(or, “how to avoid finishing the newsletter you’ve been working on”). Thanks to Lenn Thompson for founding the WBW tradition, and for picking a great theme for this fourth-anniversary round.
I honestly can’t remember what wine it was that I drank regularly when I was first discovering wine. I was so unsure of my own knowledge, and so eager to try different things, that I bought something different almost every time. I’d been casually drinking wine for about ten years, with little rhyme, reason, or repeat in my drinking patterns, before I can recall buying anything in any kind of quantity for frequent drinking. I ransacked my addled brain for some memory of those earliest wines and… …nothing. I do remember one of my first winery visits, to Ridge, in Cupertino, in the early ’90s. I lived just a few miles away in the heart of the Silicon Valley, and Ridge was just a bicycle ride down Foothill Expressway, and a tortuous, sweaty ride up Montebello Road. I loved the visit, and many that ensued, and I’ve had a soft spot for their wines ever since, though my preferred wines have changed (in the early days it was Zinfandel, and now it’s Monte Bello, Monte Bello, Monte Bello). I suppose, in an indirect way, I even owe one of my great loves to Ridge: I met a visiting French winemaker at a ZAP tasting when I mentioned that I liked her Dusi Ranch Zinfandel better than Ridge’s. Thanks, Paul!
And so earlier tonight, as I was pillaging my meager memories of early wines, I remembered one of these early(-ish) Ridge wines I enjoyed so much that I even bought cases of it for my brother’s wedding. And… did I actually… drink it all? Could it be that I still had a long-forgotten bottle of that very same wine hidden in my cellar? (You already know the answer; you’ve seen the picture. But pretend there’s suspense). I rushed downstairs and scrabbled around in the darkest depths of the cellar’s earliest-filled cubby-holes, until I found the bottle with the hallmark silver capsule. I pulled it out and there it was: a 1997 Ridge Paso Robles Late-Picked Zinfandel. A glance at the stats on the label. Oops, shouldn’t have done that: RS and high alcohol! (gulp! what was I thinking back then?) Well, no matter, let’s give it a whirl:
The nose is still vibrantly fruity: raspberry jam, with mature notes of pipe tobacco, and hints of eucalypt and black pepper. There’s also a pungent undercurrent: evident alcohol, and a good dose of nail-polish remover volatile acidity, but the surprising fruit still wins out. On the palate, the wine is off-dry, with low but slightly hard tannin, high acidity, and high alcohol (15.6%). The finish is fairly long and complex, if a bit hot. The acidity saves the day, though, leaving my mouth clean, and making me curious to try just one more taste. I’d say I was surprised at the shape this was in, but Paul’s wines have a way of lasting, in the case of the Zinfandels, in part due to a frequent dollop of Petite Sirah (this one has 5%).
It’s been a long time and my tastes have changed; I tend to strongly prefer lower alcohol, drier wines. But this was really not a bad drop at all, even after ten years of evolution for both of us. We started a journey together, we’ve both gone our separate ways, but after a decade we can still bump into each other, as it were, with a smile and a friendly wave. And that makes me happy. Thanks, Paul!