Monday, July 12, 2010

Bloggers' Event at Ridge: ATP Tasting

Ridge are best known for their Estate wines and Zinfandels. What's perhaps less well known is that they also produce a wide range of wines from other varieties. Paul Draper is a great believer in the expression of terroir through single vineyard designated wines, so on joining Ridge in 1968 he began to seek out quality vineyards around the state.

Production of these wines tends to be around 1000 cases and while that's more than the total production of many local wineries, by Ridge's standards it's pretty limited. Consequently these wines are only available at the winery or via the ATP wine club.

For the second Ridge bloggers' tasting event, tasting room manager Chris Watkins decided to focus on this range. We compared current and older vintages of four different ATP releases. But as is customary we began with some estate Chardonnay:

2008 Jimsomare Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Opens with vanilla oak and lemon curd. There's creamy lemon and a mineral finish. Right now the oak is a little harsh, so short-term cellaring might be in order. 91

2008 Mikulaco Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
A more lemony, floral nose than the Jimsomare, with less oak evident.
Lighter weight, with creamy green apple and a hint of ginger, and a chalky finish. Drink now. Good value at $25. 90

Buchignani Ranch Carignane

Carignane is believed to have originated in north eastern Spain, but nowadays it's mostly grown in the Languedoc region. In the 1980s it was France's most widely planted grape, producing huge amounts of low quality vin ordinaire, though government sponsored vine pull schemes have reduced the acreage significantly. In California it's also in decline; the number of acres planted has decreased by over 50% in the past 10 years, but that seems to have stabilised. Currently there are around 3500 acres planted, mostly in Madera and San Joaquin counties, where it's used as a blending grape providing tannin, colour and acidity to jug wines. Ridge is one of a handful of wineries making varietal wines.

Buchignani Ranch is close to Dry Creek Valley, in Sonoma. The head-pruned vineyard was first planted in 1927; today the vines are between 50 and 80 years old.

2002 Buchignani Ranch Carignane, Sonoma County
The earthy, smoky nose initially masks the fruit. It's light in weight, with bright acidity and flavours of cranberry, tart strawberry and some dried herbs. 88

2005 Buchignani Ranch Carignane, Sonoma County
Bright nose of black cherry and raspberry. Again it shows some bright acidity and light fruit with an earthy finish. The tannins are rather soft. 89

2008 Buchignani Ranch Carignane, Sonoma County
The colour is rather purple in the rim, suggesting limited barrel ageing. On the nose there's cola and raspberry. Fresh bright 'fruit punch' flavours, with tannins showing a little on the finish. Judging by this vertical I'd say that short-term cellaring would be beneficial; drink over the next 3-5 years. 88 $26

Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache

The Lytton Springs vineyard was first planted at the end of the 19th century. Ridge began sourcing fruit from there in 1972; 20 years later they purchased the property outright. One of the original blocks, which was planted in 1902, is a field blend that is predominantly Grenache interspersed with Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The Lytton Springs' western vineyards were purchased in 1995 and include Grenache blocks planted in 1963 and 1991. Recent plantings include 10 acres of Syrah and an acre of Viognier.

Ridge has produced a Grenache since 1995 and a 50% Syrah, 50% Grenache blend since 2001.

2006 Syrah/Grenache, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley
Bold fruity nose showing blackberry, cherry, perhaps a hint of VA?
More full bodied than the Carignane, with fairly intense fruit - blackberry and 'red vines' - finishing with nice smooth tannins. The Syrah seems dominant in the blend. 91
Not yet released, expected to be $35

2005 Syrah/Grenache, Lytton Estate, Dry Creek Valley
Strange note of blue cheese on the nose at first; this blew off revealing cranberry and raspberry aromas.
In contrast to the 2006 the Grenache appears dominant, with earthy raspberry flavours. Nicely balanced and a bit less tannic. 92

Lytton West Syrah

The Lytton West Syrah is cofermented with a small amount of Viognier. This is a practice common in Rhone, particularly the Côte-Rôtie appellation; the viognier not only adds some aromatic notes, it also assists in the extraction and stability of the colour from the Syrah.

2005 Syrah Lytton West, Dry Creek Valley
Cofermented with 6% Viognier.
Very dark colour. The nose is heavy with herbal notes and brambly fruit.
Lovely blackberry and red currant fruit, with black pepper and floral notes, and dusty tannins. 93+

2003 Syrah Lytton West, Dry Creek Valley
Cofermented with 9% Viognier.
Deep red colour. Nose is strange with notes of liqueur (tequila?), a little aldehyde and black pepper. Flavours of sweet dried cherry and orange peel, with light acidity and soft tannins. 90

Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah

When searching for new vineyards, one of Draper's first discoveries was some old-vine Petite Sirah at the York Creek vineyard on Spring Mountain. The vineyard has remained a source of fruit for 40 years. Petite Sirah is notorious for producing monolithic, tannic wines lacking in fruit, but if the tannins are properly controlled the results can be very good.

2006 Petite Sirah, Dynamite Hill, York Creek Vineyard, Spring Mountain
Smoky nose with bright acidity and blueberry notes.
Good balance, with the tannins not overpowering; nice flavours of blueberry and white pepper. Surprisingly good now. 91

2003 Petite Sirah, Dynamite Hill, York Creek Vineyard, Spring Mountain
Nose shows notes of fireplace and roast meat.
Smooth blueberry fruit, with flavours of Italian sausage and pepper. A great barbecue wine. 92

Thanks to Chris Watkins for arranging this event, and greetings to my fellow bloggers: Wes Barton , Richard Jennings, Gary Chevsky, Liren Baker, Thea Dwelle, Jason Mancebo, Jason of Jason's Wine Blog and
Fely Krewell