self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico
and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National
Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale
code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates
locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area,
and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals,
such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and
ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport
fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing,
backpacking, mountain climbing.
New Zinfandels - April 12, 2000
Old Ridge Zinfandels
Tuning up for the Ridge tasting in LA this weekend, tasted last night some more Ridge Zins from the archives (with original purchase price):
Ridge Zinfandel Geyserville (12.7%) '72: Light color w/ some bricking; slight bretty strong tobaccoy/cigar box/cedary/old Zinfandel nose; soft smooth rather tired/metallic strong cedary/cigar box/tobaccoy/old Zinfandel complex flavor; short smooth tobaccoy/cigar box/old Zinfandel finish w/ no tannins; very nice old Zinfandel nose but a bit dried out & tired on the palate, though quite smooth & polished. $6.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Paso Robles DusiRanch (14.6%) '78: Med.dark color; lovely complex/spicy/dusty bit smokey/coffee nose; rather spicy/cedary/light dusty/ bit blackberry complex slight raisened tart flavor; med.long bit raisened complex/dusty/earthy/spicy/peppery finish w/ light tannins; lots of very spicy character & still a very alive Zinfandel. $6.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel York Creek (13.9%) '80: Med.dark color; fragrant/complex/ lots of raspberry/licorice/smokey/pungent nose; soft rich licorice/pungent/ strong raspberry/blackberry slight toasty/charred flavor; long smooth/lush/ strong raspberry/blackberry/licorice/toasty/pungent finish w/ light tannins; a beautiful fully mature Zinfandel w/ lots of raspberry/licorice character; an 18 yr old Zinfandel w/ this much fruit??? Incredible! $8.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel York Creek (12.8%) '82: Med.dark color; slight dishwater/ swimming pool/musty rather earthy/dusty low raspberry fruit nose; tart/lean bit mousey/unclean dusty/tobaccoy/earthy no fruit flavor; med.long lean/ dried out bit metallic/musty weak raspberry finish w/ some tannins; rather tired & dried out & going down-hill. $10.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Langtry Road (12.8%) '73: Med.dark color; beautiful strong/ spicy/pungent/smokey/cedary/cigar box/tobaccoy/licorice bit blackberry very complex nose; tart bit dried out strong pungent/cigar box/cedary/toasty/ dusty bit blackberry flavor; long complex/cedary/tobaccoy/cigar box/old Zinfandel slight horsecollar finish w/ light tannins; a bit dried out on the palate but in far better shape than the last '73 Geyserville I had 5-6 yrs ago. $6.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Howell Mountain Park-Muscatine (14.8%) '80: Very dark color; very intense dusty/earthy/blackberry/toasty/pungent ripe blackberry/boysenberry dusty HM Zinfandel nose; rather hard/tannic rich dusty/earthy some ripe/blackberry pungent/licorice very young flavor; very long dusty/earthy pungent/toasty/ blackberry/smokey/complex/cherry cough syrup some tannic finish; another 18 yr old Zinfandel in fantastic shape & could still use some more age. This is classic Howell Mountain Zinfandel at its best. $10.00
Ridge Napa Valley Claret Howell Mountain (RTW; 68% Zinfandel, 24% PS, 8% Carignane) '81: Very dark color; beautiful deep/pungent/licorice/smokey/dusty/cedary/very complex some blackberry nose; tart bit metallic strong pungent/complex/smokey/ dusty/licorice some blackberry flavor; very long bit tannic/astringent dusty/ earthy/pungent/smokey light blackberry bit bretty/horsecollar finish w/ some tannins; drying out a bit on the palate but a lovely complex mature Zinfandel. $10.00
Ridge Howell Mountain Park-Muscatine (13.2%) '82: Med.dark color; some fragrant/ blackberry toasty/pungent/dusty nose; tart bit dried out/metallic dusty/earthy light blackberry slight bretty/unclean flavor; med.long tannic/metallic some pungent/dusty slight bretty/horsecollar finish; interesting nose but a bit tired & dried out on the palate. $10.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Beatty Howell Mountain (12.9%) '83: Med.light color; slight bretty/ horsecollar dusty/earthy/smokey light blackberry some complex nose; tart rather lean/hard/tannic slight blackberry/black cherry/sour cherry bit pungent rather dried out flavor; med.long tart dusty/earthy light sour cherry/ pungent low fruit somewhat dried out/tannic finish; very interesting nose but dried out on the palate. $9.50
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Howell Mountain (85% Beatty Ranch, 10% Park-Muscatine, 5% Stout; 13.7%) '84: Med.dark color; interesting very spicy some blackberry rather buttery/oaked/cedary fairly complex nose; rich fairly lush raspberry/black- berry some cedary/buttery/pungent/oak flavor; long some raspberry/blackberry young cedary/buttery/oaked/pungent finish w/ light tannins; a very nice rather complex still young Zinfandel that's aging well; first one w/ an obvious oak component. $10.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Lytton Springs (13.3%) '74: Med.color w/ some bricking; some corked/musty nose clears a bit to light cedary/blackberry/pencilly/oaked nose; tart rich cedary/pencilly/smokey/toasty/pungent light blackberry bit dried out flavor; med.long bit astringent/dried out some pencilly/cedary/pungent/ toasty light blackberry finish; bit too corked in the nose and drying out on the palate. $6.00
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Lytton Springs (13.8%) '84: Med.color; rather volatile/EA/ bannana oil/esterhy appley very fragrant/perfumey/aromatic cranberry/plummy/ very spicy/exotic bit alcoholic/hot nose; very young tart/cranberry/raspberry/ blackberry/appley bit overripe young very spicy/exotic flavor; med.long tart cranberry/raspberry/appley fragrant/perfumed very spicy/exotic bit hot/over- ripe/alcoholic finish w/ some tannins; a very unusual/exotic Zinfandel a bit on the overripe side; some like an older Heart's Desire Zinfandel; very interesting. $10.80
Ridge Calif Zinfandel Lytton Springs '85: Dark color; strong blackberry/dusty old vines pungent/oaked/toasty/complex nose; rich very strong blackberry/dusty old vines some cedary/pencilly/oaked complex bit bretty flavor; very long rich pungent/toasty/dusty/blackberry soft finish w/ some tannins; still a young & balanced Zinfandel and maturing very gracefully. $11.70
Ridge Calif Coast Range (44% Zinfandel, 30% Carignane, 10% PS, 10% Sangiovese, 6% Mataro; SonomaCnty; 13.6%) '97: Dark color; very strong Am.oaked very aromatic/perfumed/raspberry/spicy bit simple nose; med.light forward lush milky/Am.oaked bright raspberry/strawberry/forward/fruity bit simple flavor; med.short soft milky/Am.oaked lush spicy/strawberry/raspberry simple finish w/ light tannins; a pleasant very drinkable restaurant wine; much better than the '96 version; bit pricey at $17.50.
Ridge Santa Cruz Mtn Cabernet (82% CS, 15% Merlot, 3% CabFranc; 12.9%) '91: Very dark color; strong herbal/chocolaty/dusty/earthy/oaked/blackcurranty very ripe almost MontereyCab nose; soft lush herbal/dusty/blackcurranty/Cab cedary/toasty/oaked earthy/pungent flavor; long herbal/chocolaty soft ripe blackcurranty/dusty oaked finish w/ some tannins; a rather herbal/chocolaty almost Bordeaux-like Cab; developing nicely; very good value at $16.50. Larry's mystery wine; got the Cabernet but the identity fooled me.
Folie a Deux Shenandoah Valley Grand Pere Vnyd Essence Zinfandel (barrel sample) '97: Very dark color; very intense grapey/blackberry/ cassis dusty/old vine very lush ripe nose; quite sweet soft lush very intense blackberry/cassis/dusty old vine some pungent flavor; very long sweet intense grapey/blackberry/ cassis/dusty old vine finish w/ some tannins. A bit like the Ridge Essences but more dusty/old vine character; carries the ?? alcohol level well and not at all hot. An outstanding Essence Zinfandel.
And another bloody pulpit here:
I was very very impressed w/ all the fruit left in these Zins. Only the '72 Geyserville was too tired & not very exciting to drink. Not only were these intellectual pleasures, they were all a genuine sensual pleasure. In much better condition than the previous batch of old Ridges. It was clear that, across the board, Ridge made some terrific wines in the '80 vintage. But I don't recall them as anything special at the time.... just more good Ridge Zins.
The big surprise, for me, was the '78 Paso Robles. I did not like at all those early Ridge Paso Robles. They always seemed to have a hard underlying chalky flavor that I found unattractive. Nowadays, the Paso Robles has much more of that classic jammy/blackberry/Paso fruit and much softer & rounder on the palate. More mainstream Paso Robles.
Another surprise was the '80 YorkCreek. The early YCs I had dismissed as rather simple Zins w/ lots of forward/raspberry fruit but not the structure for aging much. The '80 was stunning... and one you don't have to qualify with "...for an 18 yr old Zinfandel"!! My impression of the more recent Ridge YorkCreeks is that they're much more serios/complex Zins of equal stature to the Geyserville & Paganis.
The HowellMountain Zins: Another set of Zins that I did not care for back in the old days. I found them to be rather hard & closed, not a lot of fruit; the (now) classic dusty/earthy character I usually find in anybody's Howell Mtn Zins. Then I tasted a few in the mid-'80's and was amazed at how well they had evolved, so started buying them regularly. Then, because the vnyds were being replanted and Paul Draper didn't think the quality of fruit was up to snuff, they discontinued that appellation. What a pity.
So, I didn't like Paso Robles, YorkCreek, Howell Mountain back in those days. What DID I like. Loved the Occidentals, the MonteBellos (MonteBello, Jimsomare, Pichetti), the Geyservilles, and, especially, the Amadors (Esola & Eschen vnyds ones). By & large, I think all the Amadors have pretty much expired; but they were some of the best Amador Zins around in their youth; during a period that great Amador Zins were few and far between (and a period when you could drink Sutter Home and not be ashamed of it!!).
The old urban legend is that Zins don't age. Utter nonsense!! I DO think their aging is a bit less predictable than Cabernet or Syrah, however. I'm still waiting for my '74 Sutter Home White Zinfandel to come around!!
Thanks to both Blair Swartz and Steve Sterbenz for supplementing my set of Zins w/ some from their archives. Prices are all (obviously) purchase prices. Current fair-market price on these Zinfandel would probably be in the $25-$40 price range because..... ZINS DON'T AGE!!
no Zinfandel notes are complete w/o a bloody pulpit:
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