Ridge, Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California 2014
Decanter average score: 95/100pts
Individual judges’ scores: Mark Andrew 95 Stephen Brook 95 Andy Howard MW 95
Ridge’s two Chardonnays come from its superb Monte Bello vineyards high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Although Monte Bello is better known for its Cabernets, Chardonnay has always occupied about 5% of the vineyard area, and Ridge began to produce Chardonnay from those mature vines in 1962. The old vines have been gradually replanted since 1985. Winemaking is similar for both wines, with whole-cluster pressing, barrel-fermentation with natural yeasts, and an ageing of 14 months in more than 90% American oak. In this vintage 23% new oak was used.
The Estate Chardonnay is the same wine as the former Santa Cruz Mountains bottling, the name having changed in 2009. The Monte Bello, which also featured in the tasting (see p137), is made only in top years from a parcel selection of the oldest vines.
Mark Andrew Lovely gunsmoke character; very inviting. Rich and full bodied – dare I say a very masculine Chardonnay? Lots of stature and presence. Very woody at the moment, but an excellent example of full-bodied Chardonnay.
Stephen Brook Reticent apricot nose, with considerable purity of fruit. Fresh attack – lean and sleek – with vibrant apricot and citrus fruit; taut and intense. A wine with pungency and structure, and an almost Burgundian persistence of flavour. Harmonious, textured and long.
Andy Howard MW Good weight on the palate with attractive notes of ripe stone fruit and fresh acidity. Very well-balanced oak, aromas of gunflint, and a long and complex finish. This will age well.
*US stockist information from Wine-Searcher.com