About five years ago, during one of my numerous trips to California, I had a little bit of free time. What do you do when you are in California, have a little bit of free time and love of wine? Of course, you go visit the winery!
A that time I decided to go visit Ridge Vineyards, located in Santa Cruz Mountains region, not far from San Jose. All I knew is that the winery is making wine called Monte Bello, which became famous after beating classic French Bordeaux during 1976 Judgement of Paris event. So I managed a steep 4 miles ride up the Monte Bello road, reached the winery, tasted 5 or 6 different wines and … didn’t like a single one of them. No, I don’t remember what exact wines and what exact vintages I tried, I just remember that none of the wines created any ”oompf”. I was disappointed and squarely put all the Ridge wines into ”I [really] don’t like it” category.
Holding that unhappy memory through the years, last year I even expressed my opinion in the comment to the twitter post by Jancis Robinson (she selected Ridge for a special wine tasting in Hong Kong), which caused some very unhappy reaction among her followers (to say “very unhappy” is a very mild understatement).
I can’t tell you why, but when this year I found out that I will be in San Jose area and I will have a bit of the free time, very first thought was ”I have to try Ridge wines again”. Four steep miles up the Monte Bello road and here I’m again. The air was beautiful, and so was the scenery – let me share a few pictures with you.
Ridge Vineyards is located near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. This is the “view from the top”:
These are the vineyards at Ridge (by the way, in case you recognize the picture, it gives you an answer to the wine quiz #10, Where in California – correct answer is Santa Cruz Mountains region):
Here are some beautiful flowers for you:
Can you guess what happened now? I tried 7 different wines and … I
liked loved every one of them. They all had common trait – balance and elegance, a quiet beauty, and may be most importantly, a sense of place – terroir, as French would put it. None of the wines were in-your-face, see-how-much-muscled-fruit-i-have – all of them were rather subtle, thought provoking and requiring time to reflect upon the content of your glass.
I don’t have an explanation. How come I didn’t like any wines the first time? Was that a ”leaf day”, a ”root day” or ”generally unfavorable” day? Did my palate evolved (that one I’m quite sure is true)? As you can’t enter the same river twice, I will not be able to relive that day 5 years ago and understand my reaction at that time. But I’m glad someone somehow somewhere decided that I have to go and try Ridge wines again – and discover something really beautiful.
2010 Estate Chardonnay – A little edgy in unusual way, some herbal undertones, oak is unnoticeable, except back palate burn. Opens a bit cleaner later on, long finish with hint of lemon.
2009 East Bench Zinfandel (15.1% ABV) – dry, with some dry rub spices, nice nose of blackberries, unnoticeable alcohol level, very balanced, perfect fruit and acidity on the palate.
2007 Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache (14.49% ABV) – nice fruit, touch of spice, hint of dry cherries, gentle tannins, good acidity. Perception of tannins increases going forwward.
2009 Estate Cabernet – Tremendous minerality on the nose, you can literally smell the earth. Very nice – hint of green, very Bordeaux-ish in style, restrained and balanced
2009 Buchignani Ranch Carignane – Tobacco and tar, nice bite of spice, nice simplicity. good tannins on the finish.
2006 Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah – Beautiful fruit right on top, dark fruit undertones, some cherries.
2006 Monte Bello – Beautiful fruit, perfect balance, very classic Cabernet Sauvignon blend, very long finish with tannins which are growing on you, hint of tobacco and earthiness on the palate. I’m glad this was the last wine I tasted, as the finish actually lasted at least for the next 20 minutes.
Yes, I was wrong before, and I don’t have any problems admitting it and getting over it – Ridge Vineyards makes great wines with the sense of place, and – better late than never – I’m very happy I made this discovery. Let’s raise the glass to the great discoveries of our lives! Cheers!