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Dry Creek Valley,Education,Petite Sirah Symposium

Ridge’s Winemaking Philosophy with David Gates

Minimal Intervention ~ Maximum Attention, … That’s a Paul Draper quote, by the way. Even though “Minimal Intervention ~ Maximum Attention” flowed easily from V.P. Of Vineyard Operations David Gates in conversation, he was quick to tell me, when I said that’s a great title, that those words belong to Paul Draper.

(Off to an honestly great start…)

I’m so delighted to know David Gates of Ridge Vineyards. We first met when I asked him to be a presenter at the Petite Sirah Symposium years ago. Once he began to talk, I realized what a shining star he is. I knew that if he worked for Paul Draper, he would have to be brilliant, but I hadn’t seen him in action… And, then I did. As a result, he’s presented at the Symposium more than once. He’s so knowledgeable and that gifted.

Let me also rewind to the Petite Sirah Symposium for this year. Jose Diaz, my partner in all things in life, did a video promotion for the Symposium this year. Jose’s clocked 25 years in radio broadcasting: directing, programming, and producing. I’m constantly aware of his sagacity, and I’m not just writing that because I’m his wife. I’m saying it because I recognized that in him a long time, long before we were even a couple. Now that we’re partners, he adds a level of quality and credibility to all that I do, supporting my every move as a mostly silent partner.

Jose went off with Randy Hall of Wine Biz Radio, and the two of them created a video promotion for the live streaming that we were going to be doing for this year’s PS symposium, sponsored by Concannon Vineyard. When I watched it for the first time, I saw why – years ago – Jose thought he’d also like to do television as a career. He’s a natural. When I told him how good I think he is, he told me that he’s been fantasizing about taking my wine blog up a notch with winemaker/viticuturalist interviews. He saw himself behind the camera asking the questions, with a Vine-2-Glass concept.

We just did our first one, and once we were in the vineyard at 1:00 p.m. with David Gates, I knew that to shoot the entire video with the sun pouring down just wouldn’t do it justice, most especially during the wine tasting portion. David suggested going inside to their gracious meeting room, and I agreed.

I said that I wanted the interview to go back and forth with the Q&A between two people on camera, not just one. It would have a better flow, and Jose suggested that I be in the video. I know that Jose’s ease in production and questioning skills are far superior to mine. I’m the writer in the family. I do better writing my thoughts, taking my time, framing what I’m thinking. Jose is better for the task of interviewing. I remember the days of him interviewing Dave Brubeck, Tina Turner, Aerosmith, Chicago… the list of performing artists is very long. He was great, and so that’s why I told him that he needed to be in the wine tasting portion of the video with David (and everyone else going forward with this project). I’m staying behind the camera, setting the stage.

Part I: David Gates of Ridge Vineyards in a Zinfandel Vineyard

In this interview, David talks about the history of Ridge, how it began in the winter of 1971-1972. Paul began making wine in 1969, and David goes into depth about the first release being a 1972 Lytton Springs Zinfandel. The wine immediately got great award recognition, and the rest is history for the Ridge name… Still, David talks about the Lytton Estate East Vineyard, that was planted in 1902. Watch the video to learn what makes up an old pre-prohibition field blend. Also, David talks about the 2011 grape growing season, and where he sees it all headed for this year.

Following the interview in the vineyard, David and Jose head into the winery for a tasting of the Zinfandel coming from the Lytton Estate East Vineyard.

Part II: David Gates of Ridge Vineyards Tasting a Zinfandel from Their Vineyard

David talks about the nose being typical for Dry Creek Valley, getting into all the adjectives that wine lovers enjoy using. He also talks about Zinfandel as a variety, and how the small amounts of Petite Sirah help this wine to have fabulous texture and body, and a great finish.

Talking about winemaking philosophies, native yeasts with no malolactic intervention; winemaking is a very ancient endeavor, but they do minimal intervention with maximum attention, monitoring it, pump overs – a very gentle process – and working with only native yeasts. They ferment with short, sub-lethal temperatures. Back in the early 1960s, natural yeasts were used at this winery, because there wasn’t commercial yeast… and when Paul Draper became the winery caretaker, the philosophy continued.

David has a fascinating story to tell about a comparative study between a natural and commercial yeast experiment. Watch to find out which part of the experiment won out, and why. Enjoy!

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2 Responses to “Ridge’s Winemaking Philosophy with David Gates”

  1. […] Ridge’s Winemaking Philosophy with David Gates […]

  2. Wonderful post. David is one of the hardest working men I know, and an unsung hero at Ridge.

    Its been my honor to get to know him since I joined the Rhone Rangers board of directors two years ago. He recently assumed the position of President, and its an inspiration to be around his tireless energy & enthusiasm.

    thanks for sharing.

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