As some of you know, I took a 3 month sabbatical from wine and then eased back into it for a few days before rejoining one of my wine groups for a special dinner. It was held at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, a private luxury club on Butterfly Beach overlooking the ocean in Santa Barbara.
To heighten the experience, we were blessed to have the ambience of the sun setting and fanning its rays throughout the sky and onto the ocean along with the sound of the surf below us.
One of our members graciously volunteered to bring 4 cases of aged Ridge Vineyards wines. They all came to him from a collector who had secured the wines through Ridge`s ATP [Advance Tasting Program] wine club. This club was the initial wine club in California having its origin in 1977. It features many benefits for members including 3 shipments of various limited production wines each year.
Current releases include such varietals as Syrah, Zinfandel, Primitivo and Carignane. The wines we tasted were from Zinfandel and Zinfandel blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux blends, Alicante Bouschet, Mataro [Mourvedre] and Barbera and the vintages ranged from 1974 to 1999. In some instances, we had 2 to 4 bottles of the same wine.
Although most of us were discouraged from bringing additional wines, this group is comprised of many generous folks who love to share the treasures of their cellars. As a result, we had about 10 additional wines, most prior to the onslaught and a couple of dessert wines afterwards.
Some of the beginner wines were:
2016 Promise “the joy” Rose- nice, light strawberry and red cherry notes with a tinge of spritz; fun and lively.
2010 LOUIS JADOT CORTON CHARLEMAGNE GRAND CRU- drinking nicely, this full bodied, full on thrust of citrus and apple fruit glides smoothly over the palate all the way to the back end and then sustains.
2011 CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD AILE d`ARGENT BLANC- a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, this was delightful from the nose to the tail; it had a generous amount of grapefruit/ citrus notes, medium weight and was in nice balance.
2012 BALLOT-MILLOT MEURSAULT PERRIERIES 1ER CRU- fresh flowers and citrus fruit notes abound, easy on the palate and had nice bright acidity.
2013 PIERRES-YVES COLIN-MOREY LES ANCEGNIERES- as with most PYCM white Burg, this one shines with the complete package of aromatics, taste, mouthfeel and length; fresh floral and citrus fruit notes prevail and a good amount of acidity backs it up.
2015 PIERRE-YVES COLIN-MOREY EN REMILLY SAINT AUBIN 1ER CRU- another gem and so approachable at his tender age; I`ve been a fan of this particular wine year after year and this may be as good as any; bright acidity, sensual tactile feel on the palate and perfect balance embellish the fresh, ripe apple, pear and citrus fruit.
NV LAURENT-PERRIER BRUT- almost as an after thought, this comes around and my palate is already primed for the big event; loving champagne as I do, I had to pour a taste even though I`ve had a significant amount of this pleasant bubbly over the years and really could pass in favor of the numerous bottles forthcoming; as expected, it satisfied with little bursts of lemon, lime and kiwi along with its light frothy mousse.
And now for the drum roll, a Ridge bonanza. With bottles coming from both directions and even across the table, it was a marathon of pouring judiciously with 15 people at the table, sipping and making notes all the while ingesting small bites of 6 different appetizers times 4, also coming from all directions. And this was prior to each of us ordering our own entrées, side dishes and later on desserts.
1974 RIDGE FIDDLETOWN AMADOR COUNTY ZINFANDEL [2 btls] - Paul Draper, iconic winemaker extraordinaire, called this and the 78` the best he ever produced from this vineyard; in addition to its almost pure purple color, most notable was very interesting tertiary dried cherry and plum fruit in the nose and taste along with a hit of coconut coming in by mid palate; decent and viable; a good start.
1974 RIDGE LYTTON SPRINGS DRY CREEK VALLEY ZINFANDEL [3 btls]- amazing abundance of cranberry and cherry fruit with accents of mint and spice; by mid palate, it dried out a bit becoming astringent.
1975 RIDGE GEYSERVILLE SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL- this had a dominating Bretty overtone and in favor of consumption control, I moved on since we only had 1 bottle and I`m not big on the Brett factor.
1978 RIDGE GEYSERVILLE SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL [3 btls]- as with all others before it, the color was still void of any aging; the nose had an unexpected strong toasty component followed by mature dark cherry/ berry flavors; it was full bodied and had a welcomed long finish.
1997 RIDGE LYTTON WEST VINEYARD DRY CREEK VALLEY BARBERA- some VA here along with some mineral infused dried blue and black fruit.
1978 RIDGE YORK CREEK SPRING MOUNTAIN PETITE SIRAH [2 btls]- fabulous wine, especially bottle #2; it was truly magnificent replete with spicy, pepper, licorice, blueberry and black cherry fruit served up in a medium to full weighted body carrying all of its treasures to the back end; beyond all of these pleasures was the hallmark of incredible balance; at this point, my #1 WOTN [to be challenged later on].
1979 RIDGE GEYSERVILLE SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL- aged dried cranberry and cherry in the nose and taste with a bit of dryness at the end.
1978 RIDGE SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON- the label says this is 100% Cab from the famous Monte Bello Vineyard although it was noted to be a red Bordeaux blend on the spreadsheet we were provided as well as on various websites I searched; nonetheless, this had a distinct earthy funky musty character in the nose which carried on with some nice black fruit appearing in the taste profile; this bottle reminded me of older right bank stuff on the down side; later on, many claimed this to be one of their favs and I had to wonder if we were talking the same wine because I respect the palates of those who ranked it high.
1977 RIDGE MONTE BELLO SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS RUBY CABERNET [2 btls]- both bottles had similar notes; the first one had a little more green character to it with some metallic, flinty aroma joined by eucalyptus and mint chocolate laced black fruit in the taste profile.
1974 RIDGE YORK CREEK SPRING MOUNTAIN CABERNET SAUVIGNON- cork taint in the nose followed by minimally redeeming coffee and sweet dried cherry and plum flavors.
1974 RIDGE MONTE BELLO SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS CABERNET SAUVIGNON [3 btls]- stunning; all 3 bottles were absolutely fabulous with the 2nd bottle a tad better; it gave up mint and eucalyptus in the nose which continued on with loads of black currant, blackberry and plum within its full body; it was in perfect balance, held on for a long finish and just exuded class and royalty; my #1 WOTN although the 74` Petite Sirah still was singing to me.
1994 RIDGE PAGANI RANCH SONOMA VALLEY ALCANTE BOUSCHET [3 btls]- a rare varietal treat, the color of these wines were deep, dark purple which is expected from this grape although maybe not from a 23 y.o wine; one bottle stood out giving up layers of fruit forward blackberry, black cherry and black raspberry with a touch of spice coming in late; it was delivered in a medium textured base and held on for a grand finale.
1997 RIDGE PAGANI RANCH SONOMA VALLEY MATARO [MOURVEDRE] [4 btls]- blended with 23% Zinfandel; a fruit bomb that hits the WOW factor big time; loaded with fresh, ripe cherry/ berry notes, it sings a happy tune.
1998 RIDGE SONOMA STATION SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL- 75% Zinfandel, 11% Carignan, 9% Alicante Bouschet, 5% Petit Sirah; a bit of pepper and spice to compliment the serious red and black fruit that fades a bit into tartness by mid palate.
1999 RIDGE GEYSERVILLE SONOMA COUNTY [3 btls]- 68% Zinfandel, 16% Carignan and Petit Sirah; complexity from the nose on with clove and mint scented aromas and dried cranberry cherry flavors abounding.
1999 RIDGE PAGANI RANCH SONOMA VALLEY ZINFANDEL [3 btls]- 7% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petit Sirah; very similar to the 99` Geyserville in that I found clove, mint and dried cranberry notes plus some talc; the fruit seemed to be on the wild side; I checked my glass to make sure I did not still have the Geyserville in it.
1999 RIDGE YORK CREEK SONOMA VALLEY LATE PICKED ZINFANDEL [2 btls]- thick and chewy, molasses like sweet plum and prune flavors; intense; a drop on the end of the tongue was enough for me.
1995 CHATEAU RIEUSSEC SAUTERNES- 375ml.; 95% Sémillon, 2% Muscadelle and 3% Sauvignon; a nice sweetie with honeyed caramel, butterscotch and roasted peaches with a nice spicy edge.
2011 MORLET FAMILY VINEYARDS BILLET DOUX LATE HARVEST SEMILLON- 750 ml.; blended with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle; honeyed apricots, roasted pears and a tinge of pineapple are delivered in a thick, viscous liquid form.
This was a once in a lifetime memorial event that I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in after missing a few others recently. The Ridge wines we had only substantiated the respect I have for this winery and Paul Draper. He has crafted some remarkable wines over many decades and as experienced on this occasion, they are made to please early on and age gracefully for decades. There were some bottles left unopened and our gracious host gifted them to us to take home. I oblidged.