By Martyn Zemavicius and Margaret Elderfield
With the great Paul Draper announcing his retirement as CEO of Ridge this summer, it’s fitting to share our notes from a recent blind tasting, hosted in the home of a most hospitable couple who are friends of Clos & Cru.
All we knew before the tasting was that the wines came from a single producer, and that all but one featured a particular variety. The quality of the wines across the board was immediately clear, and the preponderance of Cabernet Sauvignon was also easy to spot. But as we sipped, cogitated and tried to narrow down the origin, there were splits of opinion around the table. Some of us (Margaret & Rosti from the Clos & Cru team included) were convinced they had to be European in origin and opted for Italy, because the moderate alcohol and fresh acidity were so in balance with the fruit. Others (including Martyn) were sure that the odd wine out was a Zinfandel, and that the wines had to have come from California.
In the end, Martyn was vindicated when the labels were revealed. But the exercise illustrates how Ridge has stayed loyal to a traditional European sensibility, striving for fresh and balanced wines regardless of fashion, even when so many winemakers in California were turning out plush fruit bombs.
Our favourite wine of the night? The 2010 Monte Bello. Although it was very young, there’s amazing potential there. Big thanks again, J & M!!
Wine 1 – 2009 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot
Nose: Ripe but cool black fruits, bit of cinnamon spice
Palate: Spicy, black and red fruits, well oaked. Ripe red currant acidity, medium alcohol. Savoury finish. 89 pts ME
Wine 2 – 2010 Ridge Geyserville
64% Zinfandel, 20% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 2% Mataro (Mourvedre)
Nose: So jammy, cranberry, blueberry. Smells ripasso in style.
Palate: So ripe, jammy, high acidity, forest berries, long. Great for what it is. USA?
89 pts MZ
Wine 3 – 2010 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc
Nose: Dark forest berries, earthy, oak spice. Very focused
Palate: Earthy, dark fruit, focus, spice, oak. Long. Tannin a bit dusty but in nice way.
90 pts MZ
Wine 4 – 2010 Ridge Monte Bello
74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Nose: Juniper, blackberry, blueberry, liquorice
Palate: Black fruit, black cherry, leafy, earthy. Very closed, but potential is there. 91 pts MZ
Wine 5 – 2000 Ridge Monte Bello
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc
Nose: Very ripe fruit, dark berries, sweet spice, alcohol almost sticking out, rosemary, thyme, violets.
Palate: Firm tannin, fruit little muted, red fruit. 90 pts MZ
Wine 6 – 1999 Ridge Monte Bello
73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
Nose: Dark fruit, gherkin, leather, wood.
Palate: Round, dark chocolate, dark cherry, mint, fresh acidity, long finish. Lovely.
90 pts MZ
About Paul Draper
For readers who may not drink much Californian wine, Draper has been making wine at Ridge since 1969, always with a philosophy of minimal intervention in the cellar and maximum disclosure on the label. He is a former Decanter Man of the Year (2000), and also won the prestigious Winemaker’s Winemaker award (2013), as voted by winemaker members of the Institute of Masters of Wine. His 1971 Ridge Monte Bello caught the attention of the world at the famous Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976.