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Ridge and famous

A 2004 Sonoma/San Francisco travelogue; part 5

by Thor Iverson

[old vine at Ridge Lytton Springs]

Senior zinizen
15 August 2004 – Lytton Springs, California

Ridge – The newish Lytton Springs facility is gorgeous, bright, spacious, and pretty terrific. Though I do miss the old place, a bit. We arrive just before opening, and about ten minutes after the scheduled opening time, we enter with a few other assembled clusters of eager ziniacs.

Ridge 2001 Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains) – 14.8% alcohol. Fig, orange and vanilla in lush, intense quantities. There’s decent acidic balance, and while I personally can’t stand more than the first micro-sip, I think the relative quality is clear. Though heaven knows what fans of this style actually prefer.

Ridge 2001 Mazzoni Home Ranch (Alexander Valley) – 45% zinfandel, 50% carignane, 5% petite sirah, 14.4% alcohol. Rough and rustic, showing chewy dried cranberries and even drier grapes, earthy tannin, and high acidity. Balanced, but only just, this is a reasonably extreme form of desiccated zinfandel that some will love, but many will not. I’m on the fence.

Ridge 2002 Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch (Sonoma County) – 95% zinfandel, 5% petite sirah, 14.4% alcohol. Plum, raspberry, and slightly green floral aromas lift from a wine with more (and more balanced) structure. It’s juicy with supporting acidity, but things seem in order, and I think it should age reasonably well over the medium-term.

Ridge 2001 Zinfandel Paso Robles (San Luis Obispo County) – 100% zinfandel, 14.5% alcohol. Raspberry juice infusing intense red-and-black licorice eau de vie, alongside vivid and slightly roasted fruit. The finish is very long. A quite impressive wine, though awfully big-assed, and lovers thereof should adore it. I, myself, can’t help but admire its width. Sir Mix-a-Lot makes a comeback!

Ridge 2001 Syrah/Grenache Lytton Estate Vineyard (Dry Creek Valley) – A 50/50 blend, 14.8% alcohol. Ridge syrah, in a previous and unlamented vintage, remains the one and only non-damaged and non-overaged Ridge wine I have ever truly hated. Thus is it with considerable anxiety that I bring this to my lips. Soy, licorice, blackberry, strawberry, and blueberry bubblegum are fairly striking on a rather boozy nose, but turn shy on the palate, leaving big acidity and good structural tannin naked right through to a hide-chapping finish. Not offensive, but I just don’t get what they’re trying to do here.

[Thor & Lytton Springs vine]

Triffids: The Early Years
Ridge 2001 Zinfandel Pagani Ranch (Sonoma Valley) – 88% zinfandel, 8% alicante bouschet, 4% petite sirah, 15.4% alcohol, and loving every head-bashing degree therein. Massively concentrated, but not at all hot, showing strong dark berry fruit and a long, chewy, food-like, utterly delicious finish. This couldn’t be more unlike, say, the Nalle approach to zinfandel, but in its style it’s turning out to be an absolute masterpiece.

Ridge 2002 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – 75% zinfandel, 20% petite sirah, 5% carignane, 14.4% alcohol. Plum, boysenberry, blueberry, and lots of malic/apple zing with lashings of vanilla-scented oak and powdery tannin. Fresh and extremely primary, and seemingly a touch lighter than this wine has been in the past. Only a bit lighter, that is, and still quite balanced and ageable, but it’s not all that interesting right now. Shed not a tear while it heads off to nursery school; it’s time to let the little ones go.

Ridge 2001 Petite Sirah “Essence” Lytton Estate (Dry Creek Valley) – 75% petite sirah, 25% zinfandel, 14.2% alcohol, 10% residual sugar. A sweaty coffeehouse – or perhaps teahouse – with juicy black plum, blueberry, and pencil shavings over a bedrock of sweet earth. Balanced and pretty, especially on the finish, though the concept of the wine is a little hard to wrap one’s head around. Hard, but provably not impossible.

Ridge 2002 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 84% zinfandel, 12% carignane, 4% petite sirah, 14.6% alcohol. Smoky, concentrated plum and forceful tannic structure, turning dark and brooding with gentle storms of wood drifting away on a long, firm finish. Very impressive, but definitely in need of significant aging to come together, shed the primary wood tones, etc.

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