We love wine dinners at Gang of Pour, and last week, Kim and I had the very good fortune to participate in three of them on successive evenings. Yes, it’s tough work, but we’re professionals here at Adams, Heritier and Associates, and we can handle the hard assignments.
Our good friend Christina Donley was back in the neighborhood in her capacity as Midwest Regional Sales Representative for Ridge Vineyards, and she invited us to join her for a Ridge wine dinner at Encore by J. D. Wesley, an intimate little restaurant on Toledo’s west side. We accepted, of course, every bit as much to enjoy her company as to savor our beloved Mr. Ridge, and indeed, we couldn’t have had a finer time.
As attendees gathered, we were started out with some hors d’ouvres and a delicious Chardonnay that we last tried about a year ago.
2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay Home Ranch, 14.6% alc., $45: Shows clean, medium color and exudes a fragrant white Draper perfume. Sweet American oak, ripe pear, sweet pea and hints of green bean, lime and spicy nuances from the oak in both flavor and aroma; rich, full bodied and almost unctuous, with ample acids and a long lingering finish. Excellent intensity without going over the top, with lots of promise for several years in the cellar. Find this wine
When everyone had arrived, we were seated and poured the following wine, which paired well nicely with a house made lobster stuffed cannelloni finished in a Sauce American. We had tasted the wine only a few months before, but it was both interesting and instructive to compare it with the previous selection.
2006 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay Monte Bello, 14.6% alc., $64.99: Clean pale to medium color, and showing more restraint and finesse than the Home Ranch, with toasty oak on the nose and sweet, pretty pear flavors accented with subtle spice and mineral. Medium-full to full bodied and silky in the mouth, with ample acids and very nice length. An elegant and lovely expression of California Chardonnay that should age well for at least a few years, but why wait? Find this wine
After a lemon sorbet palate refresher, our next selection was one that I had last enjoyed a few years ago while visiting my daughter Rosie in Colorado. It was poured from magnum and matched well with an elk medallion on a crustini finished with a roasted shallot red wine demi-glace.
2005 Ridge Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley, 77% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignane, 14.4% alc., 1.5 L: A clean dark garnet in color, and both beautiful and elegant in character, with sweet Draper perfume, black raspberry, blackberry, lavender, subtle leather and a kiss of mint. Full bodied, silky smooth and deceptively well structured, this is wonderful now, and it can age effortlessly for years, especially in this format. Classic Mr. Ridge, and just a joy to drink. Find this wine
From there, it was on to another wine that we tried just a few months ago, but that time, we didn’t have it with applewood smoked baby quail on baby mixed field greens with a fresh pomegranate vinaigrette and toasted almonds.
2005 Ridge Dry Creek Valley Syrah Lytton West, 94% Syrah, 6% Viognier, 14.5% alc.: Clean, dark garnet color, with Draper perfume over dark plum and berry aromatics that follow through on the palate; rich and ripe enough, but not a fruit bomb, and a little earthy in the mouth in a good way. Full bodied, very smoothly textured and yet very well structured for several years of development in the cellar. Find this wine
Up to this point, the wines were poured with judicious generosity, but the next one was decanted and doled out a bit more sparingly, due of course to both its price and relative scarcity. The food pairing was a petite filet, served with asparagus and duchess potatoes. The filet was excellent and the asparagus was, well, asparagus, but if there was a failure on this evening, it was the potatoes, which were essentially inedible. They had to be cracked open with a fork, only to reveal an unappetizing, dried out core. Fortunately, it was an insignificant portion that did nothing to diminish the brilliance of the wine or the evening.
2006 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains, 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 13.5% alc., $154.99: Deep, dark garnet in color, with pretty Draper perfume over a ripe core of ripe black currant and blackberry fruit, echoing and expanding on the palate with a solid earthy anchor. Full bodied, smooth and silky, and yet so deceptively well structured. Beautiful already, but with tons of promise for future development, this is just so nice, and not at all excessively oaked or over-ripe. Find this wine
Afterwords, there was a 2007 Ridge York Creek Zinfandel served with a dessert of a Belgian chocolate pate with crème anglaise. Not being much of a dessert person, I opted for the York Creek only, and while I didn’t take notes, it was quite delicious and very much as I remember it from last November.
It was a wonderful evening, all things told. The wines were uniformly brilliant and the food was excellent, with the one so-noted exception. Christina, Kim and I sat at a table with four strangers, and by the end of the evening, we were all best friends. Of special interest to me was the fact that, seated at the next table over was Craig Frost, keyboard player for Bob Seger, and back in the day, Grand Funk Railroad. I’d seen Craig play a number of times back in the 70′s, and in fact, we both worked with the same booking agency back then. We hit it off quite well, and spent around 15 minutes toward the end of the evening sipping York Creek and reminiscing about “the good old days.” (Craig also told me that he only drinks red wine, but found the two Ridge Chardonnays to be a revelation, because he loved them both.) It’s probably a good thing that there were no instruments at hand, or we might have made some crazy music…
Reporting from Day-twah,