It can't have escaped the attention of any regular readers that updates have been few and far between recently, for which I can only apologise and blame various factors including the day job, not one but two catastrophic computer failures and my own laziness. However with Christmas and the New Year over it's time I got back to updating the blog, and where better to start than with a report from the final Bloggers' tasting at Ridge.
Since Chris Watkins, the Monte Bello tasting room manager began these quarterly events we've had the opportunity to review an impressive vertical of Lytton Springs Zinfandels, compare our views on recent Monte Bello vintages with those of Robert Parker (he was completely wrong about the 2007) and compare vintages of Rhone varietals released to ATP members.
For this tasting Chris promised us a different theme, which turned out to be an anagram; certain letters from the wines spelling out the words WINE BLOGGER. This explained the rather eclectic list of wines that we were offered.
The usual core of Wes, Richard, Amy and myself were joined by Fred Swan of NorCalWine and Allan Bree of Gang Of Pour, who came bearing gifts; more of which later.
So onto the wines:
2007 Monte Bello Chardonnay
Huge nose; lots of lemon, white flowers, with nice oak and vanilla
Lots of wood on the palate, nice white peach, ice cream. Long finish.
Needs cellar time, obviously. Really good. 94+
2008 Buchignani Ranch Carignan
Light nose - dried berries - raspberry, cranberry and smoke.
Light, tart and tannic, with some redcurrant fruit. Lighter finish. 87
2008 East Bench Zinfandel
From the Dry Creek Valley; one of my favourite Zinfandel appellations. Produced from younger vines.
Nose of spicy berry, pepper and coriander.
black raspberry flavours, with dark chocolate notes. Drinking well now. 90
2007 Lytton Estate Zinfandel
Sourced from a block planted with young Primitivo clones, blended with 4% Carignane and 3% Petite Sirah.
Nose doesn't immediately suggest Zinfandel - Earthy and woody with caramel notes.
Rustic and herbal with notes of maraschino cherry and thyme. Needs time. 91+
A blend of 76% Zinfandel, 18% Carignan and 6% Petite Sirah.
Nice amethyst colour. Slightly musty nose suggesting old books, and tart raspberry
The oak is still quite evident; floral raspberry and espresso flavours. Still young. 92
2002 Nervo Zinfandel
Source from a head trained, dry farmed vineyard in Alexander Valley and blended with 8% Petite Sirah.
Deep red colour with some bricking. Interesting feminine nose, dried herbs (lavender)?, showing some heat.
Nice mature fruit; probably at its peak. Nice notes of Raspberry coulis and leather 91
2002 Lytton Estate Grenache
Deep red, no sign of browning. Nose shows earth and wood, slightly musty. A lot in common with the Zinfandel from earlier. In the mouth there's plenty of sweet fruit; golden raisins and wild strawberry.
2003 Syrah, Lytton West
Co-fermented (rather than blended) with 9% Viognier
Nose shows black fruit, plum and pepper, with some floral notes from the Viognier.
Some residual sweetness, with gamey notes. The tannins are still prominent. 90
2007 Old School Zinfandel
100% Zinfandel. Formerly known as Independence School (Can you believe they changed the name just for the sake of an anagram?)
Nose of tart raspberry, and a hint of something odd - at first I thought aldehyde. Palate was jammy and sweet, with notes of raspberry syrup. I found that the residual sugar made it seem one-dimensional. 87
2003 Independence School Zinfandel
Blended with 9% Carignan and 3% Petite Sirah. It had the same odd aldehyde note, which suggests it's a vineyard characteristic rather than a flaw. Not as sweet as the 2007 bottling. Good tannin, with flavours of raspberry and brambles. A little rustic. I felt the blend provided more structure and complexity than the 2007,
but still not my favourite. 89
The flight finished with a 2000 Monte Bello
Great complex nose with notes of herb, mint and meat. Lithe black currant and brambly fruit. Meaty, musty tannins, medium to long finish. 93
We were then offered a flight of three wines that Alan had brought. Served blind, we were told that it was a vertical from the 1990s. They turned out to be three Pagani Ranch Alicante Bouschets, though I utterly failed to recognise the similarities between the three wines. In each case they are blended with around 25% Zinfandel.
1993 Alicante Bouschet Pagani Ranch
This reminded me of a Lytton Springs Zinfandel. Earthy, with cherry and redcurrant flavours. Nicely integrated tannins. Very smooth. 92
1994 Alicante Bouschet Pagani Ranch
This made me think of Petite Sirah. Somewhat reductive, stinky nose. Earthy, with lots of tannin and flavours of redcurrant and herb. Would appear that it still needs time to sort itself out. 88++
1997 Alicante Bouschet Pagani Ranch
This was my favourite wine of the whole tasting. It had a lovely feminine nose, with floral notes. Everything came together, the fruit was delicious 95
The last wine was a 2007 Zinfandel Geyserville Essence
Blended with 23% Petite Sirah 16.9% residual sugar and 13.5%ABV
Powerful, concentrated nose of raspberry syrup. Obviously very sweet, with lots of raspberry fruit. An interesting, complex wine. 92++