CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Ridge’s 2017 Zins blend zesty pleasure now with a future pledge
By Lawrence B. Johnson
California wine producer Ridge Vineyards has long enjoyed a reputation among the most distinctive makers of Zinfandel, especially for two bottlings named for the Sonoma County vineyards where their respective grapes are grown: Geyserville in Alexander Valley and Lytton Springs in Dry Creek Valley. The 2017 vintages of both wines bear out Ridge’s phenomenal way with Zin.
Ridge uses the locale names, rather than simply labeling them as Zinfandel, because they aren’t, strictly speaking, Zins. They are Zinfandel-dominated blends that bear the singular zest and peppery fruitiness of the main grape while gaining depth, richness and complexity from the supporting varietals.
Although the producer does make straight Zinfandel by that name, these beauties don’t fall under such a convenient rubric. They’re sort of like Super Tuscans – wines that go their own way. Splendorous and imposing, Ridge’s Zinfandel blends regularly top 14 percent alcohol. And while they have the immediate appeal of Zins, these hybrids also show some aging capacity.
- Ridge Vineyards Geyserville 2017 – The plush ripeness in its dark fruit flavors, with hints of chocolate and cedar, belies the youth of this fetching blend of 68 percent Zinfandel with 18 percent Carignane, 12 percent Petite Sirah and 2 percent Alicante Bouschet. That said, the combination of ripe tannin and bright acidity bespeaks the substantial structure needed for medium-length cellaring. While the 2017 offers vibrant drinking now, it’s going to be fun to revisit in half a dozen years. ($42)
- Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs 2017 – This cuvée, built on 74 percent Zinfandel, answers the elegance of the Geyserville with a certain grandeur that summons classic Bordeaux. Richly layered on the palate with black plum, blueberry, black cherry and a trace of anise, this exuberant young wine possesses the solid superstructure required for extended maturation in the cellar. And if you enjoy a bracing Zinfandel, this one should hold immediate appeal. The generous Zin factor is rounded off by 15 percent Petite Sirah, 9 percent Carignane and 2 percent Mataro (what the French all Mourvèdre). ($44)
- Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Monte Bello 2016 – While its Zinfandel blends are Ridge’s stock in trade, the pride of its line is the patrician Cab created from grapes grown on the company’s original home ground in the Santa Cruz Mountains. To say this is a horse of a different color is more than a figure of speech. The spectacular Monte Bello 2016 is black-purple, stunningly concentrated and multidimensional, powerfully structured and glorious to drink even now. But its cellaring potential seems, well, open-ended. Blended with Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, and steeped in flavors of blackberry, leather, cigar and spice, this luxurious Cabernet Sauvignon is princely wine, indeed. ($225)