P I A
Sunday found me driving north rather than south. Since Ridge now offers their special tastings at both locations, the math was simple - 60 miles to Healdsburg or 100 miles to Cupertino. And since Chiquita of the Amazon (close friend and Gangster - in - training) had scored a position in the tasting room, it was only fitting that I cruise on up and offer my congratulations.
While the construction is not complete, the tasting room is accepting visitors, and it is a splendid improvement from the casual rusticity that previously greeted tasters here. There were other familiar faces as well, and I soon felt right at home, and whetted and wetted my palate with a little cool white.
2000 Chardonnay Monte Bello shows lovely evolution since my last tasting of it at the Lower. There are nicely balanced notes of nutmeg and allspice, with hints of cinnamon and clove on the palate, which compliment the apple and pear fruit flavors beautifully it still shows impeccable balance and the requisite structure for aging. This is a very finely crafted wine.
2000 Zinfandel Llewelyn ATP - 77% Zinfandel, 23% Carignane, 15.2% alcohol - The Hemar Ranch is the source for this wine, and is located on Dutcher Creek Road, in the hills that separate the Dry Creek Valley from the Alexander Valley (which is its AVA). The oldest Zinfandel blocks date back to the 1890s the Carignane to 1913.
Very attractive jammy fruit in the nose featuring crushed berries and exhibiting its Sonoma County origin fresh and lively in the mouth, belying its high alcohol content. It has good balance, with flavors that follow the aromatics there is also a hint of pleasant bitter tarriness in the finish little in the way of tannins. Todays snapshot suggests this may be one of the few early drinkers from the ATP.
2001 Lytton Springs 76% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, 7% Carignane, 14.7% alcohol - Fairly reticent aromatics, but with some swirlitude, gives up the signature aromatic profile of this wine, which features compote of blueberry, blackberry and purple & black plum. In the mouth there is no doubt that this is Lytton Springs the flavor profile is familiar, there is good balance and structure for aging. It is certainly far from showing its best, but I think it is the Lytton Springs of the Century (so far).
1999 Zinfandel Nervo Late Picked ATP - 92% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah, 16.2% alcohol picked at an astronomical 29.8 brix - Shows the expected ultraripe jammy fruit in the nose, but stops short of the prune and raisin characteristics that I find off-putting. The fruit is very full and rich in the mouth, but cannot hide the high alcohol that shows mostly in the finish. For fans of this style, I would encourage early drinking since the alcohol will only become more prominent as the fruit falls out.
1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Jimsomare ATP - 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.7% alcohol - Dusty ripe berry and mineral notes in the nose nicely balanced black currant and plum flavors in the mouth, and not nearly the prominent acids that are the typical hallmark of wines from this vineyard. There are some tannins, but they are relatively smooth, and this wine has evolved rather rapidly for a Jimsomare and is drinking very nicely right now.
1993 Monte Bello from 375ml unmistakable Monte Bello aromatic profile with distinctive dusty mineral highlights distinguish this wine. The flavors suggest it is significantly closed down (as one might expect) the fruit is light in body the tannins seem to have reached a manageable point, but most importantly, the searing acids that characterized this wine in its youth seem to have integrated and settled down. This Monte Bello is far better balanced now than when I tasted it at the Upper some time ago.
Never one of my favorite Monte Bello vintages, it has evolved to a point where it far exceeds my early expectations.
2002 Monte Bello second assemblage 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 7% Petite Verdot The final blend is not likely to include the Cabernet Franc that I enjoyed so much when I tasted the components. It seems that the Franc simply did not work in the blend. I suppose this is the obverse of the synergism that Mr. Draper and I spoke about wines that are exciting and attractive on their own but do not add, or actually take away from a blend.
Lots of espresso and hints of char in the nose (from the new cooperage in this sample, I suppose) this is confirmed by the fairly forward tannins that hit the front of the palate and extend to the mid. It is a bit austere in the mouth (as most MB barrel samples tend to be), but the fruit is there, and there is no reason to think this Monte Bello will not stand right up there with many of the fine vintages of the 90s.
Again, I firmly believe that Monte Bello is among the most difficult of California Cabernets to evaluate in its youth. The evolution of the 93 is a good example, but in terms of balance and structure there is nothing here to suggest the 2002 will be sub-par in any way.
Coming next an in depth tour of the new Lytton Springs winery, a visit with the new hospitality manager, and an interview with John Olney, the winemaker at Lytton Springs.
Left Coast Correspondent to the Gang of Pour
ฉ Allan Bree March 2003