The Line-Up: About To Be Decanted And Tasted
Well, we’ve just completed the second edition of our Wine Bloggers Tasting, and with a belly full of Rhones and cheese (Triple-Cream Gouda, Blue Stilton, and Farmhouse Cheddar, atop Watsonville Sourdough), I’m now sitting down to pen some proper tasting notes.
A Spread Of Carignane
But first, a hearty cheers and thank you to our attendees, all of whom proved to be winning companions, gracious guests, insightful tasters, and a lot of fun! I’ll be posting a summary of their write-ups as they come available, but I encourage you to visit all their sites whenever the mood strikes. You can find links here.
Decanting The Carignanes
Our theme for this tasting was a selection of Rhone varietal wines that are released through our ATP program; meaning these are wines that are extremely limited-production, and available only through the winery, either via the member program, in the tasting rooms, or online.
Through The Drinking Glass
I set the tasting up as a series of mini-verticals, with all but one vertical being two-vintages wide. The exception was the first series we tasted, a trio of Buchignani Ranch Carignane. We tasted the 2002, the 2005, and the 2008 vintages.
2002 Ridge Vineyards Buchignani Ranch Carignane
Very rustic nose, loads of minerality, with a hint of mulchy herbality and some autumnal dried fruits. A simmering crimson in the glass, evidencing medium-to-light viscosity …tremendous acidity right out of the gate, with some semi-sour cherry, a trace of menthol, and some black herbs alongside … mid-palate sees the acidity spreading from tongue-tip to side-of-tongue, and allows for the emergence of some coffee ground notes mixed with fennel, chicory, and a hint of dried cranberries … not a particularly long finish, but acidity remains omnipresent … would love to have this at table with a high-fat-content dish that is thickly sauced but lightly spiced …
2005 Ridge Vineyards Buchignani Ranch Carignane
Just a wealth of fruit on the nose by comparison; not to belittle the previous, but rather, to magnify the distinction … primarily laden with pluot notes, hints of tangelo and blood orange, with a drop of quince to boot … rounder, fleshier mouthfeel; a tad more viscous, but still positively singing with acidity … lighter in the core of the mid-palate mouthfeel, but ringed with vibrant spice and acidity around the perimeter, and introducing a rather exotic panoply of eastern, almost curry-esque spices … the mouthfeel is slightly longer and rounder than the 2002, but is still stepping out acidity first … and courtesy of the buoyant acidity, but in deference to the fleshier fruits, this wine for me begs for cheese pairing; at the moment, it’s going very well with Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog …
Iron Chevsky and Dan Snyder
2008 Ridge Vineyards Buchignani Ranch Carignane
A lil’ baby by comparison, the 2008 is just emerging from swaddle, and as such is only just beginning to show the deep purple-y fruit and caramel-y aromatics that traditionally seem to mark our young carignanes … the nose is a tad more berry-laden, with the fruit showing a bit more preserves-like concentration … more flesh-ful at point-of-entry than either of the previous 2 vintages, accordingly rendering the still-notably-vibrant acidity to a comparably more subservient role; don’t get me wrong, there is acidity to spare here, but fleshier opulence of the fruit provides a more aggressive counterbalance … some tannins here as well, providing a pleasing scaffold for the fruit to hang on … as above, not a particularly long finish, but oodles of food-friendly acidity here as well, though if you’re looking for a sipper as opposed to an at-table offering, this is probably the best bet of the three …
Dave Tong and Fely Krewell
Next up was a pair of Syrah/Grenache blends from our Lytton Springs vineyards; 2006 & 2005. These are both 50/50 blends, with the ’05 being already sold out, and the 2006 slated for a late fall release. In both cases, the Grenache was fully crushed, while the Syrah was fermented whole-berry, and also in both cases, the two varietals were fermented separately prior to assemblage.
Roland Dumas, Thea Dwelle, & Jason Mancebo
2006 Ridge Vineyards Syrah/Grenache
Loads of farm-fresh strawberry preserves on the nose, seeds and all, and not a tad cloying; just bright, buoyant, fresh, mid-to-high-tone red fruit, with a deep underlayer of anise and fennel and sweet clove … a very decadently mentholated cocoa-and-mint sensation at point-of-entry, spreading into a harvest-berry-galette mode mid-palate; meaning a sweet breadiness mingling with a richly complex baked-fruit compression … finish is long and vibrant, with structure to spare, bespeaking a long and harmonious future; no hurry on this one; tannins alone guarantee great longevity, particularly as the intensity of fruit is more than primed to keep pace …
Liren Baker, Wes Barton, & Richard Jennings
2005 Ridge Vineyards Syrah/Grenache
All the great fruit of the above on offer in spades, with just a hint of ever-so-slightly funky reductivity still lingering in the aromatics … a great tarry-dark layer providing the aromatic carpet upon which the mixed-berry furniture is arranged; mostly blueberry in character, with subtle hints of blackberry and black plum; key word being “black” … very structure-forward at point-of-entry, with an intense display of tannins early on, primarily in the tooth-to-lip realm … while the mid-palate is somewhat narrow, not yet spreading into the cheeks, the concentration is impressive … the finish feels a bit cut-short, with all the muscle on display early; this is a wine that, while more mature than the ’06 by date, seems younger in character, and seems to want a tad more bottle age to fully open up and display its full range; the structure is there, as is the undercurrent, we’re just waiting on the bright fruits to emerge …
Jason of Jason's!
From the Syrah/Grenache we moved to a duo of Lytton West Syrahs, both comprised of fruit from a western parcel on the Lytton Springs property, and in both cases, featuring co-fermented viognier; 9% in the 2003, and 6% in the 2005.
2003 Ridge Vineyards Lytton West Syrah
Intensely, intensely sweet fruit on the nose; so concentrated, so compressed, so decadent, with a certain woodiness afoot as well … and more of the same on the palate; for those who like a complexly fruit-forward spread of sheer fleshly opulence, this really ought to appeal; that said, loads of late-emerging tannins to scaffold the fruit, and youthful acidity as well, but the real story here is just fruit, upon fruit, upon rich, sweet fruit; not over-ripe by any means, and not overtly viscous as regards mouthfeel; meaning, essentially, sweet in character, if not in actual RS … post-meal, in the big chair, by the fire, leather-bound book in hand, chocolate on the night stand, sheep dog asleep at your feet, yessir, yessir, yes …
2005 Ridge Vineyards Lytton West Syrah
Far more driven by a salmagundi of herb-and-spice than the ’03, this still has loads of rich fruit on the nose, but is demonstrably less sweet in overall character … licorice, fennel, anise, and an autumnal chutney’s worth of dark minty herbs dominate, escorting in a subtle parade of blueberry and ollalie berry as the nose opens … succulent if not decadent at point-of-entry, leading to concentration if not compression; meaning the mid-palate is rich but not overt, intense but not abrupt, emotive but not ecstatic … a unique sort of blueberry lacquer coats the tongue with a rich, saucy fruit and seed profile, leading into a shorter, crisper, perhaps more focused finish than the ’03; two sides of the viticultural coin, these two; compote-sweet on the one side, mincemeat-spicy on the other …
And lastly but most definitely not leastly, we concluded our tasting with two vintages of our Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah …
2006 Ridge Vineyards Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah
Given that this is a wine with decades, if not centuries, of ageability written into its very DNA, it’s not surprising that this very young, yet-to-be-released offering isn’t giving up much in the way of aromatics just yet; hints of dark, inky, black fruit goodness, but only hints … the point-of-entry is predictably tannin-heavy, though as the wine moves to mid-palate, its notable how much blueberry-esque fruit tones begin to emerge from the primordial LaBrea of young petite sirah structure … the finish is tannin, tannin, and more tannin; pleasing tannin, mind you, and cloaking a very sincere and earnest display of kinder/gentler petite sirah inkiness, but this is, at this point, a wine to watch, but not to drink … come winter, when this sees release, look for me, and a wedge of aromatic cheese, to be hiding in your basement, with a candle lit, reading Dickens …
2003 Ridge Vineyards Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah
Mitigated expression of aromatics here as well, though there are a few more balls being juggled; in addition to the near-ubiquitous blackness of fruit notes, and the inky compression of herbs, there is a hint of some pleasantly by-comparison higher-tone fruit coming through in the bouquet … the wine really comes alive at point-of-entry, with a surprisingly resolved mouthfeel lush with integrative complexities afoot … little in the way of acidity coming through mid-palate, but the elegance of the fruit is almost astonishingly delightful; if you know someone who thinks they don’t particularly care for petite sirah (some of the more common complaints being that petite sirah can occasionally, if mishandled or grown in inappropriate regions, be prone to being too heavy, too dark, too inky, too muscular, too mono-dimensional), this is, I think, a brilliant point-of-entry into the PS. I Love You world …