No Reservations Wine Tasting – Ridge Vineyards

My wife and I do more than our fair share of wine tasting.  We’ve hit all the major wine regions in California (and a few minor ones too;-), along with some tasting in Oregon and Spain.  From time to time we have a wine tasting experience that stands above the rest, and is everything we’re looking for – great wine and commendable service in a relaxed unpretentious environment. It’s those such experiences that are the focus of this “No Reservations” series.  Why “No Reservations”? Because I can honesty say I have “No Reservations”  about recommending the winery anyone who is looking for a great wine tasting experience.  The latest in this series features Ridge Vineyards, which has two tasting rooms - Monte Bello in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Lytton Springs in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County.

My complete review of Ridge Vineyards tasting rooms, including history, a recap of the tasting experience – including reviews of wines tasted may be found at the American Winery Guide’s website (For Monte Bello click here; For Lytton Springs click here)

Here are three (among many) things to know about Ridge….

No. 1. Always on a high:

Ridge Mtn Top View 1

The heart of Ridge Vineyards beats just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, in the inhospitable Santa Cruz Mountains. The AVA is said to be the coldest Cabernet Sauvignon-producing area in California, thanks to cool maritime winds and vineyards at altitude. The original Monte Bello vineyard was planted near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in 1885. Today, the Monte Bello vineyards range from 1,300 feet all the way up to the original site at 2,700 feet above sea level.

No. 2. One producer, many sites

Ridge Lytton Springs Sign

While Monte Bello is the birthplace of Ridge Vineyards – and home to perhaps the most elegant Cabernet Sauvignon in California – winemaker Paul Draper and his crew must also tend vineyards in Sonoma, the Alexander Valley and Paso Robles.

North of San Francisco lies Zinfandel-focused Lytton Springs and the 130-year-old Geyserville Vineyard. Since purchasing Lytton Springs in 1991, Ridge has built a new winery, using traditional techniques such as straw-bale insulation and clay-soil plaster sourced from the surrounding vineyards. But a solar-paneled roof puts it firmly in the 21st century.

No. 3. 50 years of bond:

Ridge History

Nothing to do with 007, but rather the fact that in 2012, Ridge celebrated 50 years of being a bonded winery. While the winery made its first wine more than 120 years ago, the vineyards were abandoned under Prohibition. It took a religious intervention to get Monte Bello back on its feet. Theologian William Short, who owned abandoned vineyard land below the original property, replanted some Cabernet Sauvignon vines in 1949.

However, it would be another decade before Dave Bennion and three engineering colleagues from Stanford Research Institute produced a quarter-barrel of Monte Bello Cabernet. Astonished by the quality of the wine, the group re-bonded the winery in time for the 1962 vintage. Draper tasted the fruits of their labor and was so impressed he joined the winery in 1969.

“I’d had the opportunity to taste great Bordeauxs when they were cheap, compared to what they cost today,” Draper recalls. When he sampled the 1962 and 1964 Monte Bello, “they were the most complex Cabernets I had tasted from California.” Fifty years later, the winery can still justifiably make that claim.

Note: Source of quotes

Related posts you might enjoy:
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Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2008 Ridge Lytton Springs

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2008 Ridge Lytton Springs.

The Winery

Ridge Vineyards  is a California winery with two estates, Monte Bello in Cupertino, and Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  They are best known for producing single-vineyard premium Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay.  Ridge was established by four engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI).  They produced its first commercial wine in 1962 after purchasing the winery in 1959, and producing at half-barrel of wine.

Great wines have always been determined by their site – by nature, not by man – Paul Draper

It wasn’t too long after that, that Ridge gained an international  rep when the  Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper , took fifth place in the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 against nine other French and California wines.  Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

Ridge has four estate vineyards, Monte Bello , Geyserville, Lytton Springs, and their newest property East Bench.

The Wine

Lytton Springs (along with the Ridge Geyserville have been benchmarks for California Zinfandel focused blends for decades.  Fruit for this wine is sourced from the Lytton Estate, which is located on the bench and hills separating Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County.  The vineyard is composed of Lytton East planted to 100-plus-year-old Zinfandel, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Carignane (42 acres), and Lytton West planted to Zinfandel, and small amounts of Carignane, planted 1953 (33 acres); Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Mataro (Mourvèdre), planted 1989 to 1998 (54 acres).

In 1972, Ridge made its first Lytton Springs from vines planted on the eastern half of the vineyard at the turn of the century, and purchased both the eastern and western portions of the vineyard in the early 1990s…

It’s a blend of 74% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, and 5% Carignane. Thirty-four vineyard parcels were fermented separately on native yeast. Thereafter the wine was aged 15 months in 100% air-dried american oak barrels (20% new; 55% one, two and three years old; 25% four and five years old)

Alcohol;14.4% Suggested retail price; $47 – But you can find this wine for much less online.

photo (18)

My tasting notes follow:

Aromatic black and red fruits, cedarwood, spice and a hint of caramel aromas. Medium-bodied, elegant, and fresh with a supple texture and well integrated dusty tannins. Flavor-wise it’s a  haunting melange of black cherry, blackberry fig, and spice. Long finish. It’s relatively young.  It will easily age well for another 10 years!

Rating: A-  If you’re looking for a sophisticated, elegant Zinfandel based blend; look no further.  Lytton Springs is a perennial favorite!

Pair with: BBQ Chicken, Pulled pork, or if you’re more adventurous Indian food, smoked Ahi Tuna,  Duck Fat-Fried Fingerling Potatoes with blue-cheese fondue, or Roasted Vegetables with Sherry Dressing

Sample purchased for review

Related posts you might enjoy:

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2009 Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate.

The Winery

Ridge Vineyards  is a California winery with two estates, Monte Bello in Cupertino, and Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  They are best known for producing single-vineyard premium Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay.  Ridge was established by three engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI).  They produced its first commercial wine in 1962 after purchasing the winery in 1960.

Great wines have always been determined by their site – by nature, not by man – Paul Draper

It wasn’t too long after that, that Ridge gained an international  rep when the  Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper , took fifth place in the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 against nine other French and California wines.  Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

Ridge has four estate vineyards, Monte Bello (first commercial release was in 1962), Geyserville (first release 1966), Lytton Springs (first release 1972), and their newest property East Bench.

The Wine

Many think of the Ridge Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon as a baby “Monte Bello”, Ridge’s flagship Bordeaux blend.  The grapes are sourced from the same estate vineyard. But it’s produced to be more accessible and develop it’s complexity sooner (the common rule of thumb is wait 10 years before Monte Bello hits its stride).

It’s a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Merlot.  It was fermented on native yeasts and aged for nineteen months in primarily used air-dried American oak barrels (only 15% new).   Drink now; but it will continue to develop for at least another 10 years.

Alcohol;13.8% Suggested retail price; $40 >Find this wine<

photo 1 (3)

My tasting notes follow:

Carmine color with earthy dark red fruit, tobacco, toasty oak and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with deep, rich, pure cassis, black cherry, and mineral flavors . It’s well-balanced, and refined with soft fine-grained tannins, a long finish and a nice vein of acidity. 

Rating: A-  – How good is this wine?  I attended a Ridge Blogger tasting where many very experienced tasters thought this wine was a Monte Bello – a wine that sells for 4x the price!

Pair with: A grilled Rib-eye or filet mignon come to mind, but I’d also consider pairing this elegant wine with grilled, braised or roasted, lamb, venison, pork, chicken, or even duck.

Sample purchased for review

Related post you might enjoy:

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Let The Good Times Roll(Twice!)at Ridge Vineyards

My wife and I decided to kick off California Wine Month by checking out the Ridge Vineyards Fall Release Celebration at Monte Bello (“MB”).  So as soon as the event was announced, we RSVP’d and eagerly anticipated attending the event on September 1st.

However, not long after we decided to check out the Monte Bello Fall Release Celebration, we received an invite for the Lytton Springs Fall Release Celebration.  While, the wines were the same (although I had a feeling Ridge would pull something different out of their magic “library” hat for the Lytton Springs event), the menu featured completely different gastronomic delights so tempting we decided to check, the Lytton Springs celebration too!

Back-to back weekends of wine and food happiness…now that’s what I’m talking about!

The five Fall Release wines featured at both events were:

Here’s how it went down at Monte Bello

Join us as we celebrate the release of our newest fall wines. Our winemaking team will be on hand to discuss the vintage and sample a variety of wines with you. We are very pleased to announce the annual return of Pizza Politana for this event! If you’ve been here to experience their amazing food-truck spin on wood-fired pizza before, then you already know how delicious this event will be, but if you’ve yet to experience this unique rendition of oeno-culinary magic… you’ll be amazed!

 

It was an absofreakinglutely beautiful day! The skies were blue and beautiful, in the mid-70s, and no breeze to speak of.  It was the kind of day that can make one wonder why anybody would want to live anywhere other than Northern California…

Up on the Ridge

One of the first things we noticed when we arrived at Monte Bellow is the relatively new facelift the winery has undergone, especially to the hilltop area in front of the winery.  It been upgraded to include more tables and made into a wonderful space for a picnic with a glass of wine and taking in the panoramic view of the Silicon Valley.

Down to business…First stop…a splash of the 2010 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay….an instant classic that’s still young, but shows great structure.  It’s opulent, but surprisingly vibrant,  with a harmonious stone-fruit, tropical fruit, mineral character. Long  satisfying finish.  If you haven’t already snagged some, it’s too late, it’s sold out.  Glad I had a chance to taste it!

Monte Bello Chard

Ridge knows how to get a party started – First up – an instant classic – the 2010 Monte Bello Chardonnay

With a splash of the Monte Bello Chard in hand, we headed over to the Pizza Politana station to see what imaginative wood-fired pizza yumminess was in store…

Check out the menu and suggested pairings!

Pizza Menu

(And to my delight, there is was – a little sumthin, sumthin from the library, the 2006 Geyserville!)

Since the Fig, Bacon, Goat Cheese pizza recommended for our Monte Bello Chard wasn’t ready, we happily drained our glasses and headed over to the barn. That’s where the Zins were being poured…

2011 Ponzo Zinfandel - Pretty cherry, raspberry spice and subtle floral aromas.  On the palate, it’s energetic, and velvety with flavors that follow the aromas.  Seriously delightful on its own or at the table.

2011 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel - A bigger wine that the Ponzo, with a bit more pronounced and complex aromatics. Exuberant cherry, raspberry, spiced oak, and a bit of eucalyptus leap from the glass.   Wonderful balance of ripe red fruits, tannins, and acidity. Long finish. 

2011 Ridge Lytton Springs - Superbly balanced.  Wonderful acidity. Gorgeous red fruit, sweet spice and bramble aromas; with ample black cherry, red currant, and spice flavors with a long lip-smacking finish. 

Then we headed over to the tasting room, where they were pouring:

2006 Ridge Geyserville - Lovely aromatics  with a melange of red fruits, spiced menthol, and subtle oak.  It’s finessed, supple and well-balanced.  It the kind of wine that makes you just want to sit with, and wait for it to reveal its nuanced layers of intriguing aromas and flavors.   Fantastic with Kale, Sausage and Pecorino Pizza! 

And last but not least…

2010 Ridge Monte Bello - Another instant classic! This vintage includes all 4 Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cab Franc. Billowing, complex, dark fruit, mineral, violets, and earthy aromas.  Layers of  blackberry, black currant, raspberry fruit with vanillin oak.  Balanced, and beautifully detailed with youthful sweet tannins.  Long finish.  Needs time to mature…the $64k question is…Can I wait?

2010 Monte Bello Anyone

TBD – The Big Dog – Monte Bello!

More oft than not, when we go to a Ridge event, we end up buying a bottle of wine.  This gorgeous day demanded it!

It’s just  that the wines are some damned enjoyable and satisfying, that I always reach a point when I want a glass of wine.

Not another metered tasting room pour…

Yes…a proper glass of wine…

2011 Lytton Springs Half Bottle So we picked up a half-bottle of the 2011 Lytton Springs,  and headed up the hill for the best seats in the house for the sweet Jazz stylings of Real Time…

real time

and proceeded to chill, while savoring the beautiful day, distinctive wines and killer pizza.

My favorite pairing of the day was the 2010 Monte Bello Chardonnay and this…

Fig Pizza

Figs, Zoe’s Bacon, Goat Cheese & Arugula.

(It barely edged out the Lytton Springs + Summer squash, black olive ricotta pairing – though all the recommended pairings were fabulous)

My wine of the day was the 2006 Geyserville – a sublime wine with a bit of age that’s showing superbly now..

The following weekend, we were off to Healdsburg – here’s how it went down at Lytton Springs (recently included on Food& Wine Best California Wineries To Visit)…

Unlike the perfect weather from the previous weekend, the day we visited Lytton Spring (“LS”) it was HOT (it was 93 degrees and climbing when we left – btw my hat’s off to the LS team for somehow keeping ALL the wines at appropriate serving temperature range – Bravo!).

photo (17)

The theme was a virtual wine and food world tour with Spain, France, Argentina, Korea, and of course Sonoma County representing!

photo (14)

Check out the food and wine pairing menu!

  • Spain Bodega Rock Fish Fritters, Allioli & Romesco to pair with 2010 Monte Bello Chardonnay
  • France Duck Fat Fried Fingerling Potatoes, Jasper Farms Blue Fondue to pair with 2011 Lytton Springs
  • Argentina Grilled Sonoma Lamb Brochettas, Padron Pepper Chimichurri to pair with 2011 Pagani
  • Sonoma Edamame & Avocado Hummus Flatbread, Radishes and Pickled Red Onion to pair with 2011 Ponzo
  • Korea Grilled Korean Kalbi Short Ribs, Jasmine Rice, Gravenstein Apple Kimchi to pair with 2010 Monte Bello Cabernet

On top of that, the library selection was the Ridge 2005 Lytton Springs - Intriguing dark fruit, earth, bramble, mint, and spice aromas.  Silky smooth, harmonious, and complex with plum, cassis, bittersweet chocolate, mineral and spice flavors.  Long finish

photo (15)

My favorite wine and food pairing was the “Argentina” – My sweet Lord, the fruit and spice profile of the Pagani was a the perfect complement to the spice of the Padron Pepper Chimichurri (which can be a challenge to pair – especially with a red)!

My wine of the day was the 2005 Lytton Springs.

If you know Ridge, then you already know the wines are the truth across the board.   Having been to a few Ridge events, I must say that the foods they offer up to pair with their wines are also the truth.  It’s obvious that Ridge puts a ton of care and feeding;-) into their food and wine pairings, and it shows – All the suggested pairings were on point (I must confess, I did a double take when I saw the suggested Grilled Korean Short Ribs paired with the Monte Bello – but damned if it wasn’t a delightful pairing)!

photo (18)

Barrel Room at Ridge Lytton Springs

We had a great time at both events and it was interesting to compare and contrast the two experiences.

Monte Bello has those gorgeous panoramic mountain top views, the Jazz, and the wonderous pizza served up by Pizza Politana.  But, it was more challenging to revisit specific wine and food pairings because, the pizza you wanted may or may not be ready, when you were. Funny thing is –  one a few occasions, the wine in my glass disappeared before the particular pizza I wanted appeared!

On the other hand, it was easy to revisit wine and food pairings at Lytton Springs, the tasting room is more spacious, and it’s hard to beat the bucolic vibe at LS.  I could sit and admire the vineyard there for hours. I also very much appreciated the opportunity to taste the current and 2005 vintage of the Lytton Springs. What a joy it is to experience how a distinguished wine ages.

Overall, I preferred the Monte Bello experience.  But my wife preferred the Lytton Springs experience.

You can’t go wrong either way!

Related post:

Wine of the Week: 2009 Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot.

The Winery

Ridge Vineyards  is a California winery with two estates, Monte Bello in Cupertino, and Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  They are best known for producing single-vineyard premium Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay.  Ridge was established by three engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI).  They produced its first commercial wine in 1962 after purchasing the winery in 1960.

Great wines have always been determined by their site – by nature, not by man – Paul Draper

It wasn’t too long after that, that Ridge gained an international  rep when the  Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper , took fifth place in the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 against nine other French and California wines.  Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

The Wine

From the bottle – Ridge made a Merlot from the Monte Bello vineyard in 1974, 1976, and from 1991 to 1997; this is our first bottling since then.  In the excellent 2009 vintage, the Casa Grande parcel, and the six-acre of 25 acre were fermented separately and combined for limited release.

It underwent a whole-berry fermentation with native yeasts and was aged for twenty months in 75% new (25% year-old) air-dried American oak.

2009 Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot - Image courtesy of Ridge Vineyards

2009 Ridge Vineyards Estate Merlot – Image courtesy of Ridge Vineyards

My tasting notes follow:

Dark ruby color with aromatic black cherry, blueberry, cassis and a kiss of vanilla, and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, balanced and elegant with black cherry, blueberry, raspberry and vanilla flavors. Long finish. 14.2% alcohol.

Rating: A- 

Pair with: Grilled chops (veal, pork or lamb), or Mediterranean Vegetable Ragout On A Bed of Polenta

>Find this wine<

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Recap Of Passport To Dry Creek Valley 2013 – Day Two

Note: If you’re just checking in, you might want to check out the first post in this two-part series of my experience at Passport To Dry Creek Valley. My wife and I and couple of friends attended the 24th Annual Passport To Dry Creek Valley held April 27th and 28th.

Dry Creek Valley Wineries - Image courtesy of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Valley Wineries – Image courtesy of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Valley is a premium wine region in Sonoma County, California. It’s renown for its Zinfandel, but Dry Creek Valley, which is only  sixteen miles long by two miles wide offers a diverse range of vineyards, and world-class wines. The theme for this year’s event was “A Modern Tradition with Century-Old Roots I’ve been to beaucoup wine events, but what make this event special for me is the combination of wine, food, and entertainment. Check out the list of 52 participating wineries, and activities. With an event like this with wine, food pairing, and entertainment, I think it’s best to take one’s time, and enjoy it. It’s about quality rather than quality for me! As far as which wineries to visit, we have a list of perennial favorites (Bella, Mauritson, Quivira, Ridge, and Seghesio) to which we mix in some wineries that are new to us, and leave some room for “audibles” – on the fly changes to the itinerary based on a whim and/or the feedback we get from other attendees.

An Italian Family Tradition in Dry Creek Valley

Our first stop, A.Rafanelli Winery, wasn’t on our list.  It was an “audible” based on feedback from other #DCVPassporters we met at our hotel.  They told us we “had” to check it out because, it’s not usually open to the public, the food and wines were great, as was the entertainment, a trio singing traditional Italian songs. It sounded good, and we’d never been to Rafanelli before. ARafanelli Sign We arrived 15 minutes early and saw “The Line”…Apparently Rafanelli is a popular destination!  I had my doubts whether it would be worth the wait… ARafanelli Line To Rafanelli’s credit, there were a couple of gentlemen who came out and were pouring their estate 2011 Zinfandel and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon for the folks in line… Then there was this beautiful ’47 Packard to check out, and there was a trio singing Italian songs, so the wait (about 45 minutes) was bearable… ARafanelli Packard Once we did get inside though…let’s just say the menu was extensive.. ARafanelli menu No way you leave Rafanelli hungry, unless you choose too!  And of course, there was plenty more of their Zinfandel and Cab to be had (the Cabernet, though young was my favorite). Yeah…it was worth the wait!  And Rafanelli just might make the perennial list too!

Time to hit some perennial favorites!

A True Vineyard Farm

Our next stop was Quivira Vineyards and Winery, just up the road from Rafanelli.  It’s on our perennial list, in part, because they make one of my favorite Rosés, and it’s  a chance to pick up a few bottles, But we also look forward to their other wines, they serve great food, and we like the vibe of the place. quivira sign There’s always some cool stuff to check out. You can stroll in the gardens… Quivira garden …or check out the chickens when you’re there.  And for this year’s Passport, there was a Provençal Market theme with artisan goods for sale (we picked up some honey). We tasted five wines.  My favorite was the 2010 Mourvédre, which was excellently paired with a Porcini Mushroom Royale! Quirvira Mouvedr Pairing

 140 Years of Farming In Dry Creek Valley, and Nom, Noms Galore

Next up was Mauritson Family Winery. Great wine and food provided by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. Full stop. Mauritson Passport DCV sign Hmmm…where do we begin this leg of our journey? mauritson diver scallops sign With a white of course! Main Lobster and Diver Scallop?…yes, please!

Smoked Duck Tacos.  They were paired with 2011 Charlie Clay Pinot Noir

Smoked Duck Tacos. They were paired with 2011 Charlie Clay Pinot Noir

Smoked duck tacos and Pinot…you had me at Smoked Duck… Mauritson RockpileAnd yes, you also had me at “Rockpile”!  My favorite wine was the 2011 Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel!

Iconic Vines and Wines

Last, but certainly not least, of the perennial favorites for the day was Ridge Vineyards. Since it was our fourth winery, we decided to slow it down, and relax a bit.  Ridge was the perfect place to do it!   We sat on the shaded patio, and sipped their superb wines, and took in the view. The wines, the view..it was one of those all too rare moments when… Ridge patio view to vineyards Oh, did I mention the Sonoma Duck Mole with Corn Spoon Bread, and Spring Onion Pico? Ridge smoked duck moleWe tasted five wines at Ridge.  It came down to either the 2011 Geyersville or the 2008 Lytton Estate Syrah as my favorite.  So, was the Geyserville or the Lytton Estate Syrah my favorite?  Yes!

“One-Stop Shopping”

Buoyed after our break at Ridge, we decided to visit four wineries located in the Timber Crest Collective adjacent to the Family Wineries Dry Creek Co-op Tasting Room - Amphora, Peterson, Kokomo, and Papaprieto-Perry.

Amphora Winery

For owner and winemaker Rick Hutchinson art, wine, and life are inextricably interwoven. He’s worked in the wine business in Sonoma for 20+ years.  The winery is named after clay jars used by ancient Greeks and Romans to store.

Amphora was tasting four paired with food from Saltwater, plus four additional wines.  Since I was the driver, I tasted four of the wines. My favorite was the 2007 Sangiovese Dry Creek Valley, and it was a great pairing was with Chicken Live Pate on a toasted baguette.

Peterson Winery

Father/son team of Fred and Jamie Peterson are the proprietors this eponymous winery, which is housed in the “Big Red Barn”. The winery celebrated 25 years in business last year!

They had a nice line up of six wines, including a very nice and refreshing Rosé. And there was plenty of Mexican food on hand! My favorite wine was their 2010 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel.  It paired so well with the Mexican food!

Kokomo Winery

Kokomo Wines is proudly named after Owner/winemaker’s Erik’s Miller’s hometown of Kokomo, Indiana.  When we arrived…

kokomo winery

The band had it goin’ on!…

Band at Kokomo

Rovetti & Meatballs featuring Hilary Williams

They were pouring their great Rosé, and five other wines on the Patio, in the Cellar and at the Bar.  It was a nice mix of wines too, the aforementioned Rosé, a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Four of the wines were wonderfully paired with a likewise diverse sample of foods from K. King Catering.

Kokomo got my prize for “most unusual food pairing that worked”…Mini corn dog muffins with Chardonnay Mustard…

Mini Corn Dog Muffins with Chardonnay mustard

Mini Corn Dog Muffins with Chardonnay mustard

They were paired with their 2010 Primitivo, Timber Crest Vineyard. It was a toss-up between their excellent 2012 Grenache Rosé, and the Primitivo as my favorite.

Papapietro-Perry Winery

Founded in 1998, Papapietro-Perry (“P-P”) is a boutique winery focused on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry met in the newspaper business, made premium garage wine for some time before going commercial starting with 75 cases of wine.

Check out this beauty…Papaprieto Car

Papapietro had a “Celebration of New Orleans” theme.  The offered four different Pinot Noirs paired with “Big Easy Bread Pudding with Andouille Sausage and Gravy” from Park Avenue Catering.  But my favorite wine was their 2009 Pinot Noir ~ Pommard Clones ~ Russian River Valley, an off-list wine, but all their Pinots were fabulous! If Pinot Noir is your wine of choice, P-P is a must visit!

Adventurer, Cyclist, Educator

Our final stop for the day was Dutcher Crossing Vineyards and Winery.  It’s a small winery owned by Debra Mathy.  She was an educator by training, but had dreamed of owning a winery since she went on a trip to Europe in high school.  In 2007, motivated by her father, and after a long search, she instantly fell for Dutcher Crossingin Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley.

The food and wine pairing menu for Passport included Sauvignon Blanc (paired with Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Chévre – Killer!), their excellent Stuhlmuller Chardonnay, a Zinfandel, Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a couple of barrel samples (2012 Mabaroshi Vineyard Pinot, and 2012 Maple Vineyard “Bills Block” Zinfandel”) They also had a Port-style dessert wine.

Dutcher Crossing winemaker

Dutcher Crossing Winemaker – Kerry Damskey

Since it was our last visit of the day, and it’s such a beautiful property we took some time to take in the gorgeous serenity of the place while we savored their wine and food pairings. Dutcher Crossing View 2 My favorites were the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, and the 2010 Proprietors’s Reserve Cab, which was excellently paired with Shredded Lamb Tacos!

Conclusion

We visited sixteen wineries over the two days.  There was plenty of outstanding wine, food and entertainment!  As I reminisce about our experience was strikes me most is the diversity of wines that was my favorite. While Dry Creek Valley has seemingly built its reputation on Zinfandel, the wineries of Dry Creek Valley offer so much more for wine lovers!  

Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be back again next year!

Related posts you might enjoy:

For more information about the Passport to Dry Creek Valley check out the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley 

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers! This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

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:

Ridge Vineyards Post #Harvest2012 Celebration Tasting

I’ve been into, as I refer to it, “the wine thing” for a few years now, including starting this blog in 2010. And each year I’ve found myself becoming more and more fascinated, not just with the finding and consuming wine, but also with how wine is produced. Not so much how wine is made, but more so the decisions made along the way from the vineyard to the bottle.  So when Ridge Vineyards announced their #Harvest2012 celebration tasting, a unique experience including:

  • A brief talk from (and Q & A session with) a key member of our Monte Bello Vineyard Team
  • A multi-media presentation from a staff member embedded with the Vineyard Teams
  • A five-wine Single-Vineyard Estate flight that concludes with a very special library offering
I RSVP’d in the affirmative quick, fast and in a hurry!

As we headed up the winding road up the mountain to Ridge, I was eagerly anticipating our arrival because it was a spectacular day weather-wise.  And as I hoped, when we arrived,we were rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the Bay Area.

Panoramic view of the South Bay from Monte Bello suite

Panoramic view of the South Bay from Monte Bello suite

The Monte Bello Suite patio was an ideal place to be on such a beautiful day.  There was only one challenge…

The wine was in this beautifully rustic room…

The Monte Bello Suite, situated off the historic Torre Winery Barn

The Monte Bello Suite, situated off the historic Torre Winery Barn – Image courtesy of Ridge Vineyards

After our all the members of our group arrived and we were all gathered around the table, Christopher Watkins, Ridge’s indefatigable ambassador and Tasting Room Manager introduced us a couple of members of the Monte Bello vineyard team –  Kyle Theriot, Monte Bello Viticulturist and Sam, whom I know from the Tasting Room, but who got his start Operations side of Ridge.

After some brief introductory comments by Christopher, the wine and the conversation began to flow.

Here are some factoids presented by Ridge for their #Harvest2012:

  • 282.5 ton grapes picked
  • First grapes harvested; Chardonnay/Last grapes harvested; 63-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Lowest ton/acre = Cabernet Sauvignon: 1.5 tons/acre
  • Highest ton/acre = Merlot; 3.63 tons/acre
  • .50 tons of grapes – 1 barrel – 24 cases – 288 bottles
  • 40% of vines harvested on Monte Bello are certified organic

There was plenty of good conversation about the Harvest, and of course the flight of five wines we were served ( not to mention some fine charcuterie and cheeses!)

Among the things I found more interesting were:

  • There is Zinfandel planted on Monte Bello!; The fruit goes into the Three Valleys bottling
  • Santa Clara County  was the epicenter of California viticulture before prohibition
  • One of the questions asked was “Are the grapes ever washed”?  I must confess I’d never thought about it before.  The answer was “No” because washing would wash off the native yeast.
  • The differences in how wine ages in a  half bottle (375ml) compared to a full bottle ( 750ml).  This came up because the ’92 Monte Bello we tasted was poured from a 375ml bottle.  Sam indicated that’s because it was felt the wine was showing better from the  smaller bottle.  Why?  Because, it aged faster in the smaller bottle.  Presumably, because of the relative differences in surface area for a given volume, wines in smaller bottles age faster than wines in larger bottles.

During the course of our conversation with the Monte Bello team, one another and the wine (you do have a conversation with your wine don’t you, or is it only me? ;-) this video was cued up:

It’s a fascinating look at the the grape picking process via a “canopy cam”. It was amazing to watch the skill and speed with which grapes were harvested…

As our dialogue continued, the topic of a “wine build to age” arose.  This is a question, I’ve wondered about many times.  I’ve wondered is the grapes? Is the barrels, Is it the length of time in barrel?  It turns out the answer is “all of the above”, and then some.  Of course the best fruit is picked, then Sam mentioned the importance of sorting said fruit on a contraption called a mistral sorting table.  The mistral is a sophisticated machine that sorts the fruit in such a way that only the cleanest, purest fruit gets crushed. A relative small number of wineries use mistral sorting tables (I’m sure they cost a bunch-o-money, so it’s cost prohibitive).  Once the fruit is picked, sorted and crushed, there are also differences in how the fruit is processed (frequency of pumpovers, percentage of new barrels used for aging, etc.) Fascinating stuff in my mind…

As for the tasting itself, my tasting notes follow:

  • 2007 Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium straw yellow color with creamy tropical, apple, mineral, and a hint of creme brulee aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, with a creamy plush mouthfeel followed by apple, citrus, mineral, and sweet oak flavors. Medium-long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Medium garnet color with black cherry liqueur, plum and dried herb aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied and focused with wonderful acidity and savory black cherry, raspberry, and vanilla flavors. Long finish.(90 pts.)
  • 2009 Ridge Merlot Torre Ranch Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Violet color with aromatic beautiful black and fruits, violet, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, fresh, complex, and balanced with smooth tannins and blackberry, raspberry, cassis and mineral flavors. Long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Garnet color with perfumed earthy black cherry, cassis, licorice, sweet oak and a bit of dark chocolate aromas (it really depends on when you sniffing it. It’s showing a wonderful complexity which is manifest in evolving aromas with time spent in the glass – hell even when the glass was empty the aromas were still very present and inviting). On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, complex and balanced with dusty tannins and black cherry, cassis, licorice flavors. Long finish. Double-decanted 30-45 minutes prior to tasting. Showing better than when I tasted a couple of months ago. Still young, but already a classic! (94 pts.)
  • 1992 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium garnet color with earthy, cassis, black cherry aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fresh, complex, and balanced with well-integrated sweet tannins, and cassis, black cherry, and mineral flavors. Long finish. From 375 ml (92 pts.)

The burning question at our end of the table after tasting through the wines was “Do you prefer the ’92 Monte Bello,or the ’09 Monte Bello?”.  There were 8 of us who participated in the discussion.  What I found interesting about it is that the preference was based on gender.  All the men (3) preferring the ’92,and the women preferring the ’09. Hmmm…

It was a brilliant learning, sensory, and fun experience, and one I highly recommend!

 

Ridge Vineyards’ 50th Anniversary Harvest Celebration

We attended the Ridge Vineyards 50th Anniversary Harvest Celebration last weekend.  I’m literally smiling as I type this because the lyrics to Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day” (with a nod to the Isley Bros for “Footstep In The Dark” track) are running through my head as I reflect on the magnificence of the day.  I’m not trippin’ on the gangsta rap lyrics in the song  because behind the lyrics is a message – It’s the simple pleasures in life that bring us the most pleasure.  Yeah…it was one of those days for me..

First of, it turned out to be a surprisingly beautiful day.  When we left the house, it was overcast and the jackets were packed, but as we drove South, the clouds gave way to the sun, and by the time we arrived at the top of Monte Bello Ridge, it was pure gorgeousness.  The kind of day that inspires a smile, even now, as I think  of it now…It’s the simple things…

Gorgeous Day on Monte Bello Ridge with panoramic view of the entire Bay Area

Gorgeous Day on Monte Bello Ridge with panoramic views of the entire Bay Area

While the gorgeous weather was an unexpected, great wine, food, and hospitality are always expected when you go to a Ridge event (ain’t no party like a Ridge party!) Despite my considerably high expectations, Ridge continues to over-deliver.  For example, I can’t say I’ve had a better “starter” wine to wet the whistle and prepare my taste buds for the resplendent Ridge reds than than this one…

  • 2010 Ridge Chardonnay Estate - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light straw yellow color with tropical fruit, butterscotch, and vanilla aromas. n the palate it’s smooth with nice amplitude, and acidity accompanied by apple, pineapple, butterscotch, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. (90 pts.)
There were some cool signs posted around the barn so there was a rustic museum-y thing going on…
Ridge Landmark signs

One of several Ridge signs denoting significant historical moments in Ridge’s history

I did my tasting thing before indulging in any wood-fired pizza prepared by  Pizza Politana (um…my wife and her friend got busy…yeah..it was basically see ya later…sucka!).

Here’s my tasting notes…

  • 2010 Ridge Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (Suggested Pizza pairing; Housemade Pork Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Mozzarella, Fresh Tomato Sauce)Medium garnet color with bright raspberry, cherry, mineral, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with black cherry, raspberry, mineral and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. 96% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Sirah. (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark garnet color with aromatic kirsch, brown sugar, and slight smoke aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fruity – yet balanced with black cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Long finish. 82% Zinfandel, 16% Alicanted Bouschet, 2% Petite Sirah (91 pts.)  My wine of the day!  It was an other worldly pairing with the suggested Smithfield Ham, Fromage Blanc, Arugula & Nectarine pizza!
  • 2009 Ridge Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains (Suggested Pizza Pairing; Fennel Salami, Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella & Parmesan)
    Garnet color with earthy, dark fruit aromas that reveal themselves over time. I vividly recall now – 24 hours later how I stuck my in the empty glass this wine was in, and it offered lifted roast coffee aromas I didn’t pick up on when I first sniffed this wine…On the palate, it’s full-bodied, with cherry, cassis earthy, and mineral flavors Long finish. This one is Lebron James at age 17 – you just know it will evolve to greatness, but it’s not there yet. 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 6% petit verdot (93 pts.)

Ridge always has a sumthin’ sumthin’ wine-wise that’s not on the menu when go to one of their events…but before I get to that..the pizza (actually it was so damn good let’s go with  capital “P”)…the Pizza….viola! Le menu!

Pizza Politana

I would have loved to taken a pretty picture of a full pie, they disappears so damn fast that was impossible!

My favorite – Smithfield Ham, Fromage Blanc, Arugula & Nectarine pizza!

After tasting in the barn it was back down in the tasting room where these three beauties awaited…

  • 2010 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with fresh dark fruit, kirsch, brown sugar, and herbal aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, fresh, round and with a nervy acidity, and black cherry and spice flavors. Long finish. Approachable now but will get better with time. 67% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, 7% Carignane, 3% Mataro. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Ridge Zinfandel Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Garnet color with slightly earthy dark fruit, and leather aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied with black cherry, raspberry, and plum flavors. Long finish. 71% Zinfandel, 29% Petite Sirah (92 pts.)
  • 2003 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Brickish red-brown color with cassis, earth, leather and dark fruit aromas. On the palate, it medium-full bodied and exceedingly smooth with blueberry, cassis. Long finish. This one was the “Most Interesting Man In The World” wine of the day- smooth, sophisticated, and debonair.  Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc (91 pts.)
After we had our fill of wine and pizza, we decided – Enough sampling already and threw down for a bottle…
found a few chairs under a shady olive tree, and savored the day while listening to the dulcet sounds of ”Real Time” – a fantastic Jazz band that laid down a funk-laced instrumental version of the Stylistic’s classic “People Make The World Go Round” that was one if the best I’ve ever heard!

Real Time puttin’ it down!

It’s truly the simple things –  like sitting under a shady tree surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye can see, on a absolutely beautiful sunny day, sated with PIzza perfectly paired with great wine, and with a great glass of wine in hand chillin’ to some great Jazz….Yeah…It was a good day!

 

#SundaySupper – Celebrating Independence Day with Family, Friends, Food and Wine!

I don’t necessarily think of myself as being very patriotic, but each year around this time we sing “America The Beautiful” at my church, and it chokes me up each time! I truly appreciate this great nation of ours, and feel blessed to be an American.  And that’s what the Fourth of July is about for me.  Okay – well that,  and it’s a great reason to gather with family, and friends share great food and wine!

My food blogging friends have outdone themselves with this week’s #SundaySupper theme – Celebrating Fourth of July with Family and Friends.  It’s big fun, and an honor for a self-described “Wino with latent foodie tendencies” such as myself, to offer some wonderful wines recommendations to match these great recipes!

Here’s a list of this week’s recipes and my recommended wines!

Pair these main course dishes with Zinfandel, an All-American wine if there ever was one!  I recommend the 2009 Ridge Vineyard “Three Valleys” Sonoma Zinfandel Blend.  It’s mostly Zinfandel with some Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Syrah invited to the party.  It’s well-balanced with great fruit, acidity, and a bit of spice!

Pair these main course dishes with a Pinot Noir.  I recommend the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Central Coast Pinot Noir.  This one shows plenty of classic Pinot Noir red fruit flavors and acidity.  And Pinot Noir can take a chill.  Throw it in the ice bucket for 10-15 minutes and you’ll have a delightfully chilled food partner!

What’s the Fourth of July without some sparkle?!  A sparkling Rosé is a great wine for your Independence Day culinary festivities.  It’ll do double duty with these salads/sides and main dishes. Try the Barefoot Bubbly Rosé Cuvée.

Riesling is the white wine version of a “Chef’s wine” because it’s so food friendly.  The 2010 Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling will be a great match for these ethnic dishes!

Try these salads and sides with a Sauvignon Blanc.  It’s one of the few wines that’ll be a good match for asparagus.  Sauvignon Blanc (a.k.a. Fumé Blanc – it’s the same wine) is a very versatile wine, and has a bold and forthright personality.  Look for the 2010 Dry Creek Vineyard Sonoma County Fumé Blanc. 

For these salads and sides, Chardonnay, America’s favorite white wine, will be great match.  Look for the 2010 Napa Cellars Napa Valley Chardonnay.
Here’s another bubbly that’ll do double duty.  Try an Extra-Dry Sparkling wine with these salads/side and desserts.  The Chandon Extra Dry Riche has got a bit of sweetness that partners well with spicy fare as well as fruity desserts.
As for the last of the salads and sides?  This one needs no wine pairing because it’s made with one of my favorite Fourth of July beverages – Sangria! 
These desserts will be a pair nicely with a late harvest Riesling.  Late harvest wines, as their description implies are wines produced from grapes that are picked late in the season  The extra “hang-time” means the grapes have a higher sugar content, and are therefore sweeter.  I recommend the 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Late Harvest White Riesling.  

For these desserts, I recommend a Port.  Look for Graham’s “Six Grapes” Port.

I hereby raise a virtual glass, and I say to you – “Here’s to making memories!”  - because that’s what family, friends, great food and wine are all about! – Cheers!