Fall 2011 Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting – Lytton Estate Rhones And A Surprise!

Last Sunday Christopher Watkins, Tasting Room Manager for Ridge Vineyards hosted the Fall 2011 Wine Bloggers Tasting at Ridge, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  An intimate group of wine bloggers, many of whom I followed and am a fan of, met in the barrel room.  It was great to put faces with names.  That made the experience that much more enjoyable!

We had the good fortune to sit down for the tasting at the same time as Zinfandel grapes were arriving, so Christopher lead on an impromptu tour of the crush pad, and winemaking facility.  The highlight of the tour for me was watching fruit being emptied from their bins, and being de-stemmed.  It was my first time seeing a de-stemmer in action – amazing!

Truck bed full of grape stems after going through the de-stemming machine...

We didn’t know what we were going to be tasting before we arrived.  The wines Christopher selected were small production library wines produced from Lytton Estate fruit.  And courtesy of my Wine Tasting Hero - Richard Jennings, there was also Ridge mystery wine!

To wet our whistles, and prepare our palates for a slice of Ridge library goodness to come, we were served a Chard.

  • 2008 Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light golden-yellow color with tropical fruit, pear, and hint of mineral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, creamy with well-integrated oak, and pear, pineapple, baking spice flavors. Medium finish. (89 pts.)
Our first flight of wines were a Grenache and a 50/50 Syrah-Grenache blend.
  • 2002 Ridge Grenache Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Ruby color. Tight nose with dark cherry, and earthy aromas. On the palate medium bodied, concentrated, with firm tannins, and good acidity with dark cherry, and spice flavors. Medium long finish 78% Grenache/13% Petite Sirah/9% Zinfandel (89 pts.)
  • 2003 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Light-medium ruby color with dark fruit, smoke, and spice aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, with ripe fruit, grippy tannins with blackberry, vanilla and spice flavors. Medium finish. 50% Syrah/50% Grenache (88 pts.)
Thereafter we were served (blind) the mystery wine brought by Richard Jennings of RJonWine.  The only hint we received was that it was a varietal Ridge no longer produces.  We were all asked to guess the varietal, and the vintage before the wine was unveiled. I actually guessed the varietal correctly initially, but over-thought it and changed my answer.  Doh!  I was way off on the vintage.  Double Doh!
  • 1990 Ridge Barbera Rancho Pequeno - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Light-medium ruby color some bricking with cherry, roasted meat, and earthy aromas. On the palate light bodied, balanced, and complex with cherry, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Amazing fruit for 20+ year old Barbera. Medium finish (88 pts.)
After the lighter Grenache based wines and the Barbera,it was on to three flights of Syrah(wine blogging ain’t easy…but somebody’s gotta do it!;-)  The first flight was Syrah co-fermented with Viognier from the western parcel of the Lytton Vineyard.
  • 2003 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep garnet color with dark cherry, pepper, smoke and floral aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, with good balance, and vivid fruit with blackberry, pepper and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. Co-fermented with 9% Viognier. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep garnet color, and somewhat tight nose of dark fruit, dust, and toasty spices. On the palate medium + bodied, and well-integrated fine tannins with blackberry/plum, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. 6% Viognier (90 pts.)
The next flight included Syrahs from 2000, 2001, and 2002 vintages.  The 2002 labeled “Syrah II” has an interesting story behind it.  There were two lots of Syrah that included Grenache in the assemblage.  Neither of the lots was deemed satisfactory, so it was decided to add Carignane to one lot, and Viognier to the other.  The lot with the Viognier was labeled Syrah II.  It would have been interesting to taste the two side by side, but I’ve noticed I prefer Syrah with Viognier blended in, so I didn’t miss it. Beside that enable us to stay with the Syrah/Viognier theme.


  • 2002 Ridge Syrah II Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with dark fruit, black cherry, and floral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, moderately complex, and supple with black cherry, pepper and a bit of spice flavors. Medium long finish. 76% Syrah/22% Grenache/2% Viognier (90 pts.)
  • 2001 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color with smoked bacon, dark fruit aromas. On the palate medium bodied, with vibrant fruit and blackberry, cocoa, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium finish. 1% Viognier (91 pts.)
  • 2000 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with dark fruit, pepper, and leather aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, smooth, ample, and round with black cherry, cocoa, and touch of spice flavors. Long finish. 1% Viognier (92 pts.)
Christopher saved the best for last.  My wine of the day was the 1997 Lytton Estate Syrah.  Wow. As I write this, days later, I’m still reminiscing about the great aromatics of the ’97 (courtesy of the Viognier).  It’s a wine that revealed more nuances of aromas, and flavors as it had time to unfold in the glass.  I wish I could have spent more time with it . And for that matter, all the wines we tasted.


  • 1999 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color. Tight nose with dark fruit, earth, and spice aromas. On the palate, bold with good structure and black cherry, anise, earth, and touch of mineral flavors. Medium + finish. 92% Syrah/7% Grenache/1% Viognier
    (90 pts.)
  • 1997 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color. Aromatic with dark fruit, asian spice, cigar box, and floral aromas. On the palate, ample, refined, and smooth with black cherry, black plum, spice and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. My favorite of the day! 88% Syrah/12% Viognier (93 pts.)
It amazes me how long-lived Ridge wines are.  Then again, their wines are seemingly built to last.  The 1990 Barbera is Exhibit A was the 21-year-old Barbera, which is beyond my realm of experience.  For one, I can’t seem to hold on to wines I enjoy for that long and secondly, I don’t associate Barbera and long-term aging, as I would the other varietals we tasted, particularly Syrah.  I think it reflects great fruit in the hands of great winemakers committed to excellence.  And that, in a nutshell, is Ridge!  After my recent #Cabernet Day Monte Bello Tasting at Ridge, I must confess I’m getting a bit spoiled on fine wine!
A ginormous thanks  to Christopher, and Brandy Alexander for hosting and doing the stuff that made for a great tasting!

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” - Unknown

4 thoughts on “Fall 2011 Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting – Lytton Estate Rhones And A Surprise!

  1. Great re-cap Martin and great to meet you at the tasting. If it’s okay with you I’d like to add a link to your comphrensive post from mine which did not detail each wine tasted. –cheers

  2. Pingback: Scenes From A Wine Blogger Tasting « 4488: A Ridge Blog

  3. Pingback: Ridge Vineyards Wine Bloggers Tasting - Treacherous Troika Trickeration! - ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

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