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Another isle of sky

Part 2 of a 2005 California travelogue

by Thor Iverson

13 November 2005 – somewhere above Cupertino, California

Ridge – Despite a number of visits to the Lytton Springs offshoot, I’ve never been to the original. So with picnic supplies in tow, we (me, Theresa, Larry Stein and his young daughter Shira) wind our way up the mountain…which is, I have to say, a much less silly drive than I’ve been led to believe, though I suspect comparison with New Zealand has something to do with this…for a little lunch and a little tasting.

Lunch is first, with a nice spread (from a Whole Foods somewhere down in the valley) on a picnic table amidst gnarly old hilltop vines, sun and sky all around us. With it, we enjoy a library release from the nearby tasting room; this is a practice I wish more wineries would mimic.

Ridge 1995 Zinfandel York Creek (Spring Mountain) – Ripe apple and concentrated strawberry jam, still tannic and firm but with fruit that’s starting to “roast” (a personal descriptor I have for one specific quality of aged zin) and I suspect it’s about half as rich as it once was. Drink soonish, I’d say, though it won’t outlive the tannin.

During lunch, an amusing conversation takes place between Theresa and Shira, who are chatting about some boy Shira either does or doesn’t like:

Theresa: “If I were single again, I’d probably go for an older man.”

Shira: “Why?”

Theresa: “Maybe a richer man.”

Shira, thoughtfully: “True. True.”

I glance at Larry, amused at the look of growing panic in his eyes.

Back inside, a busy but uncrowded tasting room offers a slightly smaller selection that I’m used to vs. the Lytton Springs facility.

Ridge 2002 Lytton Springs (Dry Creek Valley) – 14.4%. Scotch and blackberry liqueur, with thick, massive waves of oak and density. Very long, and I’m used to young Ridge tasting woody, but what’s up with all the heat?

Ridge 2003 Geyserville (Sonoma County) – 14.6%. Big berry fruit (mostly cherry and blueberry), showing good, zingy acidity and moderately-strong tannin. A good, balanced wine.

Ridge 2003 Zinfandel Independence School (Sonoma County) – 15.4%. Papery and flat, with dried, dust-covered berry residue. No thanks.

Ridge 2001 “Late Picked” Zinfandel York Creek (Napa Valley) – 15.9%. Chocolate-covered cherries. This is starting to mellow a bit, though it’s still dominated by its off-dryness rather than its inherent qualities. At least here, the size makes sense, but it’s not showing much of interest at the moment.

Ridge 2003 Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch (Sonoma County) – 14%. Dried walnuts and light plum with shriveled berry skins. Balanced.

This is a somewhat dismaying tasting. I’m used to Ridge zins being big, and also being less than inviting in their oak-infused youth, but when their future seems to include a choice of Port or Sherry wood maturation, I get concerned.

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Copyright ©2005 Thor Iverson.