An Extraordinary Picnic -or- What Was The Last Year Ridge Made A Barbera?

Ok, in the service of full disclosure, I’ll admit that I strongly considered titling this post “A Picnic Partaking Of Particularly Pleasing Petite Sirah, Breathtakingly Buoyant Barbera, and Captivatingly Contemporary Cabernet That Confounds One’s Considerations Of Chronology And The Calendar!”

But I didn’t, because although I happen to enjoy the oft-maligned deployment of alliteration, the link was simply too long to be practical …

Anyhow, on to the subject at hand, which was a delightful picnic area tasting of some extraordinary wines; a tasting that emerged from my burgeoning friendship with William Powell and his lovely wife Joan. (You may remember William as the provider of so many of the vintage RIDGE labels that have adorned past posts on this blog.) William offered to pledge a couple significant offerings to the endeavor, and I quite happily agreed to “match” him as best as I could.

By the way, if you’ve not been to the Monte Bello picnic area, here’s a shot:


Anyhow, this all began when the discussion of whether RIDGE had made Barbera before came up; not only has RIDGE made Barbera before, and not only does Mr. Powell have the labels in his collection, but he actually had a bottle in his cellar! It was the 1996 Barbera, from our Lytton West designation. So that was the beginning of the tasting. As we were just about to release the 2004 Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah (which Mr. Powell very much wanted to taste!), it was decided that he would bring in a vintage bottle of York Creek Petite Sirah to “match” the pre-release 2004 that I offered; he came up with a bottle from 1978! So I had to go to the well one more time, and came up with a 1977 York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, and these four bottles became our tasting. Here are shots of the three out-of-the-cellar bottles:

Hopefully needless to say, all the wines were showing fascinating qualities, though each with its own idiosyncrasies. The 2004 Ridge Dynamite Hill Petite Sirah is, to me, “classic” Petite Sirah from this designation, with all the muscularity this implies; the tannin architecture alone bespeaks a long, long future for this deep, inky, dark berry-driven wine. The 1996 Ridge Barbera was perhaps the true treat of the bunch, for its rarity and scarcity certainly, but also courtesy of the tremendous buoyancy this wine showed; loads of fruit, outstanding vibrancy from the acidity, and a full panoply of aromatic floralities. The 1978 York Creek Petite Sirah was proof-in-the-bottle of just how strong, how firm, and how long-lived these wines can be; the tannins alone could soften for another decade still! (This is EXACTLY the sort of wine my Dad loves to drink …) The 1977 York Creek Cabernet Sauvignon was probably the great challenge of the bunch, at least right out of the bottle; not a ton of fruit emerging, fairly soft tannins, and a fairly strong presence from the acidity. Aromatically, it was mostly mature fruit and a pronounced rusticity. That said, after 1-2 hours in the decanter, the earth blew off, some lovely dark fruit emerged, and the acidity moved into harmonic balance with the tannins, making for a wonderful offering! (Note to self, always decant this wine 1-2 hours before serving!). It’s certainly a decidedly mature wine, but very much still in the range of pourability.

Thank you to William and Joan Powell for their graciousness in sharing these wines with us (as well as the home-baked bread!), and I especially want to thank them for being so accommodating with our entire staff; each member was able to go out one-by-one to the Powell’s table and enjoy an “audience” with both the Powell’s and the wines, and I believe it’s safe to say everyone enjoyed the experience immensely!

Categories: Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Events & Photographs, Petite Sirah, Tasting Notes, Wine Tales

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4 replies

  1. Another item I miss is your outstanding vinegar…

  2. This is fast becoming one of my favorite winery blogs. The writing style is great and fresh. Definitely all about the winery, but that’s what it is supposed to be.

    I recently had a 1990 Ridge Jimsomare Zinfandel and it was delicious. I wrote about it on my own blog as part of a post about why I blog. Do you still make that wine? I couldn’t find it.

    Anyway, I thought you’d like the feedback. Keep it up!


  1. The A To Z Of Ridge -or- Thanks Gourmet Magazine! « 4488: A Ridge Blog

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