Pine Ridge Vineyards is a unique winery along the Silverado Trail. Whereas most of the hillside wineries on the trail are along with east hills facing west, Pine Ridge is on the west side facing east tucked into a hillside surrounded by terraced sloped vineyards.
The winery was founded in 1978 by Gary Andrus who had been an Olympic skier and was a downhill racer on the United States Ski Team. He earned a degree in organic chemistry from Brigham Young University in organic chemistry, a Master Degree from Oregon State University and a PhD in Oenology at the University of Montpelier, France. Before founding Pine Ridge he worked in Bordeaux.
Later he founded Archery Summit in the Dundee Hills in Dayton Oregon in 1995 with his first wife and then in 2002 he founded Gypsy Dancer Estates in Cornelius Oregon with his second wife. Gary was a leader in the move to stress the importance of appellations in America, in particular for the Stags Leap District AVA, where Pine Ridge is located. Sadly Gary died on January 30, 2009 from complications from pneumonia at the age of 63. But the winery he founded continues to flourish.
After the winery was established Pine Ridge continued to acquire exceptional vineyard sites across the Napa Valley to eventually include 200-acres in five different AVAs including the Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Oakville, Carneros and Howell Mountain.
Dug deep into the hillside, Pine Ridge has a 34,000 square foot wine cave which maintains ideal temperature and humidity for aging their wines. Across from the tasting room and wine cave is the demonstration vineyard with a vine-covered gazebo which provides guests the opportunity to learn about the types of vine trellising systems and when available taste the grapes. Outside the tasting room there is a patio with and comfortable outdoor lounge and a picnic area.
While visiting I sampled the following wines:
My first sample was the 2011 Le Petit Clos Chardonnay. Most Chards from the Napa Valley are derived from vineyards in the southern region of Los Carneros or Coombsville which benefit from the cooling influence of the San Pablo Bay. This wine, however, comes from the Le Petit Clos (“the little enclosure”) vineyard which is on their Silverado estate property but at a higher elevation and is sheltered from the heat by the surrounding forest. The wine was fermented in 50% new French oak barrels, aged for seven months sur lie, stirred occasionally and yet without going through malolactic fermentation. On the nose I picked up lemon custard, tart green apples, almonds, tangerines, dried apricots and a hint of nuts on the back end. On the palate it is crisp with high acidity, medium bodied, it is well balanced and very complex with a long finish. If you don’t want a butterball Chardonnay nor one that is too austere (as are many all-stainless Chards) then this wine is for you. This wine sells for $65 per bottle
The second pour was the 2009 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 94% Cab and 4% Petite Verdot. This wine was fermented in tank and then aged in 55% new French oak barrels for 18 months. This wine is dark ruby red and it stains the glass when swirled. On the nose I picked up pronounced plums, black cherries, black berries, red currants, spice and a hint of vanilla. On the palate it is soft on entry and then the tannins grip the teeth and gums. It is medium bodied with medium acidity and a medium length finish. Although it is enjoyable now the tannins are fairly aggressive after the initial entry so it will undoubtedly age well over the next decade or so. This wine sells for $80 per bottle.
The third sample was the 2009 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon which is really a Meritage blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. After fermentation was completed, this wine was place into 60% new French oak barrels for aging. On the nose I picked up dusty cherries (the signature of Rutherford terroir), black currants, mocha, roasted coffee, and vanilla bean. On the palate it has refined tannins, is medium bodied and has a medium+ length finish. It is well balanced and layered and although it is very drinkable now it will continue to age well for the next ten years. I thought this wine was the most complex in the line-up so I brought one home for $80.
The fourth wine was the 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was fermented in 50% new French oak and aged in barrel for 18 months. This wine is black at the core to violet at the rim. On the nose it typifies mountain fruit with concentrated layers of black licorice, black currants, wild blackberries, and a hint of mint and black pepper. On the palate it is soft on entry, medium bodied with ample acidity and a prolonged finish. This wine sells for $90 per bottle.
The fifth pour was the 2010 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec. This wine was fermented in 50% new French oak and aged in barrel for 18 months. On the nose I picked up smoky bacon, dark chocolate, black tea, black currants, wild blackberries and a hint of black pepper. On the palate it has velvety tannins, it is medium bodied and has a lingering finish. This wine sells for $85 per bottle.
The sixth pour was the 2006 Andrus Reserve “Red Wine.” On the nose this wine is earthier than the previous wines and it displays subtle aromas of wild blackberries, black licorice, smoke and black pepper. On the palate it is soft on entry and then the tannins take a firm grip but then it transitions to velvet on the mid palate. It is medium bodied with ample acidity and a medium length finish with dark cherries on the return. This wine sells for $129 per bottle.
The seventh wine was the 2009 FORTIS Cabernet Sauvignon. After fermentation was completed, this wine was place into 60% new French oak barrels for aging. On the nose this wine displays subtle aromas of black figs, dried roses, wild blackberries, black tea and vanilla bean. On the palate it has gripping tannins, a medium body, ample acidity and a medium length finish. This wine sells for $150 per bottle.
To see more pictures of Pine Ridge Vineyards, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:
To visit or for more information:
Pine Ridge Vineyards
5901 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94559