Thursday, May 24, 2012

All That Jazz

Ridge has been hosting quarterly tastings for wine bloggers for 3 years now. Tasting room manger Christopher Watkins always tries something new each time and for the most recent event he wanted to combine his love of music with his love of wine. So he came up with the novel idea of pairing wine with Jazz classics.

Now I'm no real Jazz aficionado; my dad was into big band stuff and he'd listen to the likes of Satchmo and Bird, but my tastes were more Santana and Budgie. Nevertheless I gave it a try while - more importantly - attempting to identify the four wines poured blind. If you're interested in the jazz aspect of the tasting then check out the Ridge wine blog.

Wine 1 showed lots of ripe red fruit; redcurrant, raspberry and liquorice. Incredibly rich and complex with herbal, minty notes and bags of smooth tannins. From the ripeness, complexity and the abundance of red fruits I assumed that it had to be a Zinfandel blend, but whatever it was I loved it. Eventually I guessed Geyserville; perhaps 2005.

Not even close; 2001 Monte Bello. Possibly the ripest vintage of Monte Bello ever made and recently upgraded to 99 points by Robert Parker. The clues were there in the herbal, minty and liquorice notes however I missed them because of the ripeness. Easily 96+ and insanely drinkable even at this early stage.

Wine 2 was smoky and earthy, with a hint of brett. Much lighter than the first (though not in colour), and dry with brambly black fruit and lots of tannin. Surely a Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet; doesn't seem rich enough to be Monte Bello, so probably the Estate.

Pretty near the mark; the 2000 Monte Bello. A particularly cool vintage, hence the leaner fruit. Overshadowed somewhat by the riper wines on this tasting, but still a 92 point wine that'll give many old-world wines a run for their Euro.

Wine 3 had lots of dark fruit and earth; redcurrant and wild strawberry. I thought possibly Zinfandel but for some reason I convinced myself that it was the Lytton West Syrah.

Right vineyard, wrong grape. 1999 Lytton Springs - 70% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignane, 3% Mataro and absolutely 0% Syrah. Very, very tasty; 95 points.

Wine 4 had a bright raspberry nose with a floral note; lots of sweet fruit and a distinctly port-like note to it. At first I was sure it was a Zinfandel, but the port note started to nag at me and I wondered if it was Grenache; it has a tendency to oxidise and is often used for port style wines such as Banyuls or Australian 'stickies'.

Should have gone with my first instinct - 1997 Geyserville, and again not a drop of Grenache. That port note is down to a particularly hot year. 74% Zinfandel, 15% Carignan, 10% Petite Sirah, 1% Mourvedre. My least favourite of the four because of that port note, but still a 92.
While Christopher digested our song pairings we moved on to three wines from Ridge's new "classic vineyards" series. These were previewed at the previous bloggers' tasting, which I missed due to being in Europe. However I tried the Cabernet at the Monte Bello components tasting (and purchased all three).

The wines fit into a pretty large market gap between Monte Bello and the rest of the Ridge range. They were created to tie in with Monte Bello's recognition by the Historic Vineyard Society, and are named after some of the early viticultural pioneers who settled the mountain prior to prohibition. They deserve a detailed article of their own, so for now here are some brief notes.

2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc
Herbal, floral nose. Young, sweet red fruit - redcurrant in particular. The most structured of the three; this needs plenty of time. Could be superb in 10+ years. 93+
2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon
Sweet bramble, straw nose. Beautiful rich layered black fruit Less tannic than the Perrone, and the most drinkable of the three at present. 94
2009 Torre Ranch Merlot Floral nose, with plum and bramble. Dry cocoa, black fruit, liquorice, anise. Needs time to come together. 92+