I very recently had the great pleasure of hosting some key members of The Gang of Pour (more on this visit soon!) here at Monte Bello, and in their company was one Wes Barton, who is probably becoming more and more familiar to readers of this blog every week! Anyhow, Wes very kindly more than paid his dues by bringing along two utterly brilliant and rare offerings to share, a 1979 Ridge Vineyards Paso Robles, and an even-more-rare 1968 Ruby Cabernet!
And here are my tasting notes!
1979 Ridge Vineyards Paso Robles
Cedar-y and plummy on the nose, with cranberry and rooibos tea notes, and a dash of rosehips (I confess this may be the power of suggestion; the person I was tasting with at that point mentioned rosehips!) — Surprisingly sweet fruit front-palate, and even a little viscosity, softening the point-of-entry for the acidity to come; which does come, but hardly abrasively, rather, maturingly mouth-wateringly — Finish is not overtly long, but it’s round, and resolved. I wonder to what extent the rather uncharacteristic addition of petit sirah to this wine has affected the ageability? Because Paso isn’t really a designation I traditionally look to for long-haul offerings, I was very impressed to find that this is still very drinkable.
1968 Ruby Cabernet
A carignane-cab hybrid designed to put a higher-acidity/drought-resistant spin on the king of grapes such as to make it more suitable for growing in climates like the Central Valley, ruby cabernet is a bit of an anomaly of sorts, and for 1 acre of it to be planted on the rather cooler-climate Monte Bello property seems a methodology destined for the the dust bins, but here and there, some of these have been really rather fine. In tasting with Paul, he has always said he thought the 1972 ruby was the best of the lot, but I’ve tasted the 1968 now on 2 occasions, and it’s been lovely both times, and today, I tasted it with Paul, and he couldn’t help but agree! The nose is somewhat mentholated and minty, but it’s also got loads of sweet wood, cooked down (reduced) fruit, and berry sugar to make it quite appealing; the point-of-entry is extremely light, it sort of dances and flits its way onto your palate, and then the admittedly strident acidity starts to get a stranglehold on your palate. But just when you’re about to out and out pucker, it suddenly lets go, and a nice little bubbling brook’s worth of subtle red fruit comes playing about your palate again, skipping over minerals, licking at the grasses, splashing in the winds … Apologies for the water analogies, but really, this wine is a delightful little stream; not powerful, not deep, but very playful, very vibrant, and very, very nice to sip on ….