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Sonoma, CA 95476

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Behind the Label: The Ridge- George’s Malbec

Behind the Label: The Ridge- George’s Malbec
April 17, 2024 Scarlett Heffernan


We’re taking you on a journey through the Caton Vineyard to discover the grapes grown on our estate Moon Mountain District vineyards in the heart of Sonoma Valley. In honor of World Malbec Day, we’ll be diving into the background and history of one of the world’s most underrated grape varietals: Malbec!


Malbec 101

Malbec, recognized as Argentina’s signature red grape, is also a key component in Bordeaux blends and thrives as the primary red grape in Cahors, France. This grape variety, with its thin skin, flourishes with ample sunlight rather than excessive heat and typically ripens mid-season. Its inclusion in blends contributes rich colors, velvety tannins, and hints of plum. While Argentina boasts nearly 70% of global Malbec plantings, particularly in Mendoza, it’s also cultivated in France, Chile, California, Washington State, Southern Oregon, and New Zealand.


Map of where Malbec grows in the world

Origins of Malbec

Malbec’s origins can be traced back to northern Burgundy, France where it was known by its original name, Côt. In 1956, frost wiped out 75% of the Malbec planted in France, and most wineries chose not to replant it except in Cahors. 

In the mid-19th century, Argentine governor Domingo Faustino Sarmiento asked French agricultural engineer Miguel Pouget to bring Malbec cuttings from France to Argentina, which were then planted in Mendoza. The vines thrived in the hot weather and high altitude, and the iconic Argentinian Malbec was born.

In California, Malbec was widely planted and used in bulk wine blends before Prohibition. After Prohibition Malbec’s popularity declined, but in the mid-1990s, it rose again in correlation to the rise in popularity of the Napa Valley Meritage, California’s take on the  Bordeaux-style blend. Plantings have continued to grow across the state, and the grape is still widely used for blending today, though we choose to bottle it as 100% Malbec.


Tasting Profile

Wine Tasting Profile of Malbec

Distinctive Malbec of Sonoma Valley

Malbec from the Moon Mountain District AVA and Sonoma Valley offers a captivating expression of this grape variety, flourishing in the unique microclimates and diverse soils of these acclaimed wine-growing regions in Northern California. Embraced by the rugged beauty of the Moon Mountain District and the rolling hills of Sonoma Valley, Malbec grapes benefit from the region’s warm days, cool nights, and volcanic soils, resulting in wines of exceptional depth and complexity. Sonoma County Malbec from these areas often boasts concentrated flavors of dark berries, hints of cocoa, and subtle earthy undertones, all underscored by a refined structure and velvety texture.

The Story of The Ridge- George’s Malbec

When first developing the Caton Vineyard, Ty initially struggled to find the right site fitting for Malbec on his property. He then found a sandy, well-drained and steep shoulder that we now call “The Ridge” at the top of our Arroyo Vineyard that was the perfect spot. He produced his first vintage in 2006…and wasn’t sure if it was good enough. He brought it to his then Tasting Room Manager George Delano to try it, but George disagreed. He said “bottle it! I’ll sell this.” And he did – all of it! Each vintage is named after the late George as a thank you for always encouraging him. To this day, it is only used in our 100% Estate “The Ridge” George’s Malbec and as a component of Tytanium, our flagship blend.

Recommended Pairings

Malbec is a beautifully diverse wine. It’s not heavy; it’s not light – it’s just right for all kinds of dishes. It tends to do well with leaner meats like chicken, lamb, and even ostrich. Malbec is also an excellent choice for funkier flavors like blue cheese, mushrooms, and cumin-spiced dishes. And finally, for dessert, you can drink it on its own or pair it with a decadent flourless chocolate cake.


Now that you’ve learned all about Malbec, it’s time for you to have a glass for yourself. Our Estate “The Ridge” George’s Malbec is a true California Malbec with inky black, magenta colors and classic aromas of plum, blackberry, white pepper, and delicate floral components. You can stock up here or visit us at our Tasting Room in Kenwood. Reservations are recommended and can be made here

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