Tasting Notes by George Heritier




1999 Wyncroft Lake Michigan Shore Riesling Avonlea Vineyard1999 Wyncroft Lake Michigan Shore Riesling Avonlea Vineyard, 13% alc.: Opened for guests by Jim and Rae Lee Lester’s Wyncroft business partners John and Denise McKewan, this proved to be even more expressive than the last time we tasted it (where else, but at the McKewans’); perhaps that was because this time we were able to spend a little time sipping and savoring a few glasses.  As Bennett Traub pointed out recently, it’s like a hypothetical cross between Riesling from Alsace and Austria, bone dry and exhibiting elements reminiscent of river stones and gout de petrol (John referred to this as diesel, and that works too) over earthy, steely under ripe green apple; medium full body, showing substantial weight for a Riesling from anywhere, especially Michigan, with ample cut, good length on the finish and a little tartrate sediment in the glass when it’s emptied.  There may be other domestic (US) dry Rieslings as good or better than this, but they have yet to cross our path.  This must have been the 8th or 9th time we’ve enjoyed one of these over the past few years, and this was the best one yet, giving strong indication that it was still on its way up.  Not just “a good wine for Michigan,” but a seriously good wine, period.  Find this wine

1998 Chateau de Lescours Saint Emilion1998 Chateau de Lescours Saint Emilion, 12.5% alc.: This rusty ruby colored claret was lean and mean when Grapevine School of Wine co-founder Trevor Rudderham first poured it right out of the bottle, but give it some time in a decanter and it really opens up and comes around, exuding an earthy sweet cassis perfume that echoes and expands on the palate with black currant, cassis and cigar box, turning sweeter and sweeter with air, and yes, we’re talking about a dry Right Bank Bordeaux here.  With moderate tannins and nice density and presence despite being not much more than a middleweight contender, this is really enjoyable and surprisingly harmonious with John McKewan’s delicious paella.  Find this wine

2003 Amizetta Napa Complexity2003 Amizetta Napa Complexity, $38.99, 14.2% alc.: As much as the ‘02 version of this wine impressed me, I just had to try the next rendition, and it’s no slouch either; deep ruby garnet in color, it offers sweet cherry, blackberry, black currant and well integrated sweet oak on the nose, all of which follows through and explodes on the palate with added notes of coffee (just a little cream), dark chocolate and subtle earth underneath.  Well structured, well balanced, fruit forward and really lovely with just a little aeration in the glass, and as good as it is already, it should get even better with five years or so in the bottle.  Just a dandy wine in my book, but then I've come to expect no less from Bob Egelhoff. Find this wine

1995 Ponzi Willamette Pinot Noir Reserve, 13% alc.: Michael Rowley pulled this rusty ruby garnet gem from his cellar, not knowing what to expect, and it impressed us all with an attractive mature character, showing mushroom, a little earth and smoky plum and black cherry flavors and aromas; it develops a nice note of sea air on the nose as it opens. Medium to medium full bodied, with mostly resolved tannins and a lovely sense of balance. This may still get better with further cellaring, but it’s already quite delightful. 
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1997 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric1997 Paolo Scavino Barolo Carobric, 14.5% alc.: McKewan wasn’t sure whether it was time to open this dark ruby colored Nebbiolo or not, but when he let slip that he had a full case in the cellar, I assured him that one needed opening for scientific inquiry, and that was all the convincing he needed.  This is no “traditional” styled Barolo by any means, and I doubt that “purists” would go for it; medium full to full bodied, it’s rich, dense and extracted, with floral complexities on the nose and an earthy blackberry and cherry personality accented with dark chocolate, a hint of licorice and some subtle cola underneath.  Deep and dark, but not necessarily mysterious, this still shows significant structure, being nowhere near its peak; it’s easily a 15-20 year wine.  Extremely well received all around, but I have to wonder, is this the Carlisle of Barolo?    Find this wine

Imported by Vin Divino, Chicago, IL 


2003  de Trafford "Straw Wine" Stellenbosch, 14% alc.: As reported previously in these pages, this is called "straw wine" because the Chenin Blanc grapes are carefully laid out on a bed of straw and dried before being pressed, making for a tremendous alternative to Icewine in a region that can't DO Icewine.  Dense, intense and unctuous, with seriously sweet essence of honeyed peach and apricot, and buoyed by good acids and some subtle mineral underneath, this promises years of improvement and then more years of holding its own.  I didn’t ask how John happened to come by this, because as Joel Goldberg once informed us, it’s “scarcer than hens’ teeth.”  I just shut my mouth, closed my eyes and enjoyed it. Find this wine

 Some Older Mr. Ridges 

We went back to the well once again in the past few weeks, enjoying five fine bottles from Paul Draper & Co., all old friends and none of them younger than ten years old.  There’s something about these wines when they have some age to them that really demonstrates the true beauty of what Ridge is all about.  We got things started with a gem that Mr. TNT himself, Tim Thomas, brought along during a late July visit to Day-twah.

1990 Ridge York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon1990 Ridge York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, $15, 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 13.6% alc.: This one has come along nicely since the last time we tried it.  There’s still only a slight tinge of rust to the dark garnet hue here, and while Kim immediately commented on a “minty” quality and “a little bit of dill,” I found some initial musty funk on the nose that blows off to reveal a classic, mature Draper perfume, and perfume is the operative term here.  It offers up cassis, black currant, blueberry and lavender, all in perfect proportion to the sweet oak that complements, but never overpowers the lovely fruit.  These impressions follow through on the palate with a certain dustiness that adds to the appeal; full bodied, with good length and fairly low acids, it still has some unobtrusive tannins to resolve, but by no means does this NEED to sit any longer.  A classic Mr. Ridge, with pure Cabernet character that shows a certain “sense of place,” this makes a great match for a grilled tri-tip steak.  Find this wine

1990 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel, 80 % Zinfandel, 10 % Petite Sirah, 6 % Carignane, 4 % Grenache, 13.8 % alc.: Back when this was a current release, and for some time thereafter, it was THE favorite wine of Kim and this taster, period, so it’s always nice to see how it’s coming along, and I’m happy to say that we weren’t disappointed when Bennett Traub brought it and the following selection over to share with us and our daughter Jessica Rose aka Dolphin Girl.  Showing a good deal of rust to the ruby garnet color, it gives a big hit of mustiness that quickly evaporates, leaving a lovely, mature Draper perfume over black raspberry, blackberry, a little prune, a hint of old wood, some moderate earthiness underneath it all, a little aquarium with air that Bennett describes as “saline” and a funky little undertone that just adds another nuance to the complexity.  Mr. Traub adds that “the plumminess is still there, with a little mint on the back end,” and I wouldn’t disagree.  Indeed, there’s still a nice core of fruit here (Kim gets a lot of jam), with a smooth texture, moderate tannins, good density, more than enough acidity and a nice finish.  What a treat to renew acquaintances with this sublime, mature, claret-like Zin blend, a true testament to just how well these can age, but then, we already knew that, didn’t we?  Find this wine

1990 Ridge Geyserville, 64 % Zinfandel, 18 % Petite Sirah, 18 % Carignan, 13.9% alc: While I usually prefer Geyserville to Lytton Springs, such was never the case with the 1990 vintage, and this rusty garnet reminds me once again why that is.  It gives that “Geyserville kind of funk” upfront, described variously as “almost a little brett-y” (Kim), “almost mentholatum camphor” (Bennett) and “funky, earthy plum and prune” (this taster).  Somewhat Rhône-ish in personality, it shows a lot of leather, some Draper perfume in the background and what Bennett describes as some “strange medicinal qualities” that I failed to detect.  Smooth, mellow and somewhat claret-like, it may or may not be a little past its peak, but it’s still enjoyable and interesting as heck.    Find this wine

1995 Ridge Geyserville, 62% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 15% Carignane, 5% Mataro, 14.2% alc.: Slightly rusty dark garnet color, with some initial barnyard on the nose that fades to allow the fine Draper perfume to come forward, complementing the black raspberry / zinberry aromatics, all of which follow through in the flavors with some earth and dust.  The big youthful fruit and structure that this showed for so long have finally achieved some harmony; no, the fruit doesn’t have the vibrancy of youth that it once did, but when it did, the tannins were formidable.  Still, it’s thick and dense, with some tannins to burn, and yet it’s like velvet in the mouth, with that claret-like character that these develop with age, this is one more fine example of what mature Mr. Ridge is all about, and yes, it shows a real sense of place.  A wonderful synthesis of everything that makes Geyserville one of the great wines of the world when it’s at its best; beyond anything mere tasting notes can convey, real wine, beautiful wine.      Find this wine

1996 Ridge Geyserville, 75% Zinfandel, 17% Carignan, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Mataro, 14.9% alc.: Tasted directly after the ’90 Geezer, this shows the obligatory dark garnet color, with big, earthy Rhône-ish blackberry, black raspberry, mulberry and black plum flavors and aromas; I failed to note who commented that it’s “exactly like the ’90, just more of everything,” but that taster made a good point.  There are still significant tannins here, with a huge core of fruit, and it’s quite different from the last time we tasted it.  Half an hour’s air helps it open nicely, but this is still a relatively young wine, still in an intermediate stage, needing at least a few more years to really start to show its best.  That’s OK, we have more of these, so we’ll wait a while and report back later.  Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,


Other Recent Wine Explorations

Wines of Domaine Berthet-Rayne

Wine With Friends

Warm Weather Whites 2006

Home Alone in Day-Twah

Following Up Part Deux

Following Up

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© George Heritier August, 2006