The house that Zinfandel built is a solar-powered, straw-bale-constructed classy place in which to taste the region’s predominant grape.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Ridge, the longstanding quintessential Zinfandel purveyor from Santa Cruz, made a permanent investment in the Dry Creek area in 1991 when they purchased 35 acres and built a new winery. Ridge, of course, has owned vineyards in the area for years, but added this property because of its mix of very old Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, and Grenache vines.
The winery is an ecologically friendly building made of rice-straw bales, earthen plaster, recycled lumber and a passive solar design; in addition, almost 400 active solar panels provide up to 85 percent of the winery’s annual energy needs. This thick adobe plaster was trowel-finished to produce a very smooth texture, then given a final coat of linseed oil. The color is subtle and lovely, and the building blends into the land that surrounds it.
Inside the very stylish and spacious interior is a long tasting bar with a curved black countertop and a base made from old tank staves. Even with the extensive use of recycled materials, the ambiance is modern and even chic. The tasting room concentrates on the wine, as there is no merchandise to speak of and no food available.
The history of Ridge Vineyards began in 1885, when Osea Perrone bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge near Santa Cruz and founded Monte Bello Winery, which became Ridge Winery in the 1960s. They quickly earned a reputation for crating richly textured red wines. Their winemaking approach is straightforward -- find the most intense and flavorful grapes, guide the natural process, and then draw all the fruit's richness into the wine. Ridge wines are fermented using wine yeasts naturally present in the vineyard, with the red wines being fermented in small-capacity fermentors to assure full extraction and intensity.