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Ridge Notes from the Tasting Note Closet

Ridge notes

While sweeping out my Tasting Notes folder, I came across these items. They have not been part of a Gang story, but will be added to our archive of Mr. Ridge tasting notes.

I hope you find them of interest.

From 9/2002:

Nospitanim11996 Ridge Mataro  Pagani Ranch ATP
deeply colored – initial aromas of sweet vanillin  yield to dark earthy fruits, reminiscent of Geyserville – smooth entry with sweet focused fruit that outlasts some upfront tannins and adds a long follow. Over time, the flavors deepen and tarry notes emerge.
Still a bit coarse on the palate, I think the wine needs two or three years to be at its best. Find this wine

From 10/2005:   a lovely Saturday afternoon visit to Lytton Springs:

2003 Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains – 100% Chardonnay from Monte Bello Ridge – lots of minerals and racy acidity. A most excellent California Chardonnay, particularly for folks who don’t like California Chardonnay. Will age effortlessly. Find this wine

2001 Ridge Zinfandel Jimsomare – a classic JimZin – assuredly not for lovers of what Zin has become these days, this is an idiosyncratic wine that for many is an acquired taste. Full of this site’s chalky texture and firm acids, I would hold this for at least a decade, probably longer. A whopping 15 barrels produced. Find this wine

2002 Ridge Geyserville – 84% Zinfandel  12% Carignane  4% Petite Sirah 14.6% alcohol – likely in the heart of its early window of drinkability, this classic Geezer will start to close down before too long. Right now it is balanced and lovely – I suspect it will gain a bit of richness with some bottle age. Beautiful structure. Find this wine

2002 Ridge Zinfandel Paso Robles – the bright jammy fruit these bottlings often show on release has shut down – drink now or wait six or eight years or more and taste one of the great wines from Benito Dusi fruit. Find this wine

2003 Ridge Zinfandel Independence School – Zin in a jelly jar – a rich, ripe and structured wine that puts a smile on your face. If you don’t take it too seriously, you won’t be disappointed. Great with burgers (esp. lamb), pizza and such. Mmmm…peanut butter. Find this wine

1996 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek – all structure and earth right now – given the vineyard’s history, I would gamble another five or ten years, maybe longer. Find this wine

2003 Ridge Lytton Springs – not yet ready for prime time – all knees and elbows now – needs two years in bottle. Patience furthers the superior man. Find this wine

2003 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch – again, a true classic – throwback to the 91 and 92. May be sold out already – call Cupertino now if you want any. Find this wine

From 10/2005:

After attending to some personal business over on the Sonoma side last Friday, I buzzed on up 101 to Healdsburg, hoping that dropping into the Ridge tasting room on a weekday would be less hectic than the weekend visits have been. And it was.

A visiting distributor’s group ramped up the activity a bit, but that was more than compensated for by the presence of the entire “upper echelon” from Cupertino. Paul Draper – always gracious, with a seeming endless enthusiasm for his work and willingness to talk about the wines of Ridge. Donn Reisen, President of Ridge – looking fully recovered from a devastating bicycle accident and in great spirits. David Gates, Ridge’s vineyard manager – quick to smile, he invariably has even the most esoteric facts regarding his vineyards at his fingertips and is always a pleasure to chat with. Eric Baugher, Production Manager – a rather shy person by nature, he seems to be settling into his role as Paul’s second-in-command at Monte Bello, and is always a pleasure to talk to. And, of course, John Olney, resident winemaker at Lytton Springs who adds his international wine experience to the mix.

Some brief notes on some new wines:

2003 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch – 90% Zinfandel  6% Alicante Bouschet  4% Petite Sirah  15.3% alcohol
After some vintages that were picked very ripe and needed to be labeled “late picked”, this is a welcome and impressive return to the great Pagani wines of the early 90s. Impeccably balanced and harmonious and with the unmistakable signature nose and palate of this special property, this is a classic Pagani that will be happily embraced by fans of the early bottlings. A classic Pagani. Find this wine

2003 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek – 84% Zinfandel  16% Petite Sirah  14.4% alcohol
Again, the 2003 vintage allowed for more typical ripening and no “late picked” labeling. The wine is well structured – helped, of course, by the healthy dose of PS, but is pretty much closed right now, yielding little in aromatics or flavors. The structure and texture, however, tell me that this is wine that will amply reward patient cellaring. Find this wine

2002 Ridge Monte Bello – 74% Cabernet Sauvignon  18% Merlot  8% Petite Verdot  13.3% alcohol  tasted from 375ml.
The minerality of this vineyard is amply evidenced in the aromatics – the wine is quite lovely in the mouth – not as opulent as the 91, but almost as approachable as it was at this age. A surprisingly drinkable Monte Bello, this may be one of the few “early drinkers” (which is not to say it will not age). Find this wine

For those of you who lament the passing of the York Creek Petite Sirah – take heart. In bottle is the 2002 Ridge Lytton Estate Petite Sirah – blended with 16% Zinfandel, it is decidedly different from the York Creek wines. Smoother in texture than its Napa cousin, it lacks nothing in varietal personality or structure, but offers a slightly less “rustic” impression and offers both power and elegance. The 2003 from barrel is a grapey monster. Find this wine

While these two wines will be available through ATP only, the 2003 Ridge Lytton West Syrah will have limited national distribution when it is released in Spring of 2006. This first general release of Syrah from Ridge (they have made small quantities for ATP since 96), was cofermented with 9% Viognier, which lifts the aromatics and adds delightful floral notes on the palate. Rich without feeling dense, this beautiful Syrah should age effortlessly. The release price is $40. Find this wine

And for current drinking, I recommend the 2003 Ridge Zinfandel Independence School – 88% Zinfandel  9% Carignane  3% Petite Sirah
Sourced from six different vineyards, five of which fall within the old Independence School District in Geyserville, this wine has come together very nicely in the last few months and offers a burst of sweet Zinberry up front that will put a smile on your face. Drinking very nicely right now, it has a lovely texture and structure for short-term aging. Find this wine

This is a very impressive lineup from what is admittedly my favorite winery.

From 11/2006:

TN: 1996 Ridge Alicante Bouschet  Pagani (ATP) – 75% Alicante Bouschet  25% Zinfandel  13.7% alcohol  29 barrels produced

Dense purple in the glass – opens in the nose with a gush of black plum wrapped in sweet integrated oak. The flavors are broad and rich showing mostly dark plum and boysenberry complemented by a bit of sweet vanillin. Smooth and harmonious on the palate, the wine shows remarkable balance and finesse with a long and clean finish. Rather a beast in its youth, this is a good example of what can happen when ATP wines are allowed to age a bit. A classic Draper meets old vines, and the reason I’m still an ATP member. Great stuff. Find this wine

From 4/2008:

TN: 1991 Ridge Cabernet Franc  York Creek Vineyards – 75% Cabernet Franc  25% Petite Verdot  13.3% alc  12 barrels produced
My goodness. This unlikely blend displays both the quality of the vintage and the pedigree of the vineyard.
Obviously a mountain wine from entry to finish, it shows more minerality and black fruits along with its considerable structure, but the bright cherry fruit from the Franc peeks through here and there, lofted by the bright acids and grounded by the still significant tannins. Somewhat reminiscent of an Argentine Malbec in its rusticity, this wine would never be described as elegant or charming. It is, however, quite unique and immensely enjoyable, but on its own terms.

Wish I had more – it could easily go another ten years. Another brilliant effort from Mr. Draper – who deserves more credit for his extraordinary blending talents. Find this wine

From 2/2009:

1991 Ridge Merlot  Santa Cruz Mountains – 80% Merlot  20% Cabernet Sauvignon  29 Barrels produced  12.9% alcohol

From a block on the Jimsomare Ranch that was budded over to Merlot in the 80s.

Opens with forward aromas of early secondary development – spice, young leather, a
hint of smoked meat and signature Monte Bello Ridge minerality – soft, soft entry with flavors that follow the nose with the addition of rich plumy fruit – fully integrated tannins and velvety mouthfeel – smooth follow and a long clean finish. Irresistibly drinkable and easily the most enjoyable Merlot I have ever tasted. Find this wine

From 3/2009:

TN: 1989 Ridge Merlot  Bradford Mountain – 100% Merlot  13.3% alcohol
Light and lilting cherry fruit in the nose with background notes of well integrated oak – soft and friendly entry, like shaking hands with an old friend – lithe and supple in the mouth with sweetly ripe fruit flavors, a light acid backbone and enough smooth tannin to keep it all interesting. Lively spice and leather aromas develop with time – the mouthfeel gains some depth and the finish lengthens, never losing its clean fade.
An absolutely lovely bottle of wine and a pure pleasure to drink. Find this wine

From 3/2009:

TN: Recent Ridge Zinfandels
The tasting bar at the Napa Whole Foods has become a great little place to taste recent releases. You’re as likely to be sitting next to the national sales manager of a prominent local winery as you are to your next door neighbor.

The lovely Christina Donley was there Friday night, pouring four current Zinfandels from Ridge, and I was as delighted with the wines as I was to spend time with her.

2007 Ridge Zinfandel Sonoma County Three Valleys – 76% Zinfandel  8% Petite Sirah  7% Syrah   6% Grenache  3% Carignane  14.3% alcohol
This wine is a departure from the plush, jammy, fruit forward editions of recent vintages. There is, no doubt, plenty of fruit in this ten vineyard blend, but the result is a more balanced and elegant Zinfandel that doesn’t thrust its bosom in your face. A throwback to the wonderfully balanced Sonoma County and Sonoma Station Zinfandels of the 80s and 90s, this wine will match beautifully with a wide variety of foods and should find a welcome home on many restaurant wines-by-the-glass lists.

Drinks well now with time in glass, but should show much better with another year or so in bottle. At $22 full pop, a very good value in today’s wine market. Find this wine

2006 Ridge Lytton Springs – 80% Zinfandel  16% Petite Sirah  4% Carignane  14.7% alcohol
A classically styled Lytton – balanced and elegant – the relatively high percentage of Petite Sirah lends depth and structure but emphasizes the need for a bit of cellar time. This is neither an early drinker nor a long ager, I think, but should reward your patience with a fine example of what this extraordinary vineyard can produce – a very, very fine wine. Find this wine

2006 Ridge Geyserville – 70% Zinfandel  18% Carignane  10% Petite Sirah  2% Mataro  14.6% alcohol
User friendly from the start, this gregarious Geezer shows a lovely deep color, inviting purple and black stone fruit aromatics and forward flavors. Reminiscent of the fabulous 1991 (no doubt due to all that Carignane), this vintage might age as well, with the 10% of Petite Sirah to add structure and depth. Should evolve in interesting stages, but drinks wonderfully even now. Find this wine

2006 Ridge Zinfandel  York Creek – 99% Zinfandel  1% Petite Sirah  14.8% alcohol
Shy in the nose, the wine shows lovely blackberry jam in the mouth – classic York Creek flavors and structure, which means a decade of enjoyment, likely more. Find this wine

Happily, the days of ultra-ripe Zins:  “late picked”, “late harvest” and the like seem to be a thing of the past at Ridge and nobody could be happier than I am. These are food wines, not tasting panel wines and will be enormously satisfying to drink, as well as taste.

I’m bored with oak whacked gob balls and welcome these Zinfandels that deliver interest and pleasure beyond the first glass, and match harmoniously with meals.

I’m just sayin’….

Reporting from the Tasting Room Closet,

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