Ridgeline Vineyards

2003 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley

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Mission Codename: Higher Vistas

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Investigate Ridgeline Vineyards, a sister winery of our friends at Artesa

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Ridgeline Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2003 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Dave Dobson


Today’s Cabernet Sauvignon comes to us from our good friends at Ridgeline Vineyards, in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. The Alexander Valley AVA in northeast Sonoma County is located on the western side of the Mayacamas range and extends westward to the edge of the Russian River Valley. This appellation was formerly considered a part of Dry Creek Valley but became its own appellation in November 1984. The region is best known for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but recently people are starting to discover its Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Chardonnay as well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark and dense purple with a dark but clear core. The color remains intense all the way to the very edge, and when swirled, slow fat legs cling the the side of the glass before descending to the wine below.

Smell – Rich and aromatic with scents of ripe and sweet red and black berries layered over notes of vanilla toast oak, sweet tobacco, subtle exotic spice and hints of earthiness and black licorice.

Feel – Initially gripping with firm tannins, but once this dry wine opens, the texture becomes silky smooth with notes of spice and dark minerality that lingers into the finish.

Taste – Rich and plush notes of ripe sweet and wild dark red and black fruit are integrated with classic Cabernet flavors of exotic spice, subtle herbal and earthy notes, black licorice, vanilla and oak.

Finish – Medium in length and fading smoothly and gracefully leaving just a hint of its silky tannins and minerality behind.

Conclusion – The 2003 Ridgeline Vineyards Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious and very approachable Cabernet Sauvignon. Its silky and plush mouthfeel (once open) makes this wine easy to drink and pair and will appeal to a broad spectrum of winedrinkers. Not overly extracted or bold on the palate, but showing its fruit in a more subtle manner makes this wine a joy to drink without being too aggressive.

Mission Report:

What follows, for your enjoyment, is a recap of Agent White’s original mission to Artesa, the sister winery of today’s winery, Ridgeline. The following mission is from early 2009:

Finally, I was able to wrangle a choice assignment away from Agent Red! And, while he did all of the leg work for today’s mission, I get the glory.

Red had Artesa under surveillance for a long time, probably too long. I all fairness, he did gather a great deal on intel on the winery and that set the stage for my quick infiltration. If any mission goes on for too long, I am usually the one that is called on to complete the mission – and get the wine.

Read Agent Red’s mission updates in the W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexus Engine for our newest Operatives) archives. For my part, I’ll just tell you that a couple of calls to senior management at Artesa was all it took to secure today’s wine.

Rather than bore you with those details, I do want to point out a few things about Artesa and their world-class team.

If you ever find yourself in Napa, a visit to Artesa is not just recommended, it is essential. The winery grounds, sculpture gardens, architecture, and winery are magnificent. One has the feeling of visiting a world-class art museum, a winery and even a place of worship when spending time at Artesa.

In my case, the winery was the place of worship! For all of Artesa’s ambiance and style, the winery is really the divine place where their great wines are born. A few afternoon hours with the great counter staff – spent tasting through their wines – was such a delightful treat. The people, like the wines, were great fun.

Artesa in the U.S. is the extension of a Spanish winemaking family that dates back to the year 1551, when the Codorníu family first made wine at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in the Penedès region of Spain, just west of Barcelona.

The family continues making wines for centuries and in 1872, becomes the first in the world to make sparkling wines outside of Champagne in the méthode champenoise. This revolutionizes Spain’s wine industry.

In 1897, Codorníu is declared the exclisive supplier of wine to the king of Spain, King Alfonso XIII.

In 1915, the Codorníu winery build the world’s largest wine cellars, with five subterranean levels extending 16 miles.

The winery continues to grow and gain in prestige and honor for the next several decades. In 1989, they break ground on a revolutionary new winery in the Napa Valley. In 1991, Codorníu Napa opens as a méthode champenoise facility in the Carneros region of the Napa Valley. Those of you that know our tastes, know that The Wine Spies are enamored with the Carneros region.

In 1999, the winery is renamed Artesa Winery and releases its inaugural wines – two Chardonnays, three Pinot Noirs, and a Sauvignon Blanc – to critical acclaim.

Earlier this year, the winery is joined by one of America’s only multi-generational winemakers, Mark Beringer. In the United States, ‘multi-generational’ in winemaking usually means two or three generations have been involved in the craft. Mark, whose great, great grandfather was winemaking pioneer, Jacob Beringer, is a fifth generation winemaker and head of winemaking for Artesa and Ridgeline today.

Throughout his career, Mark has been recognized as a leader and a pioneer in the field of winemaking. He has received numerous kudos and awards, including Winemaker of the Year by The San Francisco Chronicle.

If you can’t make it out to Artesa, at least you’ll be able to get a taste of the place by picking up a few bottles of today’s great wine.

As for Agent Red, don’t feel too bad for him. He was pretty bummed out that I was able to close the deal with Artesa, but that case of Artesa Cab I secured for him is keeping him plenty happy. For the moment!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Alexander Valley AVA in Sonoma County can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

Focused cassis, blackberry and plum are complimented with abundant spice. Clove, allspice, vanilla, nutmeg and hint of mint. Finely knit together and rich, while having sufficient tannin backbone for aging. This wine will be delicious for well over a decade.

The winter was cool with the above-average rainfall continuing well into spring. The growing season started out slowly and by the middle of summer we were about two weeks behind our normal maturation pattern. Complete ripening was assisted by the slightly below average crop load and having the patience and vine health to wait out a couple of late summer heat spells. A long Indian summer made sure everything was picked at peak flavor.

About The Winery:

FIFTEEN HUNDRED FEET up Oak Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon vines hug the sides of a track so steep and sharply curved that the vineyard manager’s four-wheel drive groans with each shift of gears. The early morning air is cool and clear, affording stunning views of neighboring ridges to the west and of the Russian River, coiled ribbon-like on the quilt of the valley below. This is Standing Bear Vineyard on Ridgeline’s remote 409-acre property in the prestigious Alexander Valley appellation of California’s Sonoma County. Named for a 30-foot granite outcropping that resembles a grizzly bear, the 11-acre parcel is one of six vineyards producing Bordeaux grapes that translate into superbly structured Cabernet Sauvignon.


THE FIRST RESIDENTS of what is today known as Ridgeline Vineyards (Oak Mountain) were a tribe of Native Americans referred to by white settlers as ‘Pomo Indians’ but who referred to themselves as Mahokama. The Russian River which the Mahokama people depended on for much of their subsistence runs right past the base of Oak Mountain and Ridgeline Vineyards. The Mahokama called the river, “Shabaikai” or “long snake”. The numerous natural springs that feed our vineyards were also used by the Mahokama for medicinal purposes.

OAK MOUNTAIN sits on what was once part of the “Rancho Ricon de Musalacon”, a Spanish land grant. In 1875 the Oak Mountain property was acquired by Colonel Hartwell Preston and the village of Preston was established at the base of the mountain just north of Cloverdale, which had been established in 1867, on the property now known as Ridgeline Vineyards.

FOUNDED BY EMILY PRESTON, it was the center of a faith-based community of several hundred followers that Madame Preston oversaw and for whom she was the spiritual leader until her death in 1909. Madame Preston was a colorful personality who supposedly could see through people with her “X-ray eyes.” Her place of worship was called the Church of Heaven on Probation. Madame Preston also dispensed numerous patent medicines for which she established a very successful mail order business. The key and most functional ingredient in her patent medicines, which contained a variety of herbs and spices, was wine, produced from grapes grown in the community’s vineyards. What finally did her in was passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, which stopped her—and thousands of other purveyors of patent medicines—from commercially selling homemade drugs. The village of Preston broke up after her death in 1909.

FOR NINETY YEARS the property lay undeveloped as it passed from owner to owner. In 1999 the property site was purchased by our parent company Codorníu who developed the property with the specific goal of growing California’s best grapes and making California’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 14.7%

Appellation: Alexander Valley

Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon

Year: 2003

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