Pine Ridge Winery was founded in 1978 by the late Gary Andrus and his wife Nancy (Nancy has since retired and re-married) and has property in five of the Napa Valley appellations (designated wine growing regions). They are a medium production winery producing over 75,000 cases, certainly a lot bigger than some of the smaller wineries we have visited. They are well known based on quality wines & a national distribution and their tasting room can be packed even on slower winter weekend days. Unlike other wineries who change varietals, vineyard sources and wines – Pine Ridge strives for consistency – sourcing from the same vineyards and blocks and producing the same varietals year after year. Their winemaker has been with the winery since 1983 which is rare in the wine business to have a winemaker for that long!
The winery is in a nice location, set among the vineyards back against the hills, pine trees grow on the hill above the winery and there is a nice gazebo next to the vineyards. Two small demonstration vineyards are located on the south side of the parking lot; trellising systems are rare at Napa wineries and Pine Ridge has one of the best educational small vineyard in the valley. Each of these trellising systems contains a label on the end of the row – indicating the type of system, varietal, rootstock and other related vine information.
For someone new to wine tasting, vineyards will generally look the same at a glance, but there are many different methods to train grape vines and it is worth a quick stop to look at this demonstration vineyard.
There is an old radio commercial for milk that you may have heard if you grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area – “cows in Berkeley, mooo”, Berkeley being a very urban environment. Chardonnay grown in Stag’s Leap? Ha, Stag’s Leap is an appellation known entirely for its Cabernet Sauvignon these days and it is surprising to find 2 acres of two French clone Chardonnays grown on a small hillside behind the winery. This is one of maybe 2 blocks of Chardonnay grown in the entire Stag’s Leap district! These particular clones and growing climate produce an intensely flavored Chardonnay. Try approximately 180 cases – that is nothing as far as production goes and this wine very quickly sells out every year. The release date is usually in May or June and its best to call the winery for exact dates for this Le Petit Clos Chardonnay.
A tour is recommended if you have the time (allow 1 hour 30 minutes). The tours are geared to the lowest wine education level of the attendees and covers a wide variety of topics ranging from vineyard management, to barrel aging, to fermentation and more. You will see their winemaking facilities, caves, and end your tasting in their small sit down tasting room next to their wine library. They also offer Reserve Cabernet Barrel tastings, their Sunday Food & Wine Paring Seminar and even a Cabernet Cave Dinner.
You are in the heart of the Stag’s Leap district…try their Cabernets! Choose from two tasting flights – their current release and an all Cabernet Sauvignon selection. They offer several Cabs from their own properties ranging from Oakville, Rutherford, Howell Mountain to Stag’s Leap. We thoroughly enjoyed the Andrus Reserve; it is not cheap but is a multi layered rich wine that really delivers the fruit flavors. Their most popular and by far most produced wine is the interesting Chenin Blanc – Viognier Blend. It has great aromas and flavors, and talk about an excellent price! Ask to see the film titled “Discriminatory Practices at Pine Ridge” which is all about how they discriminate against the grapes to make superior wines. All tours are strictly by appointment only. Visit: www.pineridgewinery.com