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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

New Ridge Wines - October 28, 2011

We tried tonight (10/5/11) the New Ridges:

  1. Ridge Estate Chard MonteBelloVnyd/SantaCruzMtns (100% Chard; 14.5%; Bttld: Jan'11; Drk: 9/10-9/15: EB) 2009: Med.light gold color; strong ripe/melony/Chard strong spicy/toasty/oak/nutmeg very fragrant/perfumed lovely nose; fairly tart slight earthy ripe/melony/Chard fairly strong nutmeg/toasty/Fr.oak/smokey lush/mouthfilling flavor; very long ripe/melony/honeydew/Chard slight earthy strong nutmeg/smokey/oak rich finish; lots of ripe character but good acid & balance and should age well; a bit less oak than previous versions. $40.00
  2. Ridge Calif Zin YorkCreek/NapaVlly (78% Zin/22% PS; 14.6%; Bttld: Dec'08; Drk: 8/08-8/14-8/16: JO) 2007: Med.dark color; rather dusty strong ripe/blackberry/raspberry/Zin bit hot/fumey/ alcoholic light vanilla/oak attractive nose; soft bit hot/alcoholic bright raspberry/Zin/blackberry/spicy light vanilla/oak slight tannic flavor; med.long bit alcoholic/hot bright/raspberry/Zin/blackberry slight earthy/dusty slight tannic finish; still needs several yrs; a bright lively Zin that seems more DryCreekVlly than Napa. $28.00
  3. Ridge Zin YorkCreek/SpringMtn/NapaVlly (7% PS; 14.7%; Bttld: 1/11; Drk: 8/10-8/16-8/17: JO) 2009: Med.dark color; strong pure/raspberry/Zin/bright/spicy slight alcoholic/hot light oak fragrant/ripe nose w/ bit more richness and depth; bit tarter very slight alcoholic/hot bright/spicy/raspberry/blackberry/Zin light vanilla/oak flavor w/ modest tannins; med.long bright/spicy/raspberry/Zin/blackberry very slight alcoholic/ripe light vanilla/oak finish w/
    modest tannins; ripe & bright but less noticible alcohol and more depth & fruit. $27.00
  4. Ridge Calif LyttonSprings/DryCreekVlly (71% Zin/22% PS/7% Carignane; 14.4%; Bttld: 3/09; Drk: 11/08-11/18: JO) 2007: Med.dark color; strong very spicy/Zinberry/blackberry/Zin some complex/licorice/pungent bit dusty/old vines light vanilla/oak some developed nose; rather rich very spicy/raspberry/Zinberry/bright light vanilla/oak bit dusty some tannic flavor; very long very spicy/bright/raspberry/Zinberry some dusty/old vines light vanilla/oak finish w/ some angular tannins; not showing much secondary characteristics yet; loads of bright DCV Zinberry
    fruit and the structure to age; lovely/classic Lytton Zin. $30.00
  5. Ridge LyttonSprings (71% Zin/23% PS/ 6% Carignane; 14.5%; Bttld: 2/11; Drk: 11/10-11/20-11/25: JO) 2009: Dark color; bigger/richer quite spicy/blackberry/Zin/Zinberry/raspberry deeper/richer light vanilla/oak nose; bit soft rather richer/lusher strong blackberry/Zinberry/Zin very spicy slight licorice light vanilla/oak some tannic flavor; richer/lusher/rounder very strong blackberry/Zin/raspberry/bright very spicy light licorice/pungent light vanilla/oak finish w/ some tannins; a classic terrific LyttonSprings w/ a great deal of spicy character; bit bigger & lusher than the '07 but lovely balance. $31.50
  6. Ridge Calif Zin PaganiRanch/SonomaVlly (92% Zin/5% AB/ 3% PS; 14.3%; Bttld: 4/09; Drk: 1/09-1/19: EB) 2007: Dark color; more dusty/old-vine pungent/earthy/blackberry/blueberry/ boysenberry bit chocolaty/ripe light vanilla/oak complex slightly rustic nose; fairly tart strong dusty/old-vines/rustic strong licorice/blackberry/Zin bit chocolaty/licorice light vanilla/oak some tannic flavor; very long dusty/ruustic very strong blackberry/Zin/licorice slight plummy/chocolaty finish w/ fair tannins; lots of base notes and some rusticity. $30.00
  7. Ridge Zin PaganiRanch/SonomaVlly/SonomaCnty (14% AB/4% PS/2% Carignane; 15.0%; Bttld: 3/11; Drk: 12/10-12/25: EB) 2009: Dark color; strong ripe/boysenberry/blackberry/bing cherry/Zin light licorice/chocolaty light pungent/oak rather earthy/dusty/old-vine some complex nose; fairly tart rich/lush/chocolaty/licorice strong blackberry/boysenberry/Zin/plummy light toasty/oak/smokey good dusty/rustic/old-vine/earthy flavor; very long earthy/ dusty very strong blackberry/boysenberry/Zin bit licorice/plummy light toasty/smokey/oak finish w/ fair tannins; easily my favorite of the new Ridges; shows more old-vines/dusty character and more intensity; a classic rich Pagani that should age very well indeed. $31.50
  8. Dashe LesEnfantsTerribles McFaddenFarm/PotterVlly/MendoCnty (100% Zin; NaturalFermentation;
     www.DasheCellars.com; 13.8%) Oakland 2010
    : Light color; pleasant old- timey/raspberry/grapey/ strawberry pretty Zin nose; tart bright strawberry/Zin/Grenache-like light earthy/Mendo-tomatoey quite pretty flavor w/ light tannins; med.short light strawberry/Zin/earthy/tomatoey light tannins finish; a pretty, light, drinkable Zin but just that; pricey at $27.00 (LCSWS)
  9. Ridge Calif Zin JimsomareRanch/SantaCruzMtns (100% Zin; 14.7%; 17 brls; Bttld: April'09;
    Drk: 1/09-1/24: EB) 2007
    : Very dark color; very strong intense blackberry/Zin/very spicy light toasty/oak/smokey some earthy/SCM/dusty beautiful Zin nose; rather tart some dusty/earthy/old vines intense boysenberry/blackberry/Zin/very spicy some toasty/Am.oak/vanilla flavor w/ fair tannins; very long intense blackberry/boysenberry/very spicy/Zin some Am.oak/vanilla/toasty light earthy/SCM finish w/ fair tannins; huge Zin fruit yet a balance & liveliness on the palate; one of the best Ridge Zins of recent memory and like the Jimsomares of the '70's. Stunning wine. $34.00
  10. Ridge CabernetSauvignon Estate MonteBelloVnyd/SantaCruzMtns (75% CS/20% Merlot/3% PetiteVerdot/2% CabFranc; 13.5%; 66 tons from 34 acres; Bttld: 8/10; Drk: 6/10-6/25-6/30: EB) 2008: Very dark color; beautiful ripe/chocolaty/ blackcurranty/Cab slight minty/menthol some toasty/pungent/smokey/oak bit earthy/SCM/dusty complex nose; soft/ripe bit hard/tannic strong blackcurranty/Cab/big fruit some toasty/smokey/oak slight menthol lovely flavor; very long/lingering
    ripe/blackcurranty/Cab/chocolaty/menthol some pungent/toasty/oak finish w/ ample tannins; fruit seems on the ripe side but the 13.5% suggests otherwise; big fruit but has the underlying structure to age well; a steal at $41.00 (LCSWS)
  11. Agharta Exhibit B NorthCoast RW (15.1%; 40% Merlot/34% CabFRanc/22% CS/4% petitVerdot;
    www.AghartaWines.com) PaxMahle 2006
    : Very dark color; strong roasted/charred/burnt/oak/ smokey almost Syrah-like/mocha/ espresso very ripe/blackcurranty/Cab rather interesting nose; soft very intense charred/toasty/smokey/oak rather Rhonish/ Syrah-like fairly ripe/overripe/chocolaty/blackcurranty/ jammy/ blackcurrant syrup fairly tannic flavor; very long very ripe/blackcurranty/Cab/chocolaty/jammy quite burnt/charred/toasty/oak soft/lush rather tannic finish; huge fruit and a ton of charred oak; rather late-harvest Cabernet; weird wine but quite interesting & I liked it quite a bit.
  12. Ridge Calif LyttonEstate Grenache (12% PS/10% Zin; DryCreekVlly; 14.4%; 52 brls; Drk: 3/03-3/08-3/10: PD) 2001: Dark color; rather earthy/dusty beautiful strawberry/Grenache some vanilla/toasty/oak complex nose; tart very bright/ strawberry/Grenache light earthy/dusty/Rhonish light vanilla/toasty/oak complex flavor; very long/lingering bright/ spicy/strawberry/Grenache smooth/elegant some dusty/earthy/Rhonish complex finish w/ soft/smooth tannins; this used to be a pretty tannic beast & has really smoothed out into a graceful/elegant CdP-look alike.

And the usual BloodyPulpit:

1. LesEnfants: This is MikeDashe's rendition of a "natural" wine. I've had four of these before (Zin & Grenache) and found them rather underwhelming, if that good. This one is by far the best LET I've had. But still underwhelmed. I was not going to bother trying it but his Riesling from McFaddenRanch is spectacular, so thought I'd give LET another shot. It's a pretty old-timey Zin that reminds me a lot of the Parducci Zins from the early '70's. I much prefer Mike's regular (non-"natural"??) Zins, which show more intensity of fruit & varietal character. I'll leave the LET to sweet Alice from now on.
2. RidgeChard: I have, of course, followed the Ridge Chards from the very start. Back in the late '60's. Back then, in Calif Chards you looked for intense fruit flavors and lots of new oak. The DavidBruce's were the poster child for that style of Chard...a style that is widely scorned today by so-called "connoiseurs" of Calif wine. Back then (by crackey), the Ridge Chards (and Sylvaner & WhiteRiesling) were very/very odd ducks. I didn't like them. They had a bit of old oak, not that much fruit because they were harvested fairly early, and had a distinctive earthy/SantaCruzMtn streak to them.

The winter of '75, I took a group of engineer-types up to TheRidge for a visit. DaveBennion was hosting us. We went thru a bunch of the new '73 Zins with Dave up there on the knoll. Blustery winter day, windy, and colder than a well-digger's hiney. After we were there for about an hour, I made an off-hand comment to Dave that I really liked his Zins, but I thought his whites were not so hot. Dave rolled his eyes and sorta took that as a challenge. He headed off to the cellar and brought out a bunch of Chards (and White Rieslings) from the late '60's for us to try. They were
amazingly good, much like an old Chablis or WhiteBurg. Dave was quite pleased with himself of having made his point... you've gotta give them some age. Thus, I became a big fan of the Ridge Chards thru the '70's and bought every one I could lay my hands on. Alas, the Ridge WebSite was not up & running then...so I couldn't order direct.

As I have followed the Ridge Chards from the early '00's, they were much different than the early style that Dave followed. They have often been quite ripe and have lots of toasty/Fr.oak. The last few yrs, the Ridge Chards have shown a lot more restraint and balance. This '09 Estate is one such.

The Estate Chard is a new wine for Ridge. They've always made a MonteBello Chard and, with lots that were down-selected, they produced a SantaCruzMtn Chard. In order to emphasize that the fruit comes entirely from their Estate (mostly Jimsomare I believe), they are now calling it simply their Estate Chard.
3. Ridge Zins: I have, of course, followed the Ridge Zins from the very start. Back in the '70's, has the winemaking was being handed off to PaulDraper by DaveBennion; they were pretty big/massive Zins, not always particularly alcoholic, though some were, and lots of vanilla/Am.oak. They've had a very distinctive aromatic profile that has become to be known as the "Draper perfume"; a term christened by Geo. As more & more of the daily winemaking chores have been handed off to JohnOlney/LyttonEstate and EricBaugher/MonteBello; there's been a gradual evolution in the Ridge Zins over the last 10 yrs or so. There's been a fading of the "Draper perfume" characteristic of the old Ridge Zins, though the oak treatment still remains obvious in the wines. There's been somewhat of an increase in the fruit that seems more characteristic of the vnyd source (that terroir thing I guess), the extraction level has dropped a bit; and the balance & elegance level has risen. What has struck me most is the consistency in style of the Zins across
the board...there is no "EricBaugher style" or "JohnOlney style"....just the "Ridge style". I'd be curious if John/Eric/Paul could identify reliably, blind, Eric's wine from John's.

The Zins oftentimes seem a bit underwhelming on release. There are bigger/brasher/more in-your-face Zins out there. But there are none that are such reliably good agers. The drinking windows Eric & John provide are usually on the conservative side and, often, they can go well beyond that end date.

The last three vintages of the Zins have been in absolutely top form; much better than the '05 & '06 vintages, as I recall. I'd be hard-pressed to choose amongst the three..maybe giving the '09's a slight edge..but it's close.
4. YorkCreek: This is typically my least favorite of the Ridge Zins. From FritzMaytag's SpringMtn vnyd. It used to be that these grapes consistently came in on the overipe side and the wine was pretty hot/alcoholic and had a late- harvesty character. In recent yrs, that problem seems to have been solved and they don't seem nearly as overripe. Alas, Ridge no longer takes (much) PS from YorkCreek. Fritz was giving Paul a sweetheart deal on those grapes and could sell them for a much higher price to Napa Cabernet producers who needed a boost to their Cabernet color. And they also used to make Cabernet & Merlot from YorkCreek that were pleasant/nice, but not nearly the stature of their SCM Cabs.
5. Pagani: This is almost always my favorite lineup of the Ridge Zins. Typically, this wine shows more old-vines character. The Alicante often seems to give it a sort of rustic/old-time Ridgecharacter. In some yrs, Ridge even made a Pagani AlicanteBouschet that was black as the ace of spades. Very interesting wine. It will be interesting to see what Morgan and MikeOfficer do w/ these grapes.


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