Photos courtesy of Nicole Weld, Craig Steele, Brenda Hinton and Tom Porter

Craig & Sandy celebrating Craig's 70th birthday

Pine Ridge Winery Tour and Tasting

by Chip Witt, Redwood Region Secretary

We are truly blessed here in the Redwood Region. Not only do we have great members, we also have a wealth of amazing roads and a plentiful supply of wonderful destinations at journey's end. So, when Craig Steel and Tom Porter began coordinating a tour and tasting at Pine Ridge Winery for March 28, it was only natural to precede it with a picturesque sixty-seven mile drive through Sonoma and Napa Counties.

Attendees all met at Kaffe Mocha in Santa Rosa at 9 o'clock, wished Craig a Happy Birthday at the Driver's Meeting, then set out on our tour, lights-on and engines warm, a little after 9:30. With the minor interruption of a couple of "bio-break pit-stops" and stops to regroup after getting separated by traffic, the drive got us all to Pine Ridge Winery at 5901 Silverado Trail in Napa at right around noon.

Upon arrival, our cars were met by a gracious staff that directed us to pre-arranged parking for our Porsches. Once parked, we were ushered under a gazebo where we all got our introduction to Pine Ridge Winery along with a lovely glass of rosé. Our tour guide and host, Jeff Butler, was funny and engaging, providing a great narrative around all the challenges of the wine business. It was both educational and cautionary; convincing all present that we should probably leave the wine making to the experts and focus our collective energies on being excellent wine consumers. After the introduction, we were led into the wine-making facility and shown all the specialty storage, mixing, pumping, and fermentation rigs. This short walk ultimately got us into the caves.
Pine Ridge has six-tenths of a mile in man-made caves in the bedrock under their winery. This environment provides for stable temperatures and, in the event of an earth quake, stable ground on which to store the oak barrels containing their aging liquid gold. Along the way we obtained intelligence on the differences between French Oak and American Oak used for barrels, how the age of the barrels dictates where in the wine-making process they are used, the benefits of various levels of barrel toasting that provide us with some of the different flavors we enjoy in wines, along with several other topics of interest. While we stood in the heart of the caves, we were given the privilege of sampling a Cabernet that is very near release. We all stood in an orderly fashion awaiting our tastes from the special glass wine thief Pine Ridge Staff use to collect samples directly from the barrels.

The cave tour concluded at an alcove with big circular table where Pine Ridge conducts some of their food pairing events. It was also the only place in the caves where the bedrock is exposed (all other cave walls are covered with a protective coating to prevent chunks of bedrock from falling down and spoiling the wine or injuring a human...we were told all of this with the admission that the wine was probably the primary concern), showing the jagged pieces in a beautiful matrix that was highlighted by a well-lit glass art display.

After being led back out of the caves, we were treated to the standard Pine Ridge Winery tasting and offered a discount on any purchases made that day. A great tour and tastes of some wonderful wines were followed by us all finding seats and enjoying our box lunches from Bouchon Bakery. A wonderful day, a Happy Birthday for Craig and a very successful club event.

By the way, this tour was rare in that we could only accommodate forty total people, so registration had to be managed in a first-come-first-serve fashion via under the care of our club Treasurer, Jerry Gladstone. Craig and Tom navigated the logistics of mapping the drive, setting up the winery tour and insuring we had the delicious box lunches at the destination while Jerry successfully navigated the MSR features to cap our attendance and provide a waiting list in the event anyone ended up canceling their plans to attend. All deserve our thanks for this great event!

At the Winery