The winery: Pine Ridge Winery is located in the heart of the Stags Leap District of the Napa Valley and is situated on nearly 50 acres of land. Founded in 1978, the winery produces several Bordeaux-style red wines and Chardonnays and has vines planted at a total of five Napa Valley appellations (Stags Leap, Oakville, Howell Mountain, Rutherford and Carneros).
Located on the eastern side of the valley on Silverado Trail, Pine Ridge sits up on a hill (hence the name) overlooking acres of surrounding vineyards. The grounds feature beautiful gardens and picnic areas for guests looking to grab a snack and soak-up a little sun.
The Tasting Room: We followed the path from the parking lot up a slight hill to the tasting room. Upon entering, we were immediately greeted by a friendly, smiling staffmember who asked us a few basic questions (Is this your first time visiting the winery? Are you here to taste or for a tour, or both?)
The tasting room has a modern, yet warm look-and-feel. Off to the right behind a couple glass doors lies the entrance to the winery’s caves (which you’re free to enter and take a peek at), and to the left is the large counter where you’ll do your tasting. Behind the counter are large windows that provide ample natural light and offer views of the estate vineyards. Bottles of Pine Ridge wines are prominently displayed along most of the surrounding walls, accompanied by framed paintings and photos.
The staff: From the time we entered to the time we left, the Tasting Room staff made us feel right at home. We observed the woman pouring the wine as she dealt with several couples aside from us and noticed she was extremely knowledgeable and willing to answer any and all questions without making even the most novice taster feel stupid.
The wine: On this Friday afternoon, there were two tasting options available at the winery without an appointment (if you call ahead, you can make an appointment to taste premium Cabernets from the barrel to the bottle in the winery’s subterranean Cabernet cave). For $15, we could taste Pine Ridge’s ‘current releases’, which included four different wines ranging from Chardonnay to a newly released Bordeaux-style red wine. The other option was an all Cabernet Sauvignon tasting (for $25), which included four different cabs (an ’04 from Rutherford, an ’03 from Oakville, an ’03 from Stags Leap and an ’03 ‘Onyx’ blend).
We opted for the current release tasting, which started with the 2005 Dijon Clones Chardonnay. The unique aspect of this wine is that it did not undergo malolactic fermentation, giving it a lighter, more fruity taste than most California Chardonnay’s. We found the Dijon Clones to be a refreshing change from the big, buttery Chardonnay’s that have become so common in this region, giving off hints of pineapple, peach and other tropical fruits.
After trying the ’04 Epitome Chardonnay, which is closer to the buttery, full-bodied style, we moved on to the 2004 Crimson Creek Merlot. While Merlot is not typically our wine of choice, the mild, slightly oaky Crimson Creek (which combines fruits from Pine Ridge’s estate vineyards in Carneros, Oakville, Rutherford and Stags Leap) was one Merlot we could see ourselves learning to like. Our final tasting was the 2003 Charmstone, a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Charmstone is only available for purchase through the Pine Ridge wine club or at the winery and with hints of blackberry, cherry and vanilla, makes for an excellent red wine to be had with any meal. We spent the $30 and took a bottle home with us.
The Cork Board rating: 3 corks (out of 5 possible). An inviting tasting room, beautiful grounds, friendly and knowledgeable staff and solid wines make this Napa Valley winery a decent stop for any visitor. The cost of the tasting flights were a bit high for our liking.
Have you visited Pine Ridge Winery lately? Tell us what you thought in the comments.