Murder Ridge Winery
Beginning its tales of wine and suspense, they're quickly gaining a loyal following
Farming the Mendocino Ridge is not for the faint of heart. With ridges soaring from 1,200 feet to 3,000 feet in elevation, this hidden gem of an appellation is rugged, isolated and untamed, with steep hillsides, forbidding mountain terrain and an abundance of natural wildlife including bears, mountain lions, and wild boar - it is what Steve Alden refers to as the epitome of ‘farming in the wilderness.’
Steve Alden is the grower, vintner and farmer behind Murder Ridge Winery, this month’s Garagiste Wine Club feature. Established in 2015, Murder Ridge Winery crafts very limited amounts of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay, all 100% estate grown from Steve’s Perli Vineyards located in the coastal mountains of the Mendocino Ridge AVA. His vineyard setting is quite unique, consisting of five cool, sun soaked vineyard ‘islands’ surrounded by a sea of forest and stretched out along three miles of mountainous terrain - like an archipelago along Mendocino County’s south coast. Each vineyard block has its own microclimate, exposure, elevation, soils and weather patterns, and the rugged, steep terrain requires costly and extreme farming techniques. But the result? Low vigor vines that produce small sized, loosely packed clusters with tiny berries, creating wines with extraordinarily unique character.
The Perli Vineyard blocks make up only thirty acres of Steve Alden’s expansive 2,000 acre timber ranch property that was originally purchased by his grandfather back in 1951. Like many of the area's landowners, the Aldens came to the region in pursuit of timber, which was the dominant industry up through the 1980's. They soon realized that logging every 20 years wasn't going to float the property, so they decided to diversify their efforts. The Aldens followed the recommendations of some neighbors and decided to plant wine grapes.
After surveying the ridge tops to find the best locations, Steve planted his first vines in 1994 and began selling his in-demand fruit to such premium wineries as Drew Family, Arista, Donkey and Goat, and Edmeades, just to name a few. It wasn’t until 2013 that he crafted his first vintage for Murder Ridge Winery, and currently produces less than 500 cases annually of these stunning, mountain wines.
Steve's limited portfolio includes a Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and a Syrah-based Red Blend.
Now, with a rather intriguing name like ‘Murder Ridge Winery,’ one would hope for an equally intriguing story behind it - and there is. The ridge line on which Perli Vineyards is planted is named ‘Murder Ridge’ after an actual murder that took place here between homesteaders in the early 1900’s. The story goes that an old man named Joseph Cooper was murdered by Peter Gianoli, who was later found sipping on a demijohn of wine that was taken from Cooper. Since Cooper was about 70 years of age and an inoffensive man, it was a mystery why he was murdered...and it was never resolved. Now, Murder Ridge Winery begins its tales of wine and suspense.
We are happy to introduce Murder Ridge Winery to our Pinot Noir Wine Club members. Enjoy!