Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pine Ridge Vineyards

Pine Ridge Vineyards is on Silverado Trail north of Napa just south of Yountville.  It was established in 1978 and the estate now includes 225 acres in five Napa Valley AVAs, including four vineyards in Stags Leap District, three in Rutherford, three in Carneros and one each in Rutherford, Oakville, and Howell Mountain.  Production is about 24,000 cases per year.  The have a second label called ForeFront that produces about 20,000 cases a year.

Tasting bar

It has been many years, probably about fifteen, since I last visited Pine Ridge winery.  In recent years I've been hearing good things about the winery and decided to visit again.  Their new winemaker, Michael Beaulac, began in 2009 and I suspect the recent positive reports are related to his presence.  Pine Ridge has an educational demonstration vineyard with a weather station and different wine varietals plus ample parking and two large outdoor patio areas. It is open to the public without a reservation but tours do require advance notice.  Much thanks to John for hosting us.

Tasting room building

Our tasting began with a little gem of a white wine, something that will appeal to almost everybody, especially on a hot summer day.  This is the Pine Ridge 2012 Chenin Blanc + Viognier blend at only $14.  Very pale yellow in color it has a pronounced floral nose.  On the palate it is soft and easy to drink but with decent acid and lovely floral notes.  I got fresh, juicy fruit, mostly white peach, with some honeysuckle. It has a little sweetness but is very well balanced with decent acid and not at all what you would expect from a Chenin Blanc blend.  Many wineries produce a white wine intended to have widespread appeal.  Usually they are overly sweet and completely uninteresting.  This one is actually quite nice and is the perfect white wine to sip on the patio or next to the pool.  Although it is mostly Chenin Blanc, I got more Viognier on the palate.  John informed us that the Viognier was picked when very ripe but the Chenin Blanc was harvested when at lower sugar levels.  This is a very unusual blend, but a winning combination.  At this price it is quite a bargain and is a best seller at the winery.


Next up was the Pine Ridge 2011 Dijon Clones Chardonnay at $34.  This comes from one of their Carneros vineyards.  After a fairly good nose, I got apple, pear and peach with lemon blossoms and toast.  40% of it spent six months in new French oak and this is evident in the aroma and palate.  It saw no malolatic conversion but is still pleasantly smooth and refined with balanced but crisp acids.  Very nice and one of the better Napa Valley Chardonnays.

Wine cave

The Pine Ridge 2009 Carneros Merlot at $45 followed.  This is 93% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon.  It had 17 months in French oak, with 40% being new oak.  Lovely deep ruby/purple in color, it had a light nose followed by intense cherry on the palate, with well integrated tannins.  Pleasantly fruit forward, it also had nicely balanced acid that provides some crispness.  Finish was medium length. Although quite enjoyable on its own, this Merlot should pair nicely with chicken or turkey. 

Demonstration Vineyard

Fourth in line was the Pine Ridge 2009 Cave 7 Cabernet Sauvignon at $65.  It is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc and 1% Merlot.  30% of it saw new French oak.  It is very appealing to the eye with its deep, dark red with shades of purple.  After a light nose, I got red cherry, plum, baking spices and well integrated tannins followed by a medium length cherry finish.  Quite decent.


This was followed by the Pine Ridge 2009 Tessitura at $60.  Tessitura means texture in Italian.  It is 56% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Petit Verdot. 40% saw new French oak. A dark ruby and purple in color it had a very good nose of toast and cherry.  I got red cherry, raspberry and some cranberry with spices on the palate and a long finish.  It is drinkable now, especially when paired with steak or other food, but should improve over the next few years. 


The Pine Ridge 2009 Onyx at $60 followed.  This is a very unusual blend of 42% Merlot, 30% Tannat, 21% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc.  Dark purple/black in color it had a moderate nose of raspberry, cherry, vanilla and spices.  On the palate it was cherry, raspberry and toast with nicely integrated tannins.  It had a long chewy finish of cherry and black currants.  This was a very unique and interesting wine and prompted me to read more about the varietal Tannat.  

Additional patio

Our final tasting was not on the regular tasting menu, but I'm certainly glad we were offered some. This was the Pine Ridge 2009 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon which sells for $85.  It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and 65% of it spent 18 months on new French oak.  It is a very lovely deep ruby/purple in color with a great nose.  Be sure to hold this one up to the light and over something white to appreciate its presentation and spend time swirling and appreciating the aroma.  There is a lot going on before the first taste.  On the palate I got black cherry, blackberry, some cedar with great, silky tannins and beautiful balance.  The finish was medium long and smooth.  This is an excellent Cabernet, complex and interesting, and our favorite of the tasting.  Robert Parker gave it 94 points and deservedly so.  (I am amazed that Steve Heimoff was less than enthralled with this wine, but perhaps it had not developed enough yet when he tasted it.)  I'll add this one to our all time list of favorite Napa Valley wines.  It is a lovely Cab, really outstanding and reasonably priced for the quality.


A visit to Pine Ridge is well worth your time.  It was not one of my favorite wineries in the past but has improved a great deal, possibly due to Michael Beaulac, their new winemaker.  Check them out.  And do not miss their 2009 Stags Leap Cab.

Entry sign

5901 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 253-7500
Date of visit:  May 1, 2013

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