Every now and then they let us out of the store to enjoy the perks of this business, visiting the wineries that produce the great wines that we sell. Three of my colleagues and I will be spending the next three days tasting wines, walking vineyards and talking to the winemakers. We are very fortunate to be visiting some great properties: Ridge Vineyards, Mount Eden, Pisoni and Rosella's Vineyards and Talbott are just a few of the wineries we will spend time at. Look for updates by the all of us with pictures and notes on the wines we tasted.
Entries in Ridge Vineyards (3)
By: Bryan Brick | K&L Domestic Wine Buyer
Last week a chosen few K&L staffers met at the San Francisco store to head down to the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) Zinfandel Festival taking place nearby. The journey to brave the wave of Zinfandel in all its bold glory consisted of a four city block walk, some bear traps, and a few unmentionables...We knew what we were getting into: an ocean of Zin, the good and the bad, but our mission to find the greats to share with you--our customers--kept us on track.
My philosophy at these sort of events is to not stray too far off the path of the known. You can get into deep water quickly with a bunch of 15+% ABV Zins that offer few redeeming qualities, so I generally choose to keep my cards close and my opinions closer with the exception of this little ditty about what I tasted there. A disclaimer: by no means did I taste even 25% of what was available for sampling (if anybody even got close to that they’d be wheeled out in the paddy wagon), but I did seek out and taste wines from a variety of producers and made sure to visit those in attendance that I believe to be leaders in the category.
The good news is that due to recent back-to-back difficult vintages (2010 and 2011), the wines from these vintages overall were surprisingly fresh. The longer, cooler growing seasons required lengthier hang-times for fruit to ripen and cooler average temperatures preserved acidity, lending them bright treble-y flavors along with great verve and life. Balance and restraint was a prevailing theme among many of the offerings; I didn’t nearly as many Zins higher than 15% ABV or that had excess residual sugar. Since heat wasn’t a disposable commodity in these vintages, you couldn’t get grapes to 25-28 degrees brix! The talk instead among producers was of their ridiculously low PH levels (3.3 anyone?) and dramatically reduced yields. Many producers reported being down 30% or more in case production.
It may be true that 2010 and 2011 were challenging vintages, but producers across the board did the most with what they had, and with great success. I tasted many delicious, crowd-pleasing Zins that didn't skip a beat in delivering the bold flavors and spicy intensity that has won Zinfandel its throngs of admirers. Many producers made some of the best wines I had tasted from them in years. Meanwhile, if you prefer higher acidity and restraint in their wines, be on the lookout: there are some truly outstanding, balanced, and terroir-driven Zins being released that I know you will love.
So, here is my personal list of the top Zinfandels I tasted at the event. As you will see, some of these are currently available while many have a while yet before being released. Prices range, but there are a handful on this list that in my opinion over-deliver for the price; these are the ones that excited me the most. I hope they excite you, too.
Oh, yeah - in no way is this list in any sort of order. Enjoy!
2011 Ridge Vineyards “Pagani Ranch”
2011 Carlisle Dry Creek Valley
2011 Bucklin “Old Hill Ranch-Bambino”
2009 Bucklin “Old Hill Ranch-Ancient Vines”
2011 Bedrock “Saitone Ranch” (in stock $36.99)
2010 Dashe Dry Creek Valley (in stock $22.99)
2011 Mauritson “Westphall Ridge”
2009 D Cubed Howell Mountain
2010 Easton “Estate”
2008 Noceto “Grandpere Vineyard”
2010 Bella “Lily Hill Vineyard”
2010 Kokomo Dry Creek Valley
NV Gamba Centurian
Sure, nobody does it like Ridge Vineyards. Their wines have been a cornerstone of our selection (when we can get them) over the years.
Perhaps the most universally well-liked CA winery amongst our staff, Ridge just received a heaping dose of love from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate.
"I tasted a breathtaking array of wines during my recent visit with Paul Draper at Ridge," writes Antonio Galloni in the September 2011 issue,"...Heretical as it may sound, I think the wines Draper is making today will prove to be far superior to the wines of decades past, many of which are rightly considered legendary."
Well, we popped open the wines at K&L Redwood City to taste for ourselves.
"The 09 Ridge Estate Chardonnay is rich, mouthfilling, gorgeous Chardonnay with great length. Leesey complexity and a profound mineral component balance the deep and concentrated fruit. The oak is present but not overpowering, given the richness and purity of the fruit, which is 100% estate, from vines planted in the 40's on the Monte Bello Vineyard. This production spent fifteen months in predominantly air-dried American aak barrels, only 10% of which were new (with the rest 1-4 years old). It registers as Meursault-like to me at this time. Though drinkable now, it has the stuffing to age, and these wines from Ridge do age beautifully. This bottle merits inclusion in any serious Chardonnay collection." -By: Chiara Shannon | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 13, 2011
95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2009 Chardonnay Estate is an impeccable, classy wine layered with bright citrus, flowers and just a touch of sweetness from the oak. Crushed rocks and lime peel add complexity on the textured, long finish. In 2009 none of the blocks were designated for the Monte Bello bottling, all of the fruit went into the Estate. This is a stunningly pure wine from Ridge. I came back to the 2009 Estate after having tasted all of the reds and the wine showed beautifully. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2019." (08/11)
At the annual Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Tasting (ZAP) back in January there was really one Zinfandel that stood out from all the rest and that was the 2009 Lytton Springs. There was so much wine in the bottle there that so many else at the same even couldn’t even hope to have. Fast forward nine months later and the wine has grown even more into itself with wonderful aromatics of gingerbread, spice cake, muddle blackberries and a waft of cigar smoke. This hits the mouth brimming with size, generous with its ample fruit and spice, but yet never feels excessive. It is sort of like a perfect steak, marbled and rich, needing almost nothing but a pinch of salt and pepper to make it sing. Long, dry and spicy with great balance, add a pinch of braised meat and this will do you well for decades to come. - Review By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 13, 2011
95 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2009 Lytton Springs is the biggest and most structured of these 2009 Zinfandel-based reds, largely owing to the earthier soils and the presence 23% Petite Sirah. Black fruit, plums, tar, licorice and smoke are some of the notes that flow from this generous, inviting red. The Lytton Springs is fairly structured, and can definitely benefit from another year or two (perhaps more) in bottle. The blend is 74% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah and 5% Carignane. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2029." (08/11)
Geyserville has consistently been my favorite bottling from Ridge over time. There is something that just hits my palate right about this wine; I think it is the perfect combination of fruit, spice, oak and texture for a Zinfandel based wine. A touch brighter and higher toned than the Lytton Springs bottling this has powerful aromas of black raspberry, nutmeg, cedar and toasted marshmallow. More purely fruited this year than in the recent past this has bursting flavors of blueberry, ash, black tea and a touch of dill from the American Oak used in the aging of the wine. Clean, ripe, focused and complete with a wonderful sappiness this is delicious now and will only get better over the next decade. - Review By: Bryan Brick | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: September 13, 2011
94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2009 Geyserville is a gorgeous wine. It shows expressive inner perfume, sweet black cherries, menthol and minerals. This is an understated, exceptionally elegant red endowed with considerable finesse and fabulous overall balance. A round, sensual finish makes it impossible to resist a second taste. In 2009 the blend is 74% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouschet and 1% Mourvedre. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2029." (08/11)
Sourced from the same vineyard that its big brother Monte Bello comes from, the Estate Cab from Ridge is one of best values in California Cabernet. The 2008 does not disappoint in the least, dark and brooding fruit is balanced against beautiful minerality and savory notes of leather and spice. A pleasure to drink now and will continue to be stunning for the next 10 years. - Review By: Kyle Kurani | K&L Staff Member (& Ridge Alum!) | Review Date: September 14, 2011
94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is compelling. Where to start? An expressive bouquet redolent of sweet herbs, tobacco and incense leads to a gorgeous tapestry of dark red fruit. The Estate is drop-dead gorgeous, with the silkiest of tannins that frame an extraordinary finish. This has to be one of the most compelling values in California Cabernet. In 2008 the blend is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc..." (08/11)
Coming from an extraordinarily small vintage, the concentration and depth of this year's Monte Bello is astonishing. Drinking this over two days revealed layers upon layers of full, dark fruit, laced with sand stone, old leather, and minerality stemming from the limestone in the vineyard. A wine that will surely age with grace and style, something I can't wait to open with good friends and family in the next 10 to 20 years. - Review By: Kyle Kurani | K&L Staff Member (& Ridge Alum!) | Review Date: September 14, 2011
97+ points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2008 Monte Bello is striking. It is a decidedly muscular Monte Bello endowed with layers of dark fruit. Tobacco, mint, asphalt and crushed rocks develop in the glass, adding tons of complexity and finesse. A long, saline finish rounds things out beautifully. In 2008 the cold growing season stretched into October and the wine definitely has the feel of a cool vintage. The spring frost and the second year of drought conditions lowered yields significantly. Yields were just 1.25 tons per acre on average, but some of the older vineyards came in at less than 1 ton per acre. The balance of fruit, tannin and structure is simply extraordinary, but the wine needs time, most likely lots of it. In 2008 the blend is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2038." (08/11)
Yes, we concur: "Legendary" sounds about right.
What do you think? Stage your own Ridge tasting at home and share your tasting notes with us on KLWines.com>>My Wine List
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