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% […]

On top of the world, looking down on…

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Silicon Valley?  Yes Virginia, there is wine in the South Bay, high above the muck of Cupertino, on Monte Bello ridge.  Long before the computer chip was invented, the Monte Bello winery was started on this ridge.  At 2600 feet, the winery is located at the apex of the hill, where the upper most vineyards are.  Winding our way past the gravel trucks and up the mountain, there were precarious hairpin turns and road closures, but nothing was goign to stop me from getting to the good stuff at the top of that hill. On one particularly gorgeous day recently, I was invited to attend a private tasting at Ridge’s Monte Bello property.  Although I adore Ridge wines, I often find myself avoiding the mayhem on holiday and special event weekends as it can get to be quite crowded.  It’s a long drive up the mountain, but the reward at the top is a sweeping view of the Bay Area, including a hazy glimpse of San Francisco in the distance.  Upon arriving at the tasting room, we were greeted by our host Christopher Watkins, the tasting room manager.  Here, we started with a glass of the Santa Cruz Mountains chardonnay as we wandering the garden, waiting for the rest of our crew to arrive. Once we were assembled, we started our journey with the 2008 Jimsomore Chardonnay.   Not being a huge chard drinker, I really didn’t have that many expectation of the starter, but  this vineyard is dry farmed and head trained, and the wine undergoes full malolactic fermentation with native years.  I found it quite floral, with note of honey tangerine and cream caramel.  It was rich and viscous, with a hint of lemon curd.  this limited release only has 200 cases, and the vineyard lies below the fog line with hot summer days and cool nights, making for some great chard. Next up the 2008 Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnay.  this is a parcel selection, and is intended for longevity and complexity.  It is more vibrant than the Jimsomore, and has a bright acidity and is refreshingly ful of stone fruit and Meyer lemons, with some tropical influences. Now we delve in to the zin, which is how I fell in love with Ridge.  First the 2008 East Bench Zinfandel, which is the youngest area designated benchland between Dry Creek and Alexander valleys.  The cuttings here are 120 years old, and this pre-release wine was spicy cherries with black pepper, soft berry jam, figs, beef jerky and a mellow soft medium bodied zin that is perfect with food.  We also tried the 2006 East Bench, which I found to have more fruit forward flavors of strawberry, cherry, smoke and tobacco.  This was a very cool year in Sonoma County, which made for a leaner wine.  It was a bright zin, and was the first vintage from the then 8 year old vines.  This was a terrific example of a complex zin that would pair well with food without being overpowering […]

A great Chance!

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Shhh!  A little Hummingbird told me that Clos La Chance is having a secret sale. That’s right, these lovely wines are having a holiday HALF OFF sale!  That means that if you haven’t had the Chance to try the Clos, now is a great opportunity.  I have had several of the Hummingbird series of wines, which are a great value for some lovely wine.  I’ll probably buy a mixed case to have on hand, because $16 for Santa Cruz Mtn pinot is an offer you just can’t pass up. Here is a full list of what is on sale with the full price first, and the sale price after.  These are the winery notes, since I haven’t tasted most of these before but with added commentary for your reading pleasure. The sales starts FRIDAY the 13th – appropriately enough, and you can buy online or at thier San Martin tasting room until Sunday 11/15. 2006 Violet Crowded Merlot Aromas of black plum and black cherry fruit with elements of smoke and vanilla along with violets and red licorice. Balanced flavors of raspberry and plum fruit combined with dried sage and sweet herb. Finishes with notes of wild cherry and tobacco. $18/9 2006 Late Harvest Semillon – Nectar 375mL (half bottle) This would be an amazing wine to have at your Thanksgiving table with dessert. A beautiful yellow gold color that will darken with bottle age. Made in the Sauternesstyle with botrytized grapes. Rich aromas of orange peels, honey, almonds and apricots. The flavors of dried peach, apricot, honey and toasty almonds are perfectly balanced with a natural sweetness and acidity. $19/8 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay Aromas of sweet, scented pear and ripe Granny Smith apples. hints of tropical fruit with a touch of baking spices, hazelnut, and graham crackers. A faint floral aroma along with a touch of wet stones. The rich flavors of ripe white peaches dominates the mouth, along with a hint of juicy pear and tropical fruits that linger mid-palate. The finish is smooth, with traces of nutmeg and vanilla. $22/11 2005 Honduran-Emerald Meritage Aromas of warm blackberry cobbler with currant, black plum, resh earth, herb, cedar and a hint of anise. Flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum, mocha, spice and mineral with rips, firm tannin on the finish.  I have had the sister of this wine, the 2007 Crimson Topaz Meritage, and if this wine is any where near as good, it will be excellent with a killer QPR.  $25/12.50 2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel Dark ruby-purple color with a rich viscosity when swirled around in my glass. Aromas of dried cranberries, powdered cocoa, strawberry syrup, vanilla and a hint of mint. A slight floral component−lavender. Flavors of vanilla and caramel open up to dark fruits. Plums and blackberries. Nuts and Zinfandel pepper on the finish.  $25/12.50 NV Zinfandel Port Dark and rich. Aromas of dark chocolate, cherries, figs, brown sugar and baking spices. A slight floral note. Stewed cherries and milky chocolate, vanilla and jammy plum flavors. […]