One of my out-of-state wine friends comes here on quick business trips a few times a year. He usually has time to join a bunch of us for dinner, but had never had the time to visit any wineries before. This time was different, and my standing offer was taken. As a fellow Ridge fan his priority was clear. Ridge now offers limited weekday appointments - two seatings of a themed tasting at a communal table. I made the 2 pm appointment and decided to play the rest by ear.
Our rendezvous, with another local friend joining us, was at the Big Basin Vineyards tasting room in downtown Saratoga. No notes taken, in keeping with being a good sociable host. Our favorite was the '09 Lester Vyd. Pinot Noir, followed by the '07 Rattlesnake Rock Syrah.
Next stop was a quick visit to The Mountain Winery. Great view. The tasting room is now inside the restored historic former Paul Masson Winery. We tasted the '09 Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This is the fourth vintage from the replanted La Cresta Vineyard. The Chard is fresh, expressive and ready to drink. The Pinot seems a bit problematic. The grapes want to be made into an age-worthy wine, but the nature of the venue is for these wines to be mostly consumed at their events. It showed deep but closed down - dull. I think it will come around in a few years to show its pedigree, but its potential is greatly compromised by a failed attempt to make it approachable young. Previous vintages of these two wines showed the greatness of the site - why it was considered one of a handful of American grand cru vineyards - why Paul Masson was able to charge several times the amount of other top wineries for his wines. This is really disappointing, especially considering how great 2009 was for others in the area. Try Ridge's Monte Bello or Estate Chardonnay or Mount Eden's Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. All stellar!
From there we zipped across and up to the Ridge tasting room. As we hit Montebello Road we entered and ascended a fog shrouded mountain. The road was wet and the view non-existent. We shared a table of 8 with people from 3 different parts of the country. There was bread and 4 artisan cheeses to enjoy while tasting. (I waited til I was done taking notes.) After tasting we were led up into the vineyard to check out the old vines, cover crops, training method, lack of view.
From there we drove back to the sun at Cooper-Garrod. Our favorites varied, but we all loved the Viognier. The Cabernet Franc was a fave for one. My easy favorite was the Syrah, though I don't think my friends share my passion for the peppery cool climate expression of this grape.
For dinner we joined a larger group for fresh crab and bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Holy moly was that good porky beef! We found an excellent Vouvray to be the perfect pairing with the crab. Wine of the night was the '81 Monte Bello our guest picked up from the Ridge library, followed by the '08 Mount Eden Estate Pinot Noir (which needed a few hours air to really soar).
Ridge '10 Chardonnay Estate (SCM)
This was bottled just the day before.
Nose - musky, round, loquat, soft spice.
Musky, viscous, under-ripe peach, tart, subtle spice, very young. (91 pts)
Ridge '09 Chardonnay Mikulaco (SCM)
Nose - notes of fontina and prosiutto, white peach, brown spice.
Soft round meaty peach, good supportive minerality, long finish. Younger drinker. 90 pts
Ridge '09 Geyserville (Alexander Valley)
(74% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Alicante Bouschet, 1% Mataro)
Nose - deep intense plum, purple fruit, quite heady, marachino.
Lovely intense plum and marachino, fine dusty tannin, wild huckleberry. 93 pts
Ridge '05 Grenache Lytton Estate (Dry Creek Valley)
(88% Grenache, 6% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah)
Nose - smoky dark savory plum, touches of redwood and nutmeg.
Lighter body, dark dusky fruit, light dusty tannin, wild plum, huckleberry, white pepper, lime. Drink '14-'22. 92 pts
Ridge '08 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (SCM)
(75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc)
Nose - classic black currant, smoky black pepper, cherry wood.
Black currant, plum, tellicherry, firm gritty tannin, cherry wood, cedar. Drink '20-'35. 93 pts
Ridge '08 Monte Bello (SCM)
(72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot)
Nose - lovely floral fruit, boysenberry, cherry, black pepper, lavender, plum.
Firm gritty/dusty tannin, plum/black currant/boysenberry, tellicherry, cherry, draper perfume. Tight. Drink '22-'52. 94 pts
Ridge '10 Monte Bello (SCM)
Nose - Wow! Onderful heady perfum and spice, meaty, smoky violet, soft purple fruit.
Lovely plum and black currant, dine dusty tannin, boysenberry, violet. Drink '20-'50+ 96 pts
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