Several weeks ago, my good friend Matthew suggested the following idea: Hey, I have some bottles of wine that need opening, so how about if we do a tasting at your place and invite over some wine peeps? My answer: Hmm, O.K.!
The theme for the evening: A Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel retrospective, all pulled from M’s cellar.
In the wine world, Ridge is the stuff of legend. Located in the Santa Cruz mountains and about 1 hour 15 minutes from San Francisco, Ridge is world renowned for consistently producing some of the very best wines that the U.S.A has to offer. Along with a range of Zinfandel based wines from vineyards in Sonoma, Napa, and Paso Robles, Ridge also produces Cabernet Sauvignon, a Bordeaux inspired red, and chardonnay from the Montebello vineyard located up in the Santa Cruz mountains.
The iconic 1971 Ridge Montebello Cabernet Sauvignon placed 5th (and above 9 other French and Califorina wines) at the 1976 Judgement of Paris blind tasting. On a more personal note, the 1978 Ridge Montebello Cabernet Sauvignon (purchased on a whim with my friend Eric) is hands down the best California wine I have ever tasted. What a sublime and absolutely memorable experience.
Matthew has been a member of Ridge’s ATP (Advance Tasting Program) for over a decade. Within that time Matthew has amassed a formidable collection of Ridge single vineyard wines, most of which include Zinfandel and Rhone based reds. So what’s a guy to do when the cellar is full and more wine is on the way? Open (more than) a few bottles and share them with your friends!
Our tasting group that evening was comprised of myself, Matthew, Stephanie, Keelyn, Wolfgang and Wes. Serendipitously, one of the invitees that evening was my good friend Dan Buckler, Ridge’s Regional Sales manager and our special guest star. As we tasted through the lineup, Dan introduced each wine by detailing the history, geography, soil makeup and vinification practices of each wine.
Below is list of wines that we uncorked, tasted and enjoyed that evening. My contribution to the evening involved an enormous crock pot of braised short ribs, mashed potatoes, and a garden salad to pair with this fine selection of hearty american Zins.
Flight # 1 Ridge Dusi Ranch Zinfandel (ATP)
Ridge’s Dusi Ranch bottling comes from a distance parcel of vines located on the estate vineyards in Paso Robles, California.
The Zinfandel vines here are approximately 87 years old, planted on original rootstock, and completely dry-farmed.
1998 Ridge Dusi Ranch California Zinfandel 14,9% abv
1999 Ridge Dusi Ranch California Zinfandel 14,5% abv
2000 Ridge Dusi Ranch California Zinfandel 14,6% abv
Flight # 2 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel
The Pagani Ranch vineyard is planted to 30 acres of mostly 100 year old Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre and Alicante Bouschet.
The gravely loam vineyard, situated along Highway 12 in the Sonoma Valley near Kenwood, experiences to cool, foggy mornings and warm days.
Pagani Ranch is generally cooler than either Geyserville or Lytton Springs.
1998 Ridge Pagani Ranch California Zinfandel 14,2% abv
88% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah
1999 Ridge Pagani Ranch California Zinfandel 14,1% abv
90% Zinfandel, 7% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah
Flight # 3 Mazzoni Home Ranch California Zinfandel (ATP)
The Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah from the Mazzoni / Home Ranch Vineyard was originally planted by Italian immigrant Guiseppe Mazzoni and his fourteen year old brother in law Abramo Trusendi at the turn of the 20th century. The vineyard is situated on the west side of the Alexander Valley and just north of Geyserville. The head trained, spur pruned vines are planted in gravelly, clay loam soils and are dry farmed.
1999 Mazzoni Home Ranch California Zinfandel 13,7% abv
50% Zinfandel, 32% Carignane, 18% Petite Sirah
2000 Mazzoni Home Ranch California Zinfandel 13,7% abv
47% Zinfandel, 47% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah
Flight # 4 Ridge Lytton Springs California Zinfandel
Ridge’s Lytton Springs vineyard lies just north of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Here, 100+ year old Zinfandel vines, along with a smattering of Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mataro (Mourvedre) and Grenache are planted on benchland soils comprised of gravel and clay. Each varietal is fermented separately using only natural yeasts in order to preserve the individual characteristics of the fruit from the vineyards.
1999 Ridge Lytton Springs California Zinfandel 14,5% abv
70% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane, 3% Mataro (Mourvedre)
2000 Ridge Lytton Springs California Zinfandel 14,8% abv
80% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah
Flight # 5 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel
Ridge’s Geyserville estate vineyards are located on the western side of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Warm days, coupled with cool evening breezes and morning fog provide an ideal growing environment for Zinfandel. In fact, the Zinfandel vines grown at the Geyserville estate are the oldest that Ridge farms. A section of the vineyard known as the “Old Patch” is planted to vines that are 130+ years of age! Throughout the past century, Zinfandel, as well as other “mixed blacks” (Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro) have made the deep gravelly loam strewn with river rocks their home.
1998 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel 14,1% abv
74% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane, 1% Mataro (Mourvedre)
1999 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel 14,8% abv
68% Zinfandel, 16% Carignane, 16% Petite Sirah
2000 Ridge Geyserville California Zinfandel 14,9% abv
66% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 17% Petite Sirah
Flight # 6 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel
The York Creek vineyard represents Ridge’s sole Napa Valley vineyard site. The vineyard is located at the western edge of the Napa Valley on Spring Mountain and just north of the town of St. Helena. Amidst a plentiful forest of native Madrone oak, the vineyard lies at 1250-1800 feet above sea level.
The vineyard is named for a nearby creek which flows year round. The higher (than the Napa Valley floor) elevation and cooler temperatures allow the head trained and spur pruned vines to produce fruit with intensity, structure and longevity. Old vine Petite Sirah and Zinfandel excel on the gravelly loam soils of Spring Mountain.
1997 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel 15,3% abv
95% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah
1998 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel 14,9% abv
88% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah
1999 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel (Late Harvest) 16% abv
98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah
2000 Ridge York Creek California Zinfandel 15% abv
88% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah
Many thanks to Matthew for providing these Ridge gems from his cellar, and to Dan for his insight and expertise!
Next: Mumu and Susan on la route du vin to Napa’s Howell Mountain.