Ridge Vineyards Wine Bloggers Tasting – Treacherous Troika Trickeration!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Ridge Vineyard final Wine Bloggers Tasting of the 2012.  The Wine Bloggers Tasting is hosted by Christopher Watkins, Ridge’s indefatigable ambassador and Tasting Room Manager.   He has been hosting the Wine Bloggers Tasting for about two and a half years now.  What make each event special (aside from the fact you’ll be drinking some magnificent wine) is that there is a theme, which Christopher keeps secret until you arrive.

It was  a treacherous trek up to Monte Bello because, it was a cold and stormy day (it was pouring buckets of rain, and I wondered if frogs were in the forecast).  Little did I know something even more treacherous, and foreboding that spin-outs, and mudslides awaited…

As we entered the Monte Bello suite this is what I saw…

Ridge Blogger Tasting 1

The Treacherous Troika – Rounds 1, 2, and 3 (l-r)

And I said to myself…Oh (insert your favorite expletive here), a blind tasting!

Now I’ve done blind tastings before, but I’ve always known what the varietal was, and vintage didn’t really matter.  The purpose of the  blind tastings I’ve done  is to take expectations/perceptions surrounding the quality/cost of the wine out of the equation.

No problem…I’m all for finding a $10 buck bottle of wine I like as much or more than one for that cost two or three times that amount.

No sirree…this wasn’t that kind of blind tasting. This was the kind of blind tasting that makes or breaks careers (sommeliers), and reputations (wine critics – see the related post below for the most well-known example involving Robert Parker, Jr.) Fortunately for me, I have no sommelier career aspirations, and precious little reputation ;-)

Here’s what the devious Mr. Watkins asked of the us…Taste the 3 flights of 3 wines, and discern what is the same about them, and what is different about them.  

In other words, it potentially involved picking varietals and vintages. It was my worst blind tasting nightmare realized (in a standing in an amusement park line dreading the scariest ride you can think of, surviving it, then getting back in line kinda way;-)

It was a distinguished group of bloggers that tasted through all the wines.  After each flight we discussed our thought about flight.  After tasting through the three flights Christopher revealed what was the same about each wine, and what was different.  I’ll recap my tasting notes, and share my thoughts on each round before revealing the wines below.

Round 1

I thought all three wines were Zinfandel.  I scored the wines, A, B, and C –  90, 90, and 92 points respectively.  The common denominator on all the wines was a smoky dark red fruit character for me.  I did not some cassis on wine B, and that wine C was fuller bodied and had a longer finish than the others

Round 2

I noted all were Bordeaux varietals.  All the wines had more going on aromatically for me, and the common denominators were a cassis, blackberry, blueberry, and tobacco character.  I scored the wines 91, 91, and 93 point respectively.  My guess was Monte Bello, primarily because of the tobacco aromas.

Round 3

I was clueless as to what the varietal.  The common denominators for me were earthy red fruits (cherry, raspberry) with some spice and mineral character. I scored all three 91 points.

My overall guess as to what was the same about all three wines?  My guess (S.W.A.G. really) was that wine C in each group was from the same vintage.

*Insert that annoying buzzer sound when a contestant gets the wrong answer here*!!!

The Reveal

Round 1 – All the wines turned out to be the 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – poured the half bottle, full bottle and magnum format.

Ridge Blogger Tasting 2 - 09 SCM Estate

Round 1 – 2009 Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from 375 ml, 750ml, and Magnum

I’m familiar with horizontal (same vintage different wines), and vertical tastings (different vintages, same wine type).  But are you familiar with a diagonal tasting?  In the  midst of discussing the similarities and disparities among the wines (including horizontal and vertical tastings), a joke was made about the tasting possibly being a diagonal tasting…well if you look at the picture above and draw a straight line from left to right you get…drum roll please….a diagonal line.  Well, if I ever taste the same wine again from different size bottles, I’ll always think of it as a diagonal tasting ( it’s quite interesting…I recommend it)!

Note: From what I was able to discern when I Googled “what is a diagonal wine tasting, it’s wines from either the same or different type or geographical area, but of different vintages or producers (I like the way I think of it better;-)

Round 2 – A vertical tasting (2004, 2005, and 2006) of the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting Vertical 3

Round 2 – Vertical of 2004, 2005, and 2006 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Round 3  – Here’s where the trickeration come in – Three bottles of the same wine – the 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Ridge Blogger Tasting horizontal 4

Round 3 – The “ringer” round; 3 bottles of the same wine – 2007 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

There you have it – a most challenging comparative blind tasting  - different bottle sizes, a vertical tasting, and the same bottle of wine served up three times.

Despite crashing and burning, I found myself surprisingly buoyant about the experience. And why not?  It a fun, informative tasting, with great wine, and great wine peeps (including more than a few for whom I have a great deal of respect).  Definitely a “live and learn” experience with some great takeaways to build on…

  • This reinforced what I’ve learned about the impact of the size of the bottle on aging.  wine bottle in half-bottles ages faster than wine bottled in full-bottles, which age faster than wines bottled in magnums.
  • It’s great to have first hand experience to see how a wine changes with age
  • That thing with the same bottle of wine - I feel good about scoring all three wines the same. Also, I think it speaks to the relative complexity of the Estate Cab (an outstanding value for $40 bucks) because each time I stuck my nose in the glass, or took a sip, it was different.
  • It was great experience for the continual process of honing my palate and wine tasting skills
  • Oh, and I picked up couple of bottles of the ’09 Estate Cab on the way out!

 

Related post you might enjoy:

Petite Sirah Smack-down – Round 2; 8 More Petite Sirahs…1 Winner!

The most recent Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club meeting was a continuation on our exploration of Petite Sirah (“Pets”), more affectionately know as “Round 2 of the Petite Sirah Smack-down” (In case you missed it, the results of the first P.S. Smackdown under “Related Articles” below).

It was warm evening so we decided to do an alfresco tasting.  It was the perfect day for this fantastic 100% Petite Sirah Rosé from Field Stone Winery…

2011 Field Stone Petite Sirah Rosé Heritage Block – Image courtesy of Field Stone Winery

My tasting notes follow:

Lovely pink-red color with cherry, plum. On the palate its full-bodied for a Rosé, and dry, with good acidity and bountiful cherry, raspberry, and mineral flavors. Medium finish. 100% Petite Rosé from old vine (100+ y.o) 13.5% alcohol. – 90pts

After some food, drink and lively conversation it was time to get to down to tasting.  We blind-tasted a diverse selection of  8 Pets.  Paso Robles lead the way with 3 wines, followed by 2 each from Sonoma and Lake County, and  1 from Lodi.  There were 10 tasters, a smaller – but more experienced group than the first P.S. Smackdown, when we had 18 tasters.

I snuck in a ringer for Round 2 – The winner from Round 1 – the 2010 Redtree Petite Sirah – to see how it would do…

The lineup + one more that arrived later!

The wines were blind-tasted in the following order (Click on the link for my detailed Cellar Tracker reviews and ratings):

And the winner was…

Yes, indeed the least expensive wine wins again!  No wonder Kermit Lynch said “Blind tastings are to wine what strip poker is to love”!

The order of finish for the runners-up were as follows:

After we compiled, and announced the scores for the Petites, we tasted this Rhone blend, which one of our wine club member plucked from his cellar…

  • 2001 Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond Côte-Rôtie - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Garnet color with slim meniscus, and earthy dark red fruits aromas. On the palate, it approaches medium-bodied is smooth, and well-balanced with good acidity, and muted earthy cherry, raspberry flavors. Short finish. (88 pts.)

It was a fabulous evening filled with wonderful friends, wine,  and food!

Conclusion:  After 2 rounds of blind-tasting 22 Petite Sirahs (20 dry, 1 Rose, and 1 dessert)  what are my takeaways you ask (OK so you didn’t ask..but it makes for a nice lead in;-)?
  1. It was a very diverse group of Pets from throughout California, that reflected a variety of styles, though I think Petite too, is part of a trend we’re seeing toward lower alcohol, less jammy wines.  About a third of the wines were under 14% alcohol.
  2. If Zinfandel is America’s grape, then Petite Sirah is California’s grape!
  3. and last but not least…

Image courtesy of psIloveyou.org

Value Alert! – An(other) Enjoyable Everyday Petite Sirah for under $10!

I’m a big fan of Petite Sirah.  It’s one of my favorite grape varietals.  The challenge though for many Petite Sirah (a.k.a. “Pet”, “PS”) lovers, is that the wines can be pricey.  If you’re willing to pay $35 and up, finding a very good to excellent PS isn’t hard to do.  It’s a much bigger challenge to find one  in the $20-25 range, and an even bigger challenge to find one for less than $15, much less $10!

I was introduced to this wine when it was brought to our wine-tasting club’s  blind tasting – Petite Sirah night-Round 2 ( The Round 1 winner was the 2010 Redtree Petite Sirah - check out the posts below!). Stay tuned for the Round 2 results later this week!

This wine is produced by Oak Ridge Winery, which was founded in 1934 as a winemaking cooperative of local growers in Lodi, California. Oak Ridge is the oldest operating winery in Lodi.  In fact, the original winery’s 50,000 gallon redwood tank has been converted to a tasting room!  Over the last 8 years,  the historic landmark has been transformed into a state-of-the-industry winery.

Winegrower Rudy Maggio and his partners, Don and Rocky Reynolds, purchased the Oak Ridge Winery in 2001.  According their website…

Under the leadership of General Manager Nicholas Karavidas, along with Senior Winemaker Chue Her, Oak Ridge Winery is fast becoming a beacon for Lodi’s future. The winery produces small lots of its own hand-crafted wines, including its signature Old Zin Vines (“OZV”), and offers custom winemaking services to a growing list of wineries and custom brands. Each of our wines and all of our relationships reflect our passion, commitment to quality and uncompromising integrity.

In addition to this wine, Oak Ridge produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Old Vine Zinfandel,  Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio under the Maggio label.  I’m going to have to give a few of those a try!

My tasting notes follow:

Violet color with smoky, earthy dark fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, with good acidity  and fruity with blackberry, vanilla, cacao, and spice flavors.  Medium finish. – 88pts

Recommendation: I enjoyed this wine even more than the Redtree (which is lighter-bodied style wine). It’s a great value at $10.   If you’re a fan of Petite Sirah, (or for that matter Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah) and are looking for an everyday wine, give this one a try.

Details

  • Alcohol: 13.0%
  • Residual Sugar: 0.46%
  • SRP: $9.99 (purchased for $7.99 at World Market)
  •  Click here to find

Sparkling Wine Smackdown…Ten Sparklers; One Winner!

The most recent meeting of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) was all about bubbly.  It also happened to be the 2nd anniversary of the PPWTC.  It was a great night of bubbly, food, and friends.   It’s been most is gratifying to experience the growth, and evolution of our wine club, and its members.

I want to give a special shout out to Jojo and Joy for co-hosting these last couple of years.  They are always fabulous hosts, and throw a great party…er wine tasting club meeting ;-) second to none!

As for the 10 sparklers, it was a diverse group dominated by California sparklers, but that also included 2 bottles from Champagne, a Prosecco from Italy, and even a sparkler from Bulgaria (which turned out to be pretty much undrinkable – I knew something was up I pulled the plastic cork)!

All Set Up And Ready For The Sparkler Smackdown (photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The ten sparklers we blind-tasted, in order, were:

  1. NV Domaine Chandon Brut Classic (Napa Valley>Yountville)
  2. NV Trader Joe’s Blanc de Blancs (California)
  3. NV Mumm Napa Cuvée Napa Brut (Napa Valley)
  4. NV Sarl Chopin Champagne Charles de Marques Brut (Champagne)
  5. NV La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano Tiffany Blue Label (Italy>Veneto>Prosecco>Conegliano)
  6. NV Nicolas Feuilatte Champagne (Champagne)
  7. NV Gloria Ferrer Brut (Sonoma County)
  8. 2007 Domaine Carneros Brut (Napa Valley>Carneros)
  9. NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige (Napa Valley)
  10. NV Christa Sparkling White Wine (Targovishte, Bulgaria)

PPWTC 2nd Anniversary Photo (photo courtesy of Jojo Ong)

The winner with an average score of 89.6 point is….

NV La Marca Prosecco di Conegliano Tiffany Blue Label

No surprise here for me.  Prosecco is fruity and easy, and this one is very good!  Around $12. Here’s a tasting note from the La Marca website:

This sparkling wine is pale, golden straw in color. Bubbles are full textured and
persistent. On the nose the wine brings fresh citrus with hints of honey and white floral
notes. The flavor is fresh and clean, with ripe citrus, lemon, green apple, and touches of
grapefruit, minerality, and some toast. The finish is light, refreshing, and crisp

It’s widely available…pick up a bottle and give it a try! Cheers!