Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ridge: Wine from a "pre-industrial" time

Ridge: Lytton Springs Winery
and tasting room 
Ridge Vineyards is something of a best-kept secret amongst wine lovers in the know. The grapes are sourced from vineyards throughout Santa Cruz, Napa and Sonoma Valleys. It's a winery that prides itself on a history of creating some of the most enjoyable, fascinating, and age-worthy wines coming out of California. Their lineup includes bottles for the casual drinker all the way up to the aficionado, with wines that can be enjoyed today or cellared for decades.

L to R: Eric Baugher,
Paul Draper and, John Olney
So what makes them different? A commitment to quality; to not just producing wines that will sell, but instead to producing natural wines (or, as Ridge prefers to call them, “pre-industrial”) that will leave an impact. A commitment to place, with a list of vineyard specific bottles going back decades, in a region that is only now truly starting to rediscover terroir. However, Ridge's greatest attribute are its people, starting with its famed wine-maker, Paul Draper, but surly due, in no small part, to the hard work of the entire team at Ridge.

Monte Bello Vineyard
What’s more is that there is something for everyone at Ridge. Cabernet, Chardonnay, Rhone varietals and, of course, Zinfandel, which Ridge has become synonymous with. For me, it was the Zinfandel that pulled me in and the esteemed Monte Bello (Bordeaux blend) that sealed the deal.

Some of my favorite Ridge wines,
aging in my cellar.
Can you tell I'm smitten? How about this; Ridge Vineyards holds the number three spot of most cellar wines in my collection. They are only upstaged by Vietti and Giacomo Conterno, and this is coming from a wine lover that puts Italy ahead of all other wine-producing regions. I can't think of a better testimony to the quality of these wines.

Below, I've listed my recent tasting notes for some of their current-release red Zinfandels. They are all worth your attention.

From York Creek Vineyard
high on Spring Mountain.
2009 Ridge York Creek Zinfandel - The nose was like rich blackberry jam on a piece of freshly toasted bread but with a hint of undergrowth that kept it from being too over the top. On the palate, a kaleidoscope of wild berries and spice filled the senses, and this wine switched from sweet to tart and back to sweet again. The finish was long with ripe, spiced berries. This was a highly enjoyable Zinfandel that walked a fine line between ripe and overripe but lands decidedly on the positive side. (89 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley
boast some vines planted at the
turn of the last century.
2009 Ridge Lytton Springs - The nose showed red wild berries, a dusting of cinnamon sugar, hints of minerals and herbs, and a whiff of dark baker’s chocolate. On the palate, it was beautifully balanced and elegant with a firm start and juicy finish. Ripe red and blue fruits went from sweet to tart as it flowed across the palate. The finish was long and spicy. (92 points) Find it on: Wine Searcher!

Located in northern Sonoma
Valley, in a vineyard planted
over ninety years ago.
2009 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel - The nose was massive, as aromas of wild berries, dry coco, vanilla, ginger spice and savory notes filled the senses. On the palate, it was medium to full-bodied with amazing focus to its intense red berry fruit and spice. The masses of fruit slowly gave way to show this wine’s structure and balance. The finish was long and clinging to the palate, yet ultimately refreshing as the tannins faded away. I seriously enjoyed this structured Zinfandel and am very happy to have more in my cellar, as I can image that it will get even better with time. (93 points) Find it on: Wine-Searcher!

Ridge Vineyards Website!
Also check out Ridge's ATP (Advanced Tasting Program). One of the most unquie wine clubs in California, where members receive small production wines, from Zins to Rhone varietals, that are not available to the public. These are amazing wines that can't be found anywhere else.