut Jülg in Schweigen, Pfalz with the Jülg Family – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Wine Tasting at Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz in Siebeldingen, Pfalz – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan in Deidesheim with General Manager Gunther Hauck – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Winery Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut A. Christmann, with Steffen Christmann – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

schiller-wine: Weingut Weegmüller

The World Meets at Weingut Weegmueller, Pfalz, Germany

Germany’s Best Dry Rieslings – Feinschmecker Riesling Cup 2014

Schiller’s Favorites at the 2013 Riesling and Co Tasting in New York City, USA

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Germany’s Top 20 Winemakers - Der Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2015

Picture: Winemaker Bob Berteau, Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington State, Annette Schiller, ombiasy WineTours, Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Ernst Loosen, and Christian Schiller at the Der Feinschmecker Booth in Düsseldorf at Prowein 2015

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Der Feinschmecker, the leading German wine and food journal, presented its new ranking of the German wine scene in the Der Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2015.

The Der Feinschmecker Weinguide 2015 includes the 300 top winemakers of Germany, down from 900 last year. 20 of them (up by one from last year are in the top category of 5 F’s. The Der Feinschmecker uses a scale of 1 to 5 F’s.

For previous years see:

Germany’s Top 19 Winemakers - Der Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2014
Germany's Top 18 Winemakers - Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2013
Germany's Top 16 Winemakers - Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2012 
Germany's Top 16 Winemakers - Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2011
Germany's 15 Top Winemakers - The Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2010

Promotions and Demotions

1 winemaker was promoted to 5 F's: Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in the Mosel Region. Nobody was demoted.

Top 20 Winemakers

Here are those winemakers that got in the Feinschmecker Weinguide 2015 the maximum number of 5 F's, grouped by wine region.


Weingut Meyer Näkel

Weingut Meyer Näkel was established by the marriage of Paula Meyer and Willibald Näkel. Although Willibald Näkel only cultivated 1.5 hectares of vines he was already a pioneer for the then rather unusual dry red wines from the Ahr valley. Today’s 15 hectares estate is managed by his son Werner Näkel, his wife Claudia and their daughters Meike and Dőrte.

We will visit Weingut Meyer Näkel, for the first time, on the upcoming Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015) - see: 4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Picture: Dörte Näkel and Christian Schiller in Hattenheim, Rheingau

Kuenstler, Meyer-Naekel, Wirsching – Winemaker Dinner at Kronenschlösschen in Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany




Rudolf Fürst

Weingut Rudolf Fürst has the reputation of being a specialist for red wines, Spätburgunder and Frühburgunder, which account for 60% of the production; but brilliant dry wines are also produced. 18.6 hectares.

We will visit Weingut Rudolf Fürst, for the first time, on the upcoming Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015) - see: 4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Picture: Paul Fürst, Annette Schiller and Guiseppe Lauria (Gault Millau) at the 2nd International Riesling Symposium in the Rheingau (2014)

Horst Sauer

Weingut Horst Sauer is well known for his noble-sweet wines, but the Sauers also produces top dry wines, from Silvaner and Riesling. 16.5 hectares.

Hessische Bergstrasse





Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt

First documented in 1349, Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is one of the most traditional estates in the Mosel region. The von Kesselstatt dynasty immigrated to the electorate of Trier in the 14th century. Following secularization by Napoleon in 1802, the von Kesselstadt family purchased between 1854 and 1889 four monasteries of St. Maximin Abbey and their vineyard holdings.

Today, the estate today cultivates 36 hectares of vineyard land, consecrated exclusively to Riesling. Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is unique in that its vineyards are equally divided among the three river valleys that form the Mosel appellation: the Mosel River valley itself, and the valleys of its two contributories, the Saar and Ruwer Rivers.

Picture: At Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in Morscheid with Annegret Reh-Gartner

Lunch and Wine Tasting at Weingut Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in Morscheid, Mosel with Owner Annegret Reh-Gartner – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Fritz Haag

Weingut Fritz Haag produces a broad range of styles, from dry to lusciously noble sweet wines. Weingut Fritz Haag is owned and run by Oliver Haag. In the US, it is available through Loosen Bros. (Ernst Loosen). 16.5 hectares.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and German Winemaker Oliver Haag, Weingut Fritz Haag, in Seattle

The German Winemakers at the 4th Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, USA


A wine estate in the Ruwer Valley, with a long tradition and an exciting history, until recently led by Christoph Tyrell; he focused on carefully crafted dry wines. A year or so ago Christoph Tyrell, who has no children and who is on his mid-60s, arranged the succession of the Karthaeuserhof with his cousin Albert Behler. Albert Behler lives in New York City, where he is President and CEO of the Paramount Group, one of the largest privately-owned real estate companies in New York City. 19 hectares.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Christoph Tyrell, Karthäuserhof, in Mainz, Germany.

For more, see:
The Karthäuserhof in the Mosel Valley: An Eventful History – From Grenoble in France to New York City in the US

Dr. Loosen

Run and owned by one of the most entrepreneurial German winemakers, Ernst Loosen; in addition to producing outstanding wines in Germany, he makes the famous Eroica in Washington State (jointly with Chateau Ste. Michelle) and has started to produce wine, notably Pinot Noir, in Oregon. 22 hectares.

Pictures: Ernst Loosen, Annette Schiller and Christian G.E.Schiller at the Tasting at Weingut Dr. Loosen

Riesling, Pinot Noir and Indian Cuisine: A tête-à-tête Dinner with Winemaker Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at Rasika in Washington DC, USA
The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC, USA

Egon Müller - Scharzhof

The legendary Scharzhof lies on the Saar River. Egon Mueller’s fruity sweet and noble sweet, low alcohol wines are a legend. 16 hectares.

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasyPR and WineTours, and Egon Müller, Weingut Egon Müller, at the Gala Dinner of the Rieslingfeier 2015 in New York City, USA

Joh. Jos. Prüm

For decades now, one of the really exceptional winemakers in Germany. The aging potential of the Weingut J.J. Prüm wines is legendary. Katharina Prüm is in the process of taking over from her father Manfred Pruem. 21 hectares.

I met Manfred's daughter Katharina Pruem in Washington DC recently and wrote about Weingut JJ Pruem: JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

We will visit Weingut J.J. Prüm on the upcoming Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015) - see: 4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Picture: Annette Schiller, Ombiasy PR and WineTours, with Manfred Pruem, Weingut JJ Pruem.

Sankt Urbans-Hof

A rather young wine estate that was established about 50 years ago. It is now owned and run by the founder’s grandson, Nik Weis. Most of the elegant, fine and light wines are exported. 33 hectares.

We will visit Weingut Sankt Urbans-Hof on the upcoming Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015) - see: 4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux 

Picture: Nik and Daniela Weis and Annette and Christian Schiller at Prowein 2014

Maximin Grünhaus - Von Schubert

The historic Maximin Grünhaus estate lies at the foot of a long, steep south-facing slope on the left bank of the Ruwer river and is divided into three separate but contiguous vineyards: Abtsberg, Herrenberg, and Bruderberg. The estate belongs to the family of Carl von Schubert. The estate was first documented in 966. The Schubert family purchased it in 1882.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Carl von Schubert in Washington DC

Carl von Schubert from the Maximin Gruenhaus Estate Returned a Favor: With his Wines in Washington DC (and in Seattle), USA

Schloss Lieser

The village Lieser is located next to Bernkastel-Kues. The village’s landmark is the mighty castle “Schloss Lieser”, built in 1875 and inhabited by the Baron of Schorlemer. In 1904 the winery of Schloss Lieser was constructed. Over the years, several changes of ownership led to a decline in quality. In 1992, Thomas Haag, son of Wilhelm Haag, former proprietor of Weingut Fritz Haag, became the General Manager, bought the estate in 1997 and brought the estate of Schloss Lieser back to the top of the Riesling estates in Germany. 10 hectares.

Picture: Thomas Haag, Weingut Schloss Lieser, and Christian G.E. Schiller in Mainz. Thomas Haag, Weingut Schloss Lieser, is the 2015 Gault Millau Deutschland Winemaker of the Year

Thomas Haag, Weingut Schloss Lieser, Germany’s Winemaker of the Year, Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2015


Herrmann Dönnhoff

Owner and winemaker Helmut Doennhoff is a Grand Seigneur of German wine. His son Cornelius is in the process of taking over. 25 hectares.

Picture: Tasting with Helmut Doennhoff

An Afternoon with Riesling Star Winemaker Helmut Doennhoff at Weingut Doennhoff in Oberhausen in the Nahe Valley, Germany


Werner Schönleber has invested a great deal of personal dedication and his promotion to the top rank is definitely warranted. His wines are known to be rich in character and highly esteemed worldwide. 17 hectares.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Werner Schönleber, Weingut Emrich-Schönleber at the 2013 Riesling Gala at Kloster Eberbach, Germany

Schäfer - Fröhlich

Tim Fröhlich took over Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich in 1995 and has since then impressed the wine world with his dry, fruity -sweet and noble sweet white wines. 15 hectares.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Tim Froehlich, Weingut Schaefer-Froehlich, in Wiesbaden



A world class producer of both dry white and red wines. Werner Knipser has been experimenting with international red grape varieties for some years. Virtually all wines are fermented in a dry style. 57 hectares.



As a founding member of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, I have watched Weingut Kuenstler in Hochheim ising from a small winery to one of the world leaders of German wine. The wine growing tradition of the Künstler family can be traced back to Southern Moravia in 1648. I remember very well the small row house in Hochheim that was the initial home of the Kuenstler winery in Hochheim. 42 hectares.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Gunter Kuenstler at Schloss Johnnisberg. Weingut Kuenstler was founded by my the late Franz Kuenstler. We were both founding members of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim: The Wines of Franz Kuenstler from Hochheim, Rheingau, Germany

Vineyard Walk, Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Künstler – Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)

Robert Weil

A top producer of Riesling wines, in particular fruity sweet and noble sweet wines, well presented in the major wine markets in the world. Now co-owned by the Japanese Suntory company and General Manager Wilhelm Weil, the fourth generation of the founding family. 80 hectares.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller, Martina Weil, Annette Schiller, Wilhelm Weil at the 2013 Rheingau Riesling Gala

Kiedrich: Visit of the Basilica of Saint Valentine and of Weingut Robert Weil - Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy (2014)
Visiting Wilhelm Weil at his Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, Germany



Leader of the Rheinhessen wine renaissance. Has a broad wine portfolio with 60 % accounted for by Riesling and also including the lesser known autochthon Silvaner as well as Spaetburgunder. 15 hectares.

Picture: At the Rieslingfeier Gala Dinner 2015 in New York, with Julia and Klaus Peter Keller


Leader of the Rheinhessen wine renaissance. Since 2003 only biodynamic wine growing. A broad portfolio with 60% Riesling and also Silvaner and Spaetburgunder. Known for his outstanding dry wines. 25 hectares.

Picture: Annette Schiller, ombiasy WineTours, and Christian Schiller with Philipp Wittmann and Eva Clüsserath-Wittmann at Prowein 2015

Weingut Wittmann now with Dr. Loosen Imports in the USA







schiller-wine: Related Postings

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Prowein 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany – Schiller’s Impressions

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Vincent’s Wine Club: Winemaker Dinner with Eric Baugher and his Stunning Ridge Vineyards Wines, USA

Picture: Winemaker Dinner with Eric Baugher and his Stunning Ridge Vineyards Wines

Ridge Vineyards is an iconic American wine producer. It has been under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper - the philosophical Grand Master of the California wine scene - since 1969. Ridge Vineyards’ international reputation was established when its 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon Blend achieved fifth place in the Judgment of Paris in 1976.

I had the pleasure to drink three older vintages of the Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello wine (as well as other Ridge Vineyards wines) with Eric Baugher, the # 2 in the Ridge Vineyards winemaker team. The dinner was part of the Wine Club series of Vincent Feraud, renowned Sommelier and Wine Director at the Entyse Wine Bar and Lounge of the Ritz-Carlton at Tysons Corner in the Washington DC area. Executive Chef Chris Johnson prepared a wonderful menu.

My wife Annette Schiller, ombiasyPR and WineTours, provided the tasting notes below. Annette organizes wine tours to Germany, Bordeaux and Bourgogne. Check out the ombiasy website!

Pictures: Annette and Christian Schiller with Vincent Feraud

Ridge Vineyards’ History

Ridge Vineyards dates back to 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor who became a prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. Monte Bello Ridge is in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco. He terraced the slopes and planted vineyards. Using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery and produced the first vintage in 1892. This unique cellar, located at an elevation of 2,300 feet (700 m) and built into the mountainside on three levels, is Ridge Vineyard's production facility today.

The estate was abandoned during Prohibition and went through the hands of several owners until 1959, when 3 Stanford scientists pooled their money to purchase the estate. This marked the beginning of the modern area of Ridge Vineyards.

Pictures: Vincent Feraud Checking the Wines

A new winery was built out of the remains of the cellars of Osea Perrone, constructed in 1886. Ridge Vineyards produced its first commercial wine from the 1962 vintage. In 1964, Ridge Vineyards produced its first Zinfandel. Beginning in 1966, the winery began sourcing grapes for its Geyserville Zinfandel and other wines from vineyards in Sonoma County.

The modern area of Ridge Vineyards is intrinsically intertwined with the name of Paul Draper, who was hired to run Ridge Vineyards in 1969. He was in his early 30s. His devotion to old-fashioned methods provided “this balance to the world that was developing below us in Silicon Valley”, one of the owners said. Paul Draper, who studied philosophy at Stanford University, had short stints at wineries in France and California, and made wine for a couple of years in Chile. He was and still is fascinated by traditional winemaking -- he calls it "preindustrial." It is essentially due to him that Ridge Vineyards today is probably the most prestigious producer in the USA.

The 1971 Monte Bello was among the California Cabernet Sauvignons competing against Bordeaux in the famed Paris Tasting of 1976, where it placed fifth. It was the second-ranked California wine; the 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars cab placed first overall.

In 1986, Ridge Vineyards was bought by a Japanese pharmaceutical company; Paul Draper stayed with Ridge Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards shifted to organic farming in 1999.

Pictures: A Long Table.

Ridge Vineyards

Today, Ridge Vineyards produces a range of wines at two winery locations and operates tasting rooms open to the public at both. In total, Ridge Vineyards produces close to 100,000 cases of wine per vintage.

In addition to the original winery facilities on Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, a second winery is at Lytton Springs in the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County. Ridge Vineyards purchased the Lytton Springs vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley AVA in 1991.

The Lytton Springs winery was constructed according to the principles of sustainability. It is entirely built out of presses rice straw. All energy used is solar energy and the CO2 balance sheet is very favorable.

Starting with the 2011 vintage, Ridge Vineyards adopted ingredient labeling for all its wines. Ridge Vineyards is one of only a handful of wineries that list ingredients; Bonny Doon is another. The list includes items like; indigenous yeast, naturally occurring malolactic bacteria, oak, calcium carbonate, sulfur dioxide, tartaric acid, minimum effective SO2 and egg whites.

Picture: Christian Schiller and Eric Baugher

Eric Baugher

Ridge Vineyards: Eric Baugher is Director of Winemaking at Ridge Vineyards' Monte Bello Winery in California's Santa Cruz Mountains. Eric heads the winemaking team at Ridge with Paul Draper and is involved in all winemaking decisions. A native Californian, Eric grew up on a small ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains where he raised animals, planted gardens and orchards, and rode horses. His love of the area kept him there for college; he attended UC Santa Cruz, receiving undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In 1994 he joined Ridge and in his first year, he organized the laboratory and developed new, sophisticated analytical tests to support Ridge's traditional winemaking practices. In 1995, he took on production management and now oversees all day-to-day winemaking activities. His passion for wine and the stimulating juxtaposition of low-tech winemaking and high-tech analytic techniques keeps him totally involved and constantly inspired.

Winemaker Dinner

Champagne Reception

Champagne and Hors d'Oeuvres


Pictures: Vincent Feraud and Eric Baugher Welcoming us

1st Course

Crab Salad - Avocado Mousse - Tobiko Caviar - Ruby Red Grapefruit.

Ridge – Chardonnay – Santa Cruz 2012 - Wine-searcher average price in US$: 49

Whole-cluster pressed, held on its lees for close to 11 months, barrel fermented in 100% American oak, unfiltered.

Annette Schiller’s tasting notes: This is a rich, well-balanced Chardonnay, but not overly buttery and creamy. The beautiful nose shows melon, some spices, anise. It will benefit from more ageing and will become even more impeccable.

2nd Course

Paparadelle with braised Beef Shank Ragu - Spring Morels - Crispy Shank - Rosemary and Mint Pesto.

Zinfandel - Ridge Geyserville 2013 - Wine-searcher average price in US$: 38

Zinfandel - Ridge Lytton Spring 2012 - Wine-searcher average price in US$: 38

Ridge Vineyards is also famous for its Zinfandels. Many say they are the best made in the USA.

Ridge Vineyards' Zinfandels constitute the bulk of its production. Ridge Vineyards uses grapes from selected sites from all over California. We had the 2 best known Ridge Vineyards Zinfandels, from the Alexander Valley (Geyserville) (long-term leased) und the Dry Creek Valley (Lytton Springs) (owned).

Annette Schiller’s tasting notes:

2012 Zinfandel, Geyserville: This wine was made from grapes growing in the ancient deep root Alexander valley river bed. On the nose there is beautiful blackberry fruit, a hint of mint. The body is well-structured, and solid due to the addition of some Carignane, Petit Sirah, and Mouvèdre. There is noted minerality and acidity which will let this wine age for a long time.

2012 Zinfandel, Lytton Spring: Plum, dark fruit on the nose, and a bit of vanilla and mint. This wine is medium-bodied with a lot of depths, even a bit unruly, which gives it tension. It is made from 70% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 7% Carignane and 4% Mataro (Mourvèdre). The finish is wonderful. The wine will develop its full potential in a few years.

Pictures: A Great Chef - Executive Chef Chris Johnson

3rd Course

Veal a la Rossini - Sous Vide Lamb Loin and Goat Cheese Polenta - Roasted Pork Belly - White Bean and Duck Crackling Stew.

Cabernet Sauvignon - Ridge Monte Bello – Santa Cruz Mountain 1999 - Wine-searcher average price in US$: 164

Cabernet Sauvignon - Ridge Monte Bello – Santa Cruz Mountain 1997 - Wine-searcher average price in US$: 213

Cabernet Sauvignon - Ridge Monte Bello – Santa Cruz Mountain 1995 - Wine-searcher average price in US$: 249

The signature wine of Ridge is its Monte Bello, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with varying percentages of other grapes, usually including Merlot, Petit Verdot, and occasionally Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged in a combination of 95% American Oak and 5% French oak.

Laurie Daniel: The Monte Bello style has changed little over the years, even as many California Cabernets have gotten bigger, riper and higher in alcohol. Ridge Monte Bello -- which used to be all Cabernet, but now is a Cab-dominant blend -- has remained elegant and graceful, with modest alcohol, yet the wine is remarkably concentrated and ages extremely well. Much of that is undoubtedly the result of Paul Draper, who has been in charge of winemaking at Ridge since 1969.

Monte Bello's style is also a reflection of the site where the grapes are grown. The Monte Bello vineyard is a cool one for Cabernet Sauvignon: 15 miles from the Pacific and with elevation that climbs from 1,400 feet to around 2,700. Cool nights help the grapes retain their acidity. Flavors are concentrated because the yields are naturally low. A bigger crop wouldn't get ripe because of the climate and poor soils and because most of the vines are dry-farmed.

Annette Schiller’s tasting notes:

Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountain - all three wines in this flight were impeccable, absolutely delicious, and classic Bordeaux style.

1999: This was a cool year and tannins were low at the point of harvest. Now, after 8 years, the wines showed beautiful pronounced cassis, dark fruit, minerality, some earthy tones on the nose. It was perfectly balanced, and very elegant. The finish was long lasting and let you wish for more.

1997: This was a very early ripening vintage, the earliest of the century. The nose was stunning: cassis, herbs, tobacco. A perfect wine with lots of depth, intensity and well integrated tannins. A never ending finish.

1995: This wine was the knock off for me. It was a mature wine but had aged slowly, and very gracefully: it still had a zest of youth. This 20 year old wine had it all: gorgeous nose of cassis, herbs, spices, which had come together in perfect harmony over the years. A very structured, intense, yet lean, almost athletic body. The pronounced tannins were well integrated and it had an intense, gripping finish. This was a very cool vintage which resulted in a relatively low alcohol wine. This wine only has 12.5% alcohol. I guess that was part of the reason why I liked it so much. I am more the “cool vintage”, less jammy wine lover.


Warm Chocolate Tart - Sour Cherry Jam - Vanilla Ice Cream Brownie

Late Harvest Zinfandel – Ridge - Essence 2007

Annette Schiller’s tasting notes: A blend of 77% Zinfandel and 23% Petit Sirah. To even look at a glass of dessert wine with the color “red” made me cringe: Growing up in Germany, red sweet wines were the most horrible drinking experience you could have come across in those days. But this was a surprise: this sweet wine was a pleasant finale to a great tasting and meal. Eric Baugher explained that they harvested the grapes (not raisins as is the case in the German Beerenauslese / Trockenbeerenauslese and Sauternes) at 40 Brix and let the juice ferment on the skin for seven days. The slow fermentation continued and stopped automatically at 13.3 % Alcohol and 16.95% RS.

After-Dinner Drink

After-dinner drink at the bar with Eric Baugher.

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