Anyone who’s read about this tasting series, or perhaps even attended an episode, will know that there is always a theme to each tasting event. This was again the case for what was the final Wine Bloggers Tasting of 2011, held recently here at Monte Bello.
I must say, that as we’ve progressed the series, it has gotten potentially more and more challenging to develop engaging and creative themes. Fortunately, Ridge itself is a unique and surprising enough institution that quite often, the themes essentially present themselves. The theme for 2011: Episode IV, was suggested by the release of a new series of wines from Ridge Vineyards, our Historic Vineyard Series.
Thus, the theme was History, a viticultural going back in time. Each of the Historic Vineyard Series wines is crafted from fruit coming specifically from blocks that conform to the original historic plantings of our mountain’s “Founding Farmer Families,” and as such, each harkens back to a time when the mountain was comparatively raw and uncharted, a time before much of what we now take for granted in the modern world had been invented, a time long before electricity had even come to the mountain.
To set the stage for our oenophilic time travel, I set a price of admission for our guest Wine Bloggers. To participate in the tasting, each would have to commit to typing at least one tasting note on a vintage manual typewriter, four of which I provided from my personal collection, with the oldest dating to 1924. All agreed, and the game was afoot!
Upon arrival, each of our guests was greeted with a glass of the 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay, for my money, one of the greatest Monte Bello Chardonnays Ridge Vineyards has ever produced. This was just a treat to get things off on the right foot, a little treat to whet the collective viticultural whistles.
(As an aside, I should note that the event was not in any way shape or form some sort of No Tech Zone. These ARE wine bloggers after all. So the public access Wi Fi was live, and we had a Twitterfall feed up to chronicle the chatter as it happened in real-time.)
Anyhow, after everyone had settled in, I distributed some information about our Historic Vineyard Series wines, and poured the first offering, the 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon. In keeping with its cool-climate origins, this 100% solo-varietal Cabernet stuns with its subtlety, elegance, balance, approachability, minerality, and herbaceousness. It shows as proof once again that cool-climate cabs have a unique potential to reflect a truly singular sophistication. I’ve nothing against muscle wines per se, provided they’re built well, but give me a cool-climate cab any day! It’s sort of like the difference between Steven Wright and Sam Kinison. Or Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” Or the quiet part of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the loud bit. Or Mary Oliver and Charles Bukowski. Or “Casablanca” and “The Bourne Identity.” Or Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes and Robert Downey’s.
Anyhow, from here we moved to the Torre Ranch Merlot, a perfect showcase for the upended paradigm that is a cool-climate mountain property; here, the Cab provides the subtlety, whereas it’s actually the Merlot that brings the structure. In our archetypal Monte Bello assemblage construct, the Merlot provides the beams and girders, the Cab paints the walls in. That said, on its own in solo-varietal fashion, the Merlot is most certainly not without grace; it still manages to be balletic in its power, not unlike a star athlete; a compressed and perfectly calibrated reconciliation of grace and force.
We concluded this portion of the tasting with the Perrone Cabernet Franc. In my estimation, the Cabernet Franc grown on our mountain is of a superior caliber on a shockingly regular basic; but the intensity of its acid profile in particular means its potential role in the assemblages is often constrained. On its own, however, it is what I oft refer to as “an excitement wine.” Excitement wines are those that somehow rise above their impressive component profiles (acid, tannin, fruit, herbs, alcohol, minerality, etc.) and functionally well-executed structures to achieve a mysterious captivatory quality that transcends simple flavor. They leap out of the glass, capture your attention, deploy an indecipherable layer of attraction that, for lack of a better term, is truly exciting. Pure and unadulterated excitement in the glass.
Continuing with our looking back into the past theme, I then introduced the second portion of our tasting, a three-vintage vertical of Library Estate Cabernet; the 2003, 2004, and 2005 vintages. As I have recently reviewed these wines on this blog, I’ll opt to let you read from some of our guest’s works; some of which can be found by clicking the following links:
and to see my notes, you can click here (you’ll need to scroll down to just below mid-page):
Our tasting closed with another fascinating contribution from the magical vaults of one Allan Bree, who goes back far enough with Ridge to remember calling Paul Draper with a tin can and string.
Kidding! I’m kidding, I’m a kidder, I kid …
In all seriousness, Allan does go back a ways with Ridge Vineyards, which means that any time he brings something special, you can be sure it’s going to be special. Should you wish to do so, you can click the following to read of some past examples of Allan’s generosity:
For today’s tasting, he brought something we later determined constituted a full 5% of the world’s available supply. Meaning, Ridge itself only has about a case of this wine left, and Allan had two bottles, one of which he shared with the Wine Bloggers Tastings. It’s about as rare a Ridge wine as can be found, partly due to its bottle age, and primarily because Ridge only ever made it once. One vintage. Only 33 barrels produced. Most of which, as far as we can tell, no longer exists. Unless you have some?
Oh, the wine, of course! A 1994 Monte Rosso Zinfandel! And may I say, it was delicious! Which was particularly impressive, given Paul Draper’s original estimates of its longevity. From the original label text:
These very ripe grapes—like those in the Ridge ’79 and ’80 Glen Ellens from the adjacent Moon Mountain vineyard—were the very first zinfandels of the vintage to be harvested. This old-vine fruit from Monte Rosso’s warm, red-earth slopes received special attention. To maximize intensity, we used three small tanks rather than a single large fermentor. Despite keeping new cooperage to twenty-five percent, spicy oak is a major component, complementing the wine’s rich, black fruit. This big—yet elegant —zinfandel will benefit from a year of bottle age, and be at its best over the next five to eight years. PD (12/95)
Suffice it to say, it was quite a tasting, and in fact it was quite a year of tasting. This is the second year of our Wine Bloggers Tasting series, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with its development and progress.
I’ve gotten to know a fantastic and fascinating cadre of writers and wine lovers, and I’ve tasted an extraordinary roster of wines in truly great company.
I thank all of our guests over this past year for their participation, and I thank Ridge Vineyards for continuing to produce exquisitely crafted and magical wines, for providing support for this series, and for blessing me with the job of writing the Ridge Vineyards blog!
Cheers to all, and thank you for a great 2011’s worth of Wine Bloggers Tastings!
And as a final note of appreciation for our Wine Bloggers, and to that oft-misunderstood subset of the population at large that is the Wine Blogger Community, might I just point out that Wine Bloggers too appreciate the importance of wearing groovy footwear whilst drinking fine wine …