1980-1995 In 1980 the Melchor family recruited twin brothers Bob and Jim Varner to begin planting Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer on a small portion of Spring Ridge, a rolling grassy east-facing slope shared with the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve in the town of Portola Valley. Both properties were once part of the same cattle ranch. A relatively low-elevation site (600-840 feet) at the northern boundary of the dense oak- and redwood-forested Santa Cruz Mountains, Spring Ridge Vineyard is chiefly a shallow clay loam over fractured sedimentary rock. The San Andreas fault runs through the lowest portion of the property. Fog cradles the vineyards but never overwhelms them, and a maritime breeze often courses down the slopes. By the 1990s, grape production came from eight acres of Chardonnay downslope from the historic house and from four acres of Gewurztraminer below that. The grapes were sold to regional wineries. Viticulture was careful and ecologically sensitive, employing hand-hoeing and dry-farming without use of insecticides.
1995-2015 The Neely family purchased the property in 1995 and re-imagined its participation in the world of viticulture and wine. Thus began a period of planting Pinot Noir alongside the older Chardonnay: the separate three-acre Hidden block in 1997, Picnic block replacing a portion of Gewurztraminer in 1999, and finally Upper Picnic, grafted to the remaining Gewurztraminer rootstock. The lineup of three Pinot Noir blocks and three Chardonnay blocks—Home, Amphitheater, and Bee—persists to this day, a staircase of vines climbing toward Windy Hill.
The year 2000 saw completion of a unique small bi-level winery and cellar, utilizing an expansive outdoor workspace during harvest, fermentation, racking, and bottling. Nestled into the hilltop above Bee Block and overlooking Bozzo Gulch, the winery building for the past fifteen years has been the site of impactful winemaking. Tending and harvesting grapes just a short stroll from the cellar allowed for low-key and masterful production of Varner and Neely Chardonnay as well as Neely Pinot Noir, announcing Spring Ridge as the home of a unique, terroir-driven project. With minimal intervention in the field and in the cellar, the site has translated into subtle, rich, affecting wines.
2015- In 2015 Bob Varner decided to retire from active winemaking at Spring Ridge Vineyard. In the first transitional year, Neely wine was instead produced at ROAR winery in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. Aiming for style continuity, Scott Shapley assumed 2015 Chardonnay winemaking and Shalini Sekhar took on the 2015 Pinot Noir. The foundation of estate-crafted, block-designated winemaking is now carried forward by Shalini, who committed to the return of estate winemaking and bottling on the Spring Ridge property for the 2016 vintage and beyond. In May 2017, we planted a new 2 acre chardonnay block and look forward to adding this new vineyard into our production in a few years.