While dining at Babbo in New York in 1999, longtime customer and friend Chef Mario Batali offered Ridge a bottle of 1994 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco — and changed our lives forever.
Swirl... sniff... taste...
"I'm going to plant this grape and make this wine."
The vines were clearly happy: Mediterranean varietals in our Mediterranean climate. The fruit was always delightful, but it was the 2008 harvest that transformed how we think about our wines.
That was the year that we decided to truly trust Nature, eschewing "modern" viticulture and winemaking techniques and pursuing a path more like what we'd been doing for over a decade with our olive oil — and what the great wineries of Europe have been doing for ages.
Today, we strive to keep our vineyards wild, with a diverse undergrowth that harbors beneficial insects and enriches the soil. We harvest more by flavor and less by chemical analysis, then rely on the native yeasts growing in and on the grapes themselves to ferment the juice into wine, rather than inoculating the must with commercial yeasts. We age our wines in old, neutral barrels because we feel oak tannins don't enhance wine.
It's a decidedly Old-World approach, and it works magnificently.