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Paradise Ridge Winery

Sonoma County region

This Sonoma County winery is truly a little piece of paradise.

One of the most difficult facets in telling the story of Paradise Ridge Winery is to decide exactly where to begin. To be sure, the smallish Sonoma County winery is a virtual plethora of interesting facts and anecdotes, easily making it one of the most writable wineries in all of California.

It all started more than forty years ago for Walter and Marijke Byck (pronounced Bic). The New Jersey-born physician moved his wife and family to Santa Rosa, the sprawling center of Sonoma County’s growth. As their family grew, the Bycks began looking for a country place to serve as a retreat.

One sunny day in 1978, Marijke (pronounced Ma-rye-ka) stumbled across a piece of property immediately adjacent to her son’s school, in the fashionable Fountaingrove neighborhood and within the city limits of Santa Rosa.

The property was an old sheep farm and covered 156 acres. She immediately called her husband who visited the property and who soon proclaimed to his family, “We have just seen a little piece of paradise.” The deal was made and the name Paradise Ranch seemed specifically appropriate. Since the prospect of sheep ranching didn’t strike anyone in the Byck family’s fancy, it was decided to plant grapes instead. For the next decade plus, Paradise Ranch produced high quality grapes for a large number of neighboring wineries.

In 1984, the Bycks became partners with Robert Stemmler in his nearby high profile winery; they sold him some grapes in exchange for a small part of his business. When Stemmler sold five years later to Buena Vista, the Bycks decided to pursue their own winery idea. Additional plantings were undertaken with the idea of building something on their own property. “I guess it was simply a matter of wanting to do our own thing,” Walter Byck recalled in an interview. “I wanted to sell our wines directly to the public and also turn Paradise Ridge into a showcase place.”

After securing the proper permits (the entire process took five years) the winery was finally finished in 1994 and renamed by son Rene Byck as Paradise Ridge since the property sits on a ridge site with a truly incredible view of the entire Russian River Valley.

Paradise Ridge’s first releases were also in 1994, and consisted of between 1,500 and 2,000 cases. That production figure has grown slightly and is now comfortably around 5,500 cases.

“What we have tried to do,” explained Walter Byck, “is produce a real destination-type facility. Our views are without parallel, and it is even possible to see all the way to Point Reyes on a clear day.”

Since Walter proposed to Marijke in a sculpture garden in the Netherlands in 1961, the couple decided to create a magnificent world-class sculpture garden at Paradise Ridge. The contemporary native oak woodland environment provided a natural gallery for supporting the arts.

“We both loved art and sculptures and wanted to share this love with the public, so we dedicated five acres of our land to show large-scale sculptures,” Byck added. “We also wanted an environment where we could do functions (weddings and meetings) that was unlike anything else we had ever seen.”

Unfortunately, Byck lost his wife and co-founder Marijke in early 2006 in a tragic car accident. Her legacy is now marked by her tireless efforts to support the less fortunate in Sonoma County. From delivering food packages and holiday gifts for children of low-income families, to serving as a Board Member, benefactor, and leader with numerous local nonprofit groups, her helping hand and personal involvement were the hallmark of her style. She was a natural leader with incredible compassion for those around her.

The spirit of Marijke is an inspiration to the Paradise Ridge Family, who carries on the rich tradition and dedication to quality that make the winery such an extraordinary place. In addition to their son Rene who serves as the vice president, daughter Sonia is the managing partner and son-in-law Dan Barwick is the company’s winemaker. The closely-knit family still speaks their native Dutch at family gatherings and keeps Marijke’s indomitable spirit very much alive.

Also, the local area’s historical authenticity is traced by an exhibit that honors wine pioneer Kanaye Nagasawa, the winemaker at the original Fountain Grove Winery that produced 90% of the wine in Sonoma County at the turn of the 20th Century.

The Paradise Ridge family’s incredible story sets the stage for a bright and inspiring future in the heart of one of the world’s finest grape growing regions – a place no one would argue is truly a little piece of paradise.

Featured Wines

Map of the area

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members,

We are very excited that our 2009 “Elevation” Rockpile Vineyard Cabernet was selected for you to enjoy. What we have here is one of Sonoma County’s best vineyards from one of the finest vintages in recent history; an excellent combination we believe. This vineyard is the highest in the Rockpile AVA, 2,000 feet to be exact, and this is one of only a couple of Cabernets that come from this hillside oasis. Lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, a good dash of Cabernet Franc, with a splash of Petit Verdot and Merlot make this our most sought after and sacred wine.

Our winemaking philosophy is that at the earliest stage of a grape’s ripeness, we harvest all of the balanced vines, and we feel this makes the finished wine one that will display both true varietal character and a sense of place, along with more focused fruit. We cold soaked all of the different varietals that went into this wine and this, coupled with submerged cap fermentation, and a long extended cold fermentation process, makes this wine a delight to drink. Almost every wine we make is less than 14% alcohol, which we feel makes our wines wonderful to pair with food.

Our winery is located on a ridge about 800 feet above the Russian River Valley floor and our wonderful wines, coupled with the most spectacular view in Sonoma County, make our Estate a true paradise. You can enjoy our wonderful outdoor sculpture exhibit and guided or self-guided tours of our vineyards. The San Francisco Chronicle once said that we had the best views and the best place to picnic in Sonoma County. Come by on a Wednesday night in the summer and enjoy our wines and sunset. Any way you look at visiting and tasting Paradise Ridge, it is truly a feast for the senses.


Rene C. Byck