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A Dusi of a zin

Ridge 2006 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – 100% zinfandel from Dusi Ranch in San Luis Obispo County, 14.6% alcohol. Hyper-concentrated as befits the appellation, but not jammy or goopy. Well, not overly goopy. There’s structure, but there’s plenty of heat. Plenty of ripe, boisterous fruit to go with it as well, but this is about as far from, say, Nalle as zin can get while remaining in my palate wheelhouse. The thing is, the alcohol’s not numerically over-endowed, so the overt size this wine can sometimes carry is missing, and that helps with handling the zap-pow nature of the fruit, but it is still evident, and not everyone will enjoy that. I wouldn’t hold it very long, either. (8/11)

Ride it

Ridge 2006 Zinfandel East Bench (Sonoma County) – 14.9%. Chunky and difficult, which is probably just a stage; this has been much more expressive in the recent past, and there’s no sign that this is falling apart yet. What’s showing now is dust, both the mineralistic and dried-berry kind, with a resinous texture and several dashes of coconutty oak…though the latter is rounding into something more vanilla-y. I’d say this needs a few more years to come out of its shell, but other bottles may perform differently. (5/11)

Blow it open

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Bottle variations has been strong with this wine of late, and here is no exception. Brutish and still angrily-structured, this hasn’t delivered itself of dark purple fruit yet, though there’s bubbling-under set of pepper dusts and earthen tones,. While the “Draper perfume” of soft oak is evident, it is quite subordinate to fruit and structure at the moment. Bottles like this will age for quite a few years yet. And some are ready to go. (2/11)

Old El

Ridge 2005 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) – 15.2% alcohol, 100% zinfandel from Dusi Ranch. Wood of the vanilla/coconut variety still dominates, though there’s a hefty density of concentrated blackberry and boysenberry pushing against the wooden perimeter. There’s still a future here…a better one…but the wine’s definitely no longer quite as primary as it was. (12/10)

A regular blowing of cork

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Corked. (8/10)

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Unlike the last few bottles, which have been more or less on the early side of ready, this is years from that state. Coconut, blackberry juice, dust, primary tannin. Tastes like a 2004 (well, except for the fact that the 2004 can be an overwooded yak-fest) more than a 1999. This bottle should have been left to sleep for another five or ten years. (10/10)

Lytton tea

Ridge 2006 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – I taste each new vintage of Ridge’s flagship zinfandels with an increasing sense of despair. Not because the wines are bad – they’re not, though there is the occasional vintage-by-vintage failure – but because they’ve become so anonymously tiring. Here we have bubblegummy fruit (not fully grenache-like, but still), coconut, toast, and a ton of obvious alcohol. Nothing to set it apart from dozens of other reasonable-quality zinfandels from the appellation. Where’s the singular character? Where’s the structure? Yes, this is a very young wine from a site that usually demands extended (for zinfandel) aging, but this is not the Lytton Springs of old in quality or character. (5/10)

Hawaiian tropic

Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Open 24 hours and tasted from a mostly empty bottle. Coconut oil, spicy earth, walnut, and chocolate. Good acidity. This is in a slightly weird state, and I have a disagreement with the source of the bottle; he thinks its ready to drink, I think it’s in need of more time. (3/10)

Valley, valley, valley

Ridge 2005 “Three Valleys” (Sonoma County) – 74% zinfandel, 13% petite sirah, plus little bits of carignane, grenache, and mataro. 14.2% alcohol. Dead, flat, stripped aromas of dark berries and wan, over-oxidized spices…like pepper that was ground three years ago…with a sad gesture at structure. Very, very tired. This wine has never been any good, and is frankly a bit of an embarrassment among the Ridge stable. (3/10)


[vineyard]Ridge 1999 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.8%. Folks on ye olde internete keep insisting this is at peak, or even on the decline. They’re out of their minds. No, it’s not fully primary anymore, dominated by coconutty oak and jellied fruit. A lot of the former has integrated, exchanging coconut for vanilla, and the latter has definitely deepened to meld more closely with the wine’s darker, black-berried muscularity, but almost all of the aromatic and textural development that makes aging Geyserville so worthwhile has yet to arrive, and there’s rather a surplus of structure at the moment as well. That said, the time at which it would be worth checking in – given sufficient quantities – isn’t far off. Maybe another four or five years? And then holding for…well, I’d guess a long time, at various points along which curve it will be among the great successes of latter-period Ridge Geyserville. (7/09)

Old, faithful

Ridge 1987 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – All of 13.7% alcohol. It hardly seems possible. Mixed pepper dusts fall upon sweet strawberries and light plumminess. There’s an earthy funk to it as well, plus a slight edge of drying apple-walnut bitterness on the finish; this is a wine that’s just past maturity and is starting to show signs of minor erosion, despite its still-considerable appeal. It’s often said that zinfandel ages into something akin to claret. Not so in this case; the antecedent I’d choose is Burgundy, or perhaps a light-minded Oregon pinot noir. A lovely old wine fading into its sunset, but still vibrant with deep, fruit-toned colors (3/05).