WBW #48: Back to my Roots with Ridge Zin

(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!


4 Responses to “WBW #48: Back to my Roots with Ridge Zin”

  1. 1 David McDuff August 15, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Great note, Doug. I’m an old (and mostly ex) Ridge fan as well. Their wines do indeed last, almost always well beyond the suggested drinking ranges in Paul Draper’s extensive “liner notes.” In fact, I still have a bottle of this very ’97 PR LPZ hanging out in the cellar, along with about ten other goodies from the mid-to-late 90s. Perhaps a little blast from the past for this year’s Thanksgiving table.


  2. 2 Steve September 17, 2008 at 5:57 am

    I’m a big fan of the Ridge Zin as well. I must confess though, it’s largely for sentimental reasons… thanks to Doug. As he mentioned, he bought cases of it for my wedding (yes, I’m his brother). Our wedding day was quite hot though, so most of the guests drank white (the caterers even had to go out and get more mid-reception). My wife Paula and I enjoyed the leftover Ridge Zin for months after the wedding. In fact, we still one bottle that we couldn’t bring ourselves to drink. Hopefully it will last until our 10 year anniversary next year – and Doug, hopefully you’ll share a glass with us!

  3. 3 ablegrape September 17, 2008 at 6:10 am

    Aw… You can count on me to come share that bottle, it’s good stuff! Well, plus it’d be your anniversary and all. Odd, I just noticed that that post was on your birthday. Coincidence?

  4. 4 Paula Sindberg February 9, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Wow! In 1970 MY first experience with wine was a Ridge Zin. It was imprinted on my brain. If animals are imprinted by the first thing they see as their mother, then Ridge Zin is certainly my mother in wine. I still love Zins, though like you, my favorites have changed over the years, but they always bring me back to my roots.

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