Ridgeway Family Vineyards
Mike and Teela Ridgeway have really exploded onto the Petaluma Gap Pinot scene with their first release. Teela is a vivacious and energetic women who, along with her two dogs, gave me a tour of the beautifully situated vineyard in the Petaluma Hills just west of town. Teela is a third generation Petaluman. When she met Mike seven years ago, he was commuting to San Francisco to his chiropractic practice while farming a vineyard on Sonoma Mountain Road near Bennett Valley. Mike had been growing red varietals, primarily Merlot, there for nearly 20 years, and his knowledge of viticulture led him to think that the Petaluma Gap was a perfect area to grow Pinot Noir. The two of them searched the area for an appropriate property and found an ideal 20-acre estate for their vineyard.
With the assistance of Mark Pasternak, they planted Dijon clones 557, 777, 828, and Pommard clone on 8 acres in the rolling hills west of the property’s home in 2001 (see photo). Even with Mike’s grapegrowing experience, the task presented several challenges. After they moved into the house on the property, they discovered that the well could not provide enough water to irrigate the just-planted vines. They had to move out of the house so as not to utilize any water in their residence, and had to drill a new well. Gophers have been omnipresent and Teela showed me deer tracks in the vineyard that indicated deer had leaped the five-foot fence enclosure around the vineyard.
Besides handling the marketing and sales chores for their new venture, Teela has planted olive trees on the property as well and plans to make olive oil for fun. Nearby McEvoy Ranch has a milling facility where the olives can be milled for oil. The small number of trees would probably never make the undertaking profitable, but this is her pet project and she takes great pride in it.
The Ridgeways were fortunate to team with talented winemaker, Dan Goldfield (Dutton-Goldfield Winery), who made the first Ridgeway wine at the Dutton-Goldfield facility in Santa Rosa. The inaugural 2004 vintage comes from the first grapes harvested at the vineyard. The 2004 release received a warm reception, several restaurants have placed the wine on their lists, and the renowned Cyrus Restaurant (Michelin 2 star) in Healdsburg, poured the wine by the glass, going through three cases every two weeks! Coincident with the release of their first Pinot Noir, Mike and Teela were married in June, 2006. Both Pisces, they naturally named their vineyard, “Two Pisces Vineyard.” The current winemaker is Don Baumhefner (formerly Copeland Creek).
Mike likes to say that during the warm summer months, the grapes are “kissed by the breath of the sea” each evening. When I asked him about his quick success, he simply smiled and said, “I know how to grow great grapes.” He plans to increase production to around 800 cases in a few years.
Ridgeway Family Vineyards is currently selling their wines through a local retail distributor. You can buy the wine on the website. The phone is 707-778-0447