To put it mildly, today was a great day. Today was a great day. There. That was nice. It just felt good to affirm it one more time. Why was today a great day? Because I got to engage in an 8-vintage vertical of Ridge Geyserville. That’s why. And it was great. Thus, making it a great day.
Now, I’ll disclaim the notes that follow by saying this wasn’t a particularly languid and relaxed tasting; rather, I moved through it pretty quickly, and accordingly, rather than trying to capture an over-arching full-blown profile of each vintage, I’ll instead be striving to identify the characteristics that, to my palate at least, differentiated one vintage from another; put another way, I’m after the mole on a woman’s lip (Marilyn Monroe?), the spice in a fusion noodle dish (Tarragon?), the one-note solo that somehow works (Neil Young’s guitar solo on “Cinnamon Girl”?).
So, let’s get down to business, starting with the earliest vintage in this particular vertical:
1992 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Remarkably intact for its age, with a full-bodied profile; plush fruit, still-vibrant acidity, and very supple tannins. Oddly enough, my first draw of the bouquet conjured up something along the lines of a home-cooked Minestrone soup! Meaning, I got some richly integrated, wine-infused, slow-cooked tomato sauce notes (nothing vegetal or stewed mind you, just a deep, rich, warm and sweet rusticity), along with the crisp snap of fresh peas, the slightly rooty spryness of unpeeled carrots, and a darkly burnished wheatiness. And that was just the aromatics! On the palate, the acids are currently reigning over the tannins, making for a vibrant yet elegant mouthfeel that has some excellently mouth-watering food-pairing potential, and the spices are in a close race with the fruit, with the virtuous ripeness of the fruit taking the tale of the tape at the back of the palate, leaving an almost sweet quality lingering down the finish. Overall, highly drinkable, right here, right now!
1993 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Unquestionably a dark knight sort of character (in terms of aesthetic range as regards metaphorical “coloration”), this very enjoyable vintage expresses aromatic notes running the gamut from the perhaps the more familiar plum, licorice and cedar, to the rather more obscure fudge, brownies, and blood orange. It has a beautiful dark cherry hue with undertones of ripe plum, and a deep crimson limn in the glass. As the wine moves from front to back of palate, it leaves in its elegant wake sparkles of sweet cherry succulence, and a counterbalancing eucalyptal spice. The mouthfeel is soft and supple, yet quite fleshy, almost plush, and the warm spicy second-tier layers are nicely counterbalanced by a slightly sandal-woody nose.
1994 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Notable for having the least alcohol of these first three vintages (I tasted this wine alongside 1992 and 1993 vintages), yet showing comparatively slightly more heat, or should I say warmth, essentially in the form of a long, warm, chest-filling finish. Not obstreperously so, not by any means, and I think I probably wouldn’t have noted it at all, save for the fact that I was tasting in context. But again, I did notice it as a structural component. As to the other architectural contributants, I would say that tannins have receded to a point of extreme subtlety, dare I say, gentleness, while the vibrancy on offer from the acidity is still youthfully prevalent; quite pleasantly so, in fact. And as is often the case with Geyserville, I find that the fruit is taking somewhat of a comparative backseat here, with the aesthetic emphasis being more on the secondary and tertiary layers of herbs, spices, and a fundamentally tempered rusticity . Overall, this makes for a slightly leaner, more elegant offering than either the ’92 or the ’93, but conversely, this vintage also begs for food pairing in perhaps a more insistent fashion than do either of the other two vintages; higher-fat-content dishes in particular will benefit from pairing with this wine: cheeses such as triple cream bries or goudas, cream or butter-based sauces, meats such as duck or sausage, or coconut-milk-based curries.
1996 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
At first sniff, I was hollering “Umami!” with this vintage; yes, there are a great many other components at work here, commonalities that thrive across all the vintages, but what really struck me about this particular offering was the savoriness of the aromatics; I got bacon, teriyaki, and tobacco right out of the gate. All this was counterbalanced with some nice cocoa notes on the palate, and definitely some raisin and currant characteristics as well. Can one say a wine is discordant in a good way? If so, that’s what I’ll say; I found this wine fascinating, if somewhat uneven, for its singular combination of ripe, mature fruit, and pleasantly youthful acids and tannins, all reconciled by the unmistakable yet intangible presence of the umami factor.
1997 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Ok. If I HAVE to, and I mean I don’t really WANT to, but if I HAVE to, I think, at least for today’s edition, this was probably my, and again, I don’t REALLY want to do this, but probably, this was my favorite. It’s ripe, it’s full-bodied, it’s supple, it’s smooth, it’s warm, it’s hot but not HOT, it’s complex but integrated, etc. There is a certain woodiness at work that escaped me in terms of trying to capture its relationship to the rest of the components, and the viscosity in the glass bowl is somewhat mysteriously intense for a wine that hits the palate in a decidedly medium-weight way, but overall, a very exciting wine to taste.
OK. That’s the 90′s. Now for a trio of 21st century offerings …
2001 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Such a deep, deep purple coloration! And what a beautiful raspberry limn! Just beautiful to look at … The aromatics are certainly notable for a sneaky little strain of smokiness, a little bit of char-grilled character, and a slight hint of tar. Oddly enough though, it’s elegant, and I couldn’t help but think that I ought to get myself home and grill some salmon for my missus! Meaning, it’s deep, but it’s gentle. A boxer with a heart of gold? Something like that … It’s also got some lovely sweet fruit, LOTS of chocolate tones, and the tannins are admirably intact.
2002 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville
Want to open a younger Geyserville tonight? This is your choice, I swear it! Try it, and if you don’t like it, bring the bottle in, and I’ll finish the rest for you! It’s got deep, red plum notes, gracefully applied hints of leather and black licorice, and there’s just a preposterously “pretty” layer of candied fruit on offer as well. I’d like to note that our president and COO Mark Vernon tasted this wine recently at Evvia (in Palo Alto, CA) in the company of rotisserie lamb, and he was, to say the least, rather infectiously enthused about the pairing! It’s just gorgeous, pure and simple, in that bright, playful sort of way; it’s ever-so-slightly exotic (mango chutney?), ever-so-slightly-on-the-edge-of-being-cloyingly-sweet (beautifully enticing viscosity on the early palate in particular), and yet it holds its own as a classically refined example of what makes Geyserville so unique.
The baby of the bunch, to say the least. The vintage would lead you to think so, the taste will confirm it. One can almost FEEL the layers that are due to emerge over time, but they’re just not quite there yet. There is certainly one great dimension already on offer, and it’s a fine, fine dimension, but if you, like me, and like so many others, look to Geyserville for its masterful conflagration of multiple dimensions, then I would recommend patience with this vintage; the true rewards are yet to come.