One of these things is not like the other!

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I always look forward to the quarterly blogger tastings at Ridge; Christopher Watkins, the mad genius behind these always fun, occasionally wacky, and definitely fascinating tastings greeted us in the barn of the Monte Bello winery with a Cheshire Cat grin.  I knew this would be good! It happened to be the day of torrential downpours, and driving up the hill was a challenge, to say the least.  Dodging waterfalls, mudslides, and tree branches, this adventure is not for the faint of heart.  My trusty old German, fortunately, is all-wheel drive, which comes in useful for navigating mountain winery roads and wine trails full of rental cars.  Fortunately, the rain had let up as I was making my way up the hill, but as soon as we were tucked safely in the barn with our glasses, it began to pour small lakes.  Fortunately, no one was going anywhere for a while. Sitting on the sideboard were three flights of three wines.  What were they?  Only Christopher knew.  All we know is that a) we were tasting blind, as we always did; b) there was something similar about all of the wines being poured c) there was something different about all of the wines being poured.  Our task, as the few, the proud, the bloggers, was to determine what those similarities and differences were. Well!  OK…I smiled with trepidation.  I am not very good at blind tasting, but it’s an adventure and a learning exercise.  Here we go – dissecting the Three Blind Mice. Flight 1 was off to a bang.  The first wine seemed like a zin.  Big, powerful, full of berry spice.  I loved the brambly fruit with a spicy kick, and a hint of anise, but it felt young, almost like a barrel sample.  It was slightly cloudy, and was a brighter pinkish purple in color.  Wine 2 was subtle and more restrained.  Rich and dense, it was a brooding big brother, and a bit closed.  We all felt that this needed a bit more time.  The final wine was my favorite of the flight, with dusty earth, and chewy tobacco.  It was zesty with white pepper and cranberry. What was I to make of this flight?  They didn’t taste like the same varietal at all, with a mix of zin, grenache, and a Rhone blend.  Perhaps the same vineyard site?  Perhaps the same vintage?  A lively discussion across the table brought up the through that these were blending trials. Flight 2 The first wine leapt out of the glass, stood up, and shouted “Cab!” to me.  With smoky bulue black fruit, and stinky green pepper it seemed classic to me.  It was a bit tight, with leather and dusty oak, but had rich Cabernet flavors, and showing muted blackberry.  The second wine, was rich in bramble berries, with black pepper and meaty notes.  I thought it was Merlot, with big tannins but bright juice.  The final wine in this flight was velvety smooth, meaty, and rich with purple red […]

High on a Ridge (again)

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It’s another day on top of the mountain here, and the sun is shining at last.  It’s clear, and we can see San Jose and even a bit of San Francisco in the distance.  It’s time for a visit to Ridge Vineyards in Cupertino! We start our tasting with the  2009 Estate Chardonnay, which is aged in a mish mash of barrels from new to 4 year old American and French oak.  I found creamy vanilla custard, spicy oak, and lemon flavors with a healthy dose of tropical fruit.  This blend is harvested and vinified separately, and then finalized after a blind tasting of each component is done to determine the possible blends that could be made.  Most of the contents of this blend come from the Jimson Ranch vineyard which is at about 1500 feet elevation, giving the wine a lot of minerality and acidity. Next up, the 2008 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc.  I loved this cab because it was racy and had some nice acidity.  The wild yeast fermentation shows a ton of mineral flavors with dusty sandlewood finish.  There were big black and blue fruit flavors, with plum and rich figs with juicy cherries on the palate.  It was rich without being overblown, a total winner in my book. The 2009 Geyserville Zinfandel is the 44th vintage of this wine, which makes it the longest continuously produced Zinfandel in the state, which, quite frankly with the ever changing wine industry – is quite a feat. Given that our state is known for it’s Italian immigrants and the traditions of Italian field belnds (mostly zin) that they brought over, the Ridge style of zin is a dying art.  The grapes come from properties that are interplanted and dry farmed with wild yeast fermentation and I tasted tradiitonally big blackberry jam, with some black pepper and cherries on top.  I also found some hibiscus zing which gives this 74% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouchet, 1% Mataro (Mouvedre, or if you prefer Monastrell) mutt some life and body. Compared to the 1999 Geyserville, the 09 was tapdancing on American Idol.  The 99 was chewy, dark and earthy witha healthy dose of cigar box to round out the rusticity (this is my new favorite word, and since Christopher loves $20 words….) The 99 is 68% zin, 16% Carignane, 16% Petite Sirah and was chewy and dense.  The fruit is still there after 12 years, but it’s brooding and not bright and zingy – which, is amazing and delicious in an entirely differently way. The 1985 Monte Belle Cab was a rare treat.  The color is an astounding browning bronze and the nose is rich and caramelized touch of white pepper.  It had quite meaty characteristics, with some floral notes on the palate and a bit of wood on the back end.  THe companion 1995 Monte Bello, a blend of 69% Cab, 18% Merlot, 10% Petite Verdot and 3% […]