Wine Country Here We Come!

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by Canadian Zinfan


What would you do if you and yours received two passes to the renowned Ridge Advanced Tasting Program July 4th bash at the Monte Bello vineyard, but your best friend and travelling companion, Mr. Flippy, would have to stay "home alone"?

At first the obvious solution was to dump the best friend. Unfortunately, listening to him all week long, whining and sulking, was more than we could handle so we had to come up with a cunning plan.

This story really begins when we invited a guy called "Joe", who lives in a large bay area city situated roughly sixty miles south of wine country, to one of our barbecues. During the course of the evening Joe mentioned he had two friends who were unable to attend the esteemed event and would Zinchick and I like to go in their place.

Well that's kinda like asking a kid if he or she would like to be locked in a candy store for the night. That's when all the whining and sulking came into play. So our plan was to wrap Mr. Flippy up in blankets and stash him in the back of the van, just before we would reach the check-in point.

Joe may not have been in the best of shape when he drew the map for us. However, to give the man credit he deserves, we did make it to the foot of the mountain. Then we started to tackle the Monte Bello Road, which kept going up, and I may add, kept pace with the ever soaring temperature. We were warned that close to the peak of the mountain we would face the first check point. Once through this area we planned to park the van and sneak Flippy out from the back of the van.

As we approached we were greeted by a guard heavily armed with clipboard and pens. Our bogus names checked out, but then disaster struck. "You must park right here, at the checkpoint, said the man. "The parking lot is full", he nonchalantly remarked. Muffled sounds of "what iz happening?" rang out from the subdued Frenchman.

Zinchick and I looked at one another and broke out into an uncontrollable fit of nervous laughter. As we stepped out of the van and shut the door we realized the temperature was hovering well above 100 degrees.

How long could he survive? Enough time to allow us to taste every wine and leave? No, the suppressed cries for help were too much. I got back into the van and tried to explain, without arousing suspicion, the circumstances to Mr. Flippy. He was not too happy to say the least. After promising to return as soon as we had an idea we left and climbed the hill to join the party.

After tasting the '94 Monte Bello, extended barrel-aged Chard, two versions left on their lees, one stirred, one not, and the last which had been racked, Zinchick then remembered the plight of Mr. Flippy. She went back to the van to pick up our camera and it was at this point she was able to release a somewhat dehydrated French person from the van who crawled by a few cars and joined the party.

That afternoon we baked in the sunshine, tasted many great wines, and ate barbecued chicken with grilled polenta. Lunch was washed down with unlimited amounts of a tired, but still enjoyable '89 Sonoma Zin. All around the winery, stations were set up staffed by the most friendly of people pouring.

One station was pouring two vintages of the Monte Bello. I preferred the '93 over the '88. It had so much more rich fruit to offer.

Up to this point, I was a Ridge Merlot virgin. I am happy to confess that my first time was extremely satisfying. This '94 rendition from the Santa Cruz Mountains was tarry, leathery packed with cherry flavours.

I think my personal fav of the day was the luscious, Pagani '95 Zin - a perfectly harmonized fruit bomb. Zinchick gave pride of place to the '95 Geyserville. It too is a keeper. Mr. Flippy, oddly enough, ranked the Crystal Geyser water as his best choice. Hmmmm I wonder why?

Towards the conclusion of the fete, Paul Draper spoke for a while on Ridge's beliefs in wine making. A few lucky folks had their names drawn in the raffle and were bestowed with a magnum or two of the wines that had been poured throughout the day.

One thing that did surprise me, as a foreigner, was the lack of pomp and circumstance being July 4th and all. There were no stars and stripes to be seen, no banners or marching band music. To this group of dedicated wine lovers this was just another day in PARADISE.

That Zinchick, Canadian Zinfan and Mr. Flippy all work in the Canadian food and wine industry?



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Gang of Pour Unleashed Directory

Prologue - Blast me off to Sonoma

Redwood Tree House & Ridge Lytton Springs

More Ridge Lytton Springs

Rafanelli Commentary

Power Tasting - Day One

The Music

Opus One - Day Two

Beringer - Day Two

Valley of the Moon - Day Three

Jason Brandt Lewis - Day Four

Newton Vineyards - Day Five

Bodega Bay - Day Six

Morning Reflections - Day Seven

More Wineries - Day Seven

SFJoe and Tasting Notes - Day Seven

Dinner Party and Tasting Notes - Day Seven

Departure and Epilogue - Day Eight