Cloistered | Ridge Wine Bloggers Tasting 2011

Winding roads. Hairpin turns. Barrier free cliffs. One lane mountain roads. Even on beautiful sunny days, the precarious drive up the Santa Cruz Mountains to Ridge Vineyard’s Monte Bello Estate coaxes enough adrenalin to pump the blood more furiously through my veins. With hands gripping…

Cloistered | Ridge Wine Bloggers Tasting 2011

Winding roads. Hairpin turns. Barrier free cliffs. One lane mountain roads. Even on beautiful sunny days, the precarious drive up the Santa Cruz Mountains to Ridge Vineyard’s Monte Bello Estate coaxes enough adrenalin to pump the blood more furiously through my veins. With hands gripping the steering wheel just a little tighter, I always marvel at how the lucky people with the privilege of working at Ridge must have nerves of steel to make the daily drive up (and down) the mountain.

And that’s on a day with perfect conditions.

When I returned recently for the first Ridge Vineyards Wine Bloggers Tasting of 2011, we were in the middle of what felt like a two week long rainstorm. The rains had, in fact, resulted in mudslides along Monte Bello Ridge, the mineral rich, wine-friendly soil spilling onto the roads, along with felled branches and debris. The rain couldn’t decide whether to stay or go as I made the drive to Cupertino, and as I climbed the mountain, I was partially distracted by the vividly green moss and the waterfalls tucked along some of the hairpin turns. But mostly, I muttered to myself that the Italian doctor who founded the original Monte Bello Winery must have selected this cloistered location to keep all the wonderful wine to himself.

Thankfully, that is not the case.

Ridge Vineyards is proud of their wine and wants to share it with as many people as possible, and the tasting is more proof of that. The Wine Blogger’s Tasting is a wonderful way for them to open their doors to those of us who love their wine and love to tell people about it. And the group of bloggers in attendance has certainly grown since its inception. We were content to stay in from the hail and passing rain to concentrate on some wine for a few hours.

Each tasting is always thoughtfully assembled, and this time, the wines presented followed the theme VerticalModelMembershipManifesto! This was tasting room manager Christopher Watkins’ clever way of presenting verticals of offerings from each of Ridge’s three membership programs: ATP, ZList, and Monte Bello Collector. I always enjoy the opportunity for vertical tastings, as it gives you a chance to compare, contrast and appreciate the potential behind the newest releases, not to mention have a taste of some wonderfully aged, and often rare, vintages.


…click on images to enlarge…


Tasting Notes

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…To Start…

2009 Ridge Estate Chardonnay

The tasting opened with the newest release of Chardonnay – and the debut of their Estate designation. Ridge produces phenomenal Chardonnays, and the current release is no exception. The signature Ridge flavor profile is there, and reflects the fantastic micro-climate and limestone soil of their Jimsomare vineyard, where much of the fruit is sourced. The Chardonnay is bright and well balanced, with crisp apple and pear flavors, and the right amount of acid. In time, it will be another example of how an excellent Chardonnay should taste.

2008 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Also debuting with the Estate designation is the 2008 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This Cab immediately began dancing on my tongue, it was sharp yet light, and reminiscent of a Zin, most likely due to its youth. It had the most glorious garnet color, and one taste sent my mind on fast forward to early summer evenings with the grill and a feisty flank steak.



Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2009 | 1999

In its 44th vintage, the 2009 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel is offered through the ZList Membership. will be released to the public this month. My taste was full of durian (have you heard of this stinky fruit?), to my surprise, and was sweetly perfumed. The Geyserville Zin has been a Ridge mainstay, and proof that good Zinfandels can absolutely be aged. To prove this point, we tasted the no longer available 1999 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel. The ’99 was remarkably smooth on the palate, and the nose was comforting and musky, with blue cheese and licorice. I just found myself craving a mottled Blue Stilton. What a difference 10 years can make on a good Zin!

Ridge Lytton Estate Syrah 2006 | 2004

The ATP (Advaced Tasting Program) features limited, small productions of single-vineyard wines. We tasted the Lytton Estate Syrah, comparing the 2006 to the 2004 vintage. The older 2004 had a gorgeous floral bouquet, with elegant honeysuckle balanced against a strong peppery background. It was beautifully balanced. But the 2006 turned out to be my favorite of the two. This April ATP release had the same notable peppery background, but was balanced with hints of plum, and seemed to be even better balanced than the 2004. For your summer gatherings, I would highly recommend the 2006 Ridge Lytton Estate Syrah.

Ridge California Monte Bello 2005 | 1995 | 1985

For me, the vertical of Monte Bello Collector wines was the highlight of the tasting. Starting with the 1985 Ridge California Monte Bello, we tasted a two decade span, culminating with the 97 point 2005 Ridge California Monte Bello. But it was the 1985 that produced the most excitement amongst the tasters, myself included. As I brought the glass of the ’85 Monte Bello to my nose, I was intoxicated by the silky scent of raisins – this wine was pretty and elegant, an old Hollywood starlet. If I had the privilege of serving this bottle, I would do so with a scintillating creme brulée.

As we explored the younger Monte Bello vintages, it was interesting to see how differently the 1995 behaved. Many joked that this vintage was a teenager with the bad attitude. Indeed, it was spunky, with hints of sour cherry, buttery pie, and pineapple.

And finally, the esteemed 2005 Monte Bello was a return to the Ridge I know, to the perfectly balanced, robust Cab that I measure all other Cabs against. I could just sit and smell this particular wine all day, if I could. And sip it, too, of course. If only.

{available releases in red}



Previous Tastings

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    • Liren

      Oh, you MUST try their Chardonnay. It’s some of the absolute best (and my husband’s personal favorite)!

  1. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    What a fun event to attend! Ridge has some amazing wines. The 85 Monte Bello sounds absolutely stunning and quite a treat to have a vertical tasting of such terrific wines. Hope you are doing well! :-)

  2. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Thank you for sharing your takes on all of these wines. I will have to check out that Chardonnay, because usually i’m not a fan. Once in a while, though, I’m surprised.

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