Paul Draper

Melissa Barnes
Paul Draper

In the 1970s, California vintners were focused on their wineries, building on the science being taught at the University of California, Davis. Paul Draper took a different path. A self-taught winemaker who studied philosophy at Stanford, Draper has spent his career tracking down exceptional vineyards.

Draper, 80, has worked 47 harvests at Ridge Vineyards in Santa Cruz Mountains. His flagship is Monte Bello, a single-vineyard Cabernet grown near the winery. Robust yet complex and elegant, Monte Bello is a wine many have called California's first-growth.

But Ridge's bread-and-butter has been Zinfandel. Draper embraced the challenge of finding great old-vine parcels, bringing attention to lesser-known spots in Sonoma, Paso Robles and Sierra Foothills. Geyserville and Lytton Springs are sites now recognized around the world. Draper has also been a leader in advocating for "ingredient labeling" on wines, emphasizing transparency and non-invasive winemaking. He earned Wine Spectator's Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

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