Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ridge: A Rhone Ranger Pioneer

By Eric Guido

As I continue my exploration into the Rhone Ranger movement, I realize that one of the first California wineries I was exposed to, working with Rhone varieties, was Ridge Vineyards. Ridge is renown for their Bordeaux blend, Monte Bello, as well as a lineup of amazing single vineyard Zinfandels.

However, Ridge has also been experimenting with Rhone Varieties with great success. I was first introduced to them through their A.T.P. list (Advanced Tasting Program). It’s a special part of their mailing list that receives small production Rhone wines and Zinfandels. Imagine, if you will, that these wines aren’t available at retail, yet they are just as good as and often better than much of what’s out there.

I was recently able to taste through their current lineup, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. The wines are rich with concentrated fruits, yet also balanced, with an airy lift to the bouquet that gives them finesse seldom found in such heavily-fruited wines. It’s hard to imagine how Ridge can continue to turn out such a large amount of excellent wine, and yet I don’t remember ever being let down. I may just have to sign up for the A.T.P. list again this year. Read the notes and then check out their website; these wines are worth your attention.

On to the wines:

2010 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch – The nose was vibrant, showing ripe berries and spice with a whiff of wild herbs. On the palate, it was rich and juicy with blackberry fruits and hints of spiced orange. The finish was long with palate-coating blackberry fruit. (89 points)

2008 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Lytton Estate – The nose showed red berries, floral notes, and wild herbs with an airy lift to the aromatics. On the palate, it showed juicy ripe berries, ginger and baking spices which coated the senses through the long vibrant finish. (91 points)

2007 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate – The nose showed plumy fruits with black cherry, herbs and a spicy, airy lift. On the palate, it was rich and racy with red and black fruits which stayed through the saturating, long finish. This wine truly showed great concentration in the face of perfect balance. (92 points)

2010 Ridge Petite Sirah Lytton Estate – The nose showed wild berry jam, a hint of vanilla, gram cracker and a bit of forest funk. On the palate, it showed tart red berries offset by a dollop of juicy acidity. The finish was long with dark fruit and revealed a layer of fine-grained tannin, which hung on the palate. This wine needs a few years to come together but should be even better with time. (90 points)

** The Rhone Rangers is an organization devoted to the promoting of Rhone Varieties in the United States with almost 200 winery members from California, Oregon, Washington and New York. The list of wineries is impressive and extensive, with names such as Ridge Vineyards, Qupe, Bonny Doon, Donelan, L’Adventure, and Larkmead filling their ranks.