Posts Tagged ‘Ridge Vineyards’

Drink That Tune: A blogger tasting at Ridge Vineyards

April 22, 2012

Sunday was a day to celebrate.

Sunday marked the third anniversary of 4488: A Ridge Blog by Christopher Watkins.

Sunday was the birthday of the late, most epic, jazz bassist, Paul Chambers.

Sunday was also F-ing beautiful…

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See what I mean?

So it only stands to reason that on Sunday I headed up to Ridge Vineyards to participate in another blogger tasting…

I had no clue how much more awesome the day was gonna get…

When Christopher let us bloggers into the cool side of the barn at Monte Bello, at first, things looked normal…

Water, Glasses, Pen and Notebook all arranged nice and neat.

Breads and Cheeses were on display and ready to be noshed.

But then, things got weird…

Christopher started us off with a splash of the Ridge 2010 Chardonnay to wet our whistles.  It was a classic golden-yellow color.  There was a vibrant nose of green apple, vanilla, and mineral water.  On the palate, the Chardonnay was quite viscous and brought flavors of vanilla bean and lemon meringue pie.

Oh no… There was nothing weird about the Chardonnay.  It was great.

But what was up with that camera across the room?

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Say "Cheese!"

And when Christopher brought out the wines, he kept them inside brown paper bags…

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I haven't gone straight from the bag since I was in college.

Things began to make sense once Christopher began to introduce the tasting.

In honor of the blog’s anniversary, and Paul Chambers’ birthday, we were going to listen to some classic jazz music (all featuring Paul Chambers on bass) while we were going to drink some classic Ridge wines (made by another guy named Paul… Paul Draper).  Our goal was to match the four wines we were about to taste with one of the four songs we were going to hear.  The wines would be tasted blind, so as not to influence our choices.

So what’s up with the camera?

In August, Christopher will be participating on a panel at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon to discuss the relationship between wineries and bloggers.  The camera would be used for source material for his presentation.

So…

After each of us got a chance to make wine and music pairing choices, we would reveal our answers on camera.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I can Drink that Tune in four glasses.

Let’s do this!

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Wine #1

Color: Dark reddish purple.

Nose: Blueberry and tires (mmmmmmmmm), with this deeper concentrated blackberry note that keeps opening up over time.

Taste: There is a great concentration of tire rubber and blueberry fruit.  The finish is nice and long, and peppery, with some dope-ass tannins.

My Guess: This, to me, was a classic Monte Bello.  Great, dark fruit flavors, and balanced to the hecka.  Let’s call it a 2008.

My Jazz Pairing: Give me “Paul’s Pal” by Sonny Rollins.  To me, it’s the type of song I would use to turn somebody onto jazz.  Just classic… Like this wine.

Do it, Sonny!

Next up…

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Wine #2

Color: Similarly dark red, like the first wine… but darker.  You feel me?

Nose: One sniff, and I had to jot down the words “Funkified Earth” in my notebook.  There’s a lot of layers to this one.  A lot.  And yet, they come together perfectly.  There’s this great mixed berry fruit, along with this oily goodness.

Taste: Mad strawberry and blackberry fruits.  There’s a great mix of green bell peppers and crushed black pepper on the finish.  As wacky as these flavors may sound, the wine itself is quite reserved.

My Guess: This wine is so damn good… and so damn unique.  I was guessing a recent vintage of Geyserville (Zinfandel), because I always find them to be so damn good… and so damn unique.

My Jazz Pairing: “Bemsha Swing” by Thelonious Monk is loaded full of bouncy, funky notes.  Like the wine, it’s so damn good.

Take it away, Thelonious!

Let’s keep it rollin’…

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Wine #3

Color: More darker red than the first two.

Nose: Good fruit and leather.  Remember when you were a kid, rockin’ fruit roll-ups for lunch?  This wine smells like that strawberry fruit roll-up.

Taste: Juicy and concentrated with fruit… Spicy blackberry and red currant.

My Guess:  At first, I was thinking that this was a ripe Zinfandel, but the more I thought about the aromatics of the nose and the spicy fruit, the more I gravitated toward Syrah.  Let’s call it a recent Lytton Estate Syrah.

My Jazz Pairing: “So What” by Miles Davis is a laid back, cool tune.  This song takes me back to elementary school.  Not a care in the world, but the fruit roll-up in my hand.

It’s all you, Miles…

And finally…

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Wine #4

Color: Similar color to wine #3.

Nose: Super, ultra concentrated fruit of raspberry and currant.  Good leather notes.

Taste: The first sip gives a flavor blast of blueberries and raspberries.  The fruit fades into a leathery finish.

My Guess: This was a fun wine.  Not my cup of tea, but fun.  The concentrated fruit reminded me of some of the Old School Zinfandels I’ve had in the past… So that’s what I’m going with.

My Jazz Pairing: A fun wine needs an up-beat tune like “Mr. P.C.” by John Coltrane.  Super up.  Super fun.

Let’s take a ride on the Col-Train (Get it?)!

Dang, that was fun…

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Hella Fun!

After each of us declared our jazz and wine pairings, Christopher brought us some more wines to taste while he tabulated the results.  I was very stoked to get another chance to taste from the Historic Vineyard Series again…

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History repeats itself... Or does it?

Ridge 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc: Red fruit and jerky on the nose.  Juicy red fruit and vanilla on the palate.

Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon: Chalky blueberry and blackberry on the nose.  There’s a great grip to this wine accompanied by black and red fruits.  There’s a nice tea leaf flavor on the finish.

Ridge 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot: Chalky, smokey red fruit on the nose.  Red plum, olive, tea leaf on the palate.  Juicy and complex.

A few months back, I ranked the Perrone first, followed by the Klein and the Torre Ranch.

This time, my ranking has flip-flopped.  That Torre Ranch Merlot is fantastic!

Okay…

So, after we got into the Historic Vineyard wines, Christopher was ready to reveal the wines that we had tasted earlier.

Are you guys ready?

Here we go!

Wine #1:

I guessed a 2008 Monte Bello…

The Answer:

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Ridge 2001 Monte Bello... Scored a 99 by one Robert Parker.

I was glad to know that aside from the vintage, I got this one right.  As you recall, this wine screamed classic to me.

Wine #2:

I guessed a recent vintage of Geyserville (Zinfandel)…

The Answer:

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Ridge 2000 Monte Bello... Overall winner at the 30 Year Anniversary Judgement of Paris Tasting.

Wow!  I choose recent Zinfandel-based field blend, and it’s a 12-year-old Cabernet!  I couldn’t believe how different the two Monte Bellos tasted.  At least I was right about one thing…

This wine was damn good!

Wine #3:

I guessed a Lytton Estate Syrah…

The Answer:

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Ridge 1999 Lytton Springs (Zinfandel)... Winemaker Eric Baugher's favorite vintage of Lytton Springs.

Hey… I got the right vineyard!  To bad it was the wrong grape.

Wine #4:

I guessed the Old School Zinfandel…

The Answer:

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Ridge 1997 Geyserville (Zinfandel)...

Those in the know should be proud of my pick.  The Old School block is part of the Geyserville Vineyard.  The problem here was that I was too specific.

All in all, I’d say I did a pretty rad job.

What a Sunday!

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What a view!

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What a view!

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What a view!

There’s only one thing to do to celebrate a day like this…

Turn on some jazz, and drink some wine!

Miles and Charlie, could you do the honors?

Thanks guys.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

A look into the future… Or… Breaking it Down

March 3, 2012

Saturday was a good day…

A REALLY good day.

This last Saturday, Kara and I woke up bright and early to head over to Ridge Monte Bello in Cupertino for their 2011 Monte Bello Component Tasting (Our first as members of the Monte Bello Collector Club).

Now, all of these Ridge events are sick, but the Component Tasting has to be the most sickest.

Check it!

The Tasting Room at Monte Bello

When we arrived at the Monte Bello tasting room at 11:30am, there were already folks lined up to get their taste on.

Ridge 2010 Estate Chardonnay

Upon arriving, we were presented with our tasting menus along with a sample of the soon-to-be-released 2010 Estate Chardonnay (served in glasses that we were more than happy to add to our collection).

The Chardonnay had a great nose of cream and sweet oak.  On the palate, there was a perfect balance of lime fruit, stone, and toasty oak.  This wine would go great with some soft cheeses.

The Tasting Menu

While tasting the Chardonnay, Kara and I took a moment to look over the tasting menu.

The idea of the Component Tasting is to sample the four different varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot) to get a good sense of how the different parts of the 2011 Monte Bello will come together to make one of the consistently epic Bordeaux blends of California (and the world).  There is also a barrel sample of the first assemblage of the 2011 Monte Bello (to be released in 2014), as well as the recently released 2009 Monte Bello, the 2006 Monte Bello (from the library), and some other surprises.

One look at that menu, and I was stoked to the hella!

A toast to the sun, the vineyard, and the barn at Monte Bello.

Kara and I took our glasses (and palates) to the barn to get our taste on!

Ridge 2011 Petit Verdot Barrel Sample from the Olivos Block of Monte Bello

The Petit Verdot is the only varietal that did not make it into the Monte Bello assemblage, but don’t get it twisted.  This wine is a beast.  The PV brings a beautiful pinkish purple color.  On the nose, there’s a bunch of blackberry fruit, chocolate, and oak.  The tannins on this wine dominate the palate, giving it a lovely grip.  On the palate there’s a nice play between sour cherries and red bell peppers.  I sure hope Ridge does something fun with this wine.

Ridge 2011 Cabernet Franc Barrel Sample from the North Coast Block of Monte Bello

You know what I want to do?

I want to figure out how to make scented candles.

I want to make one that smells just like this Cabernet Franc.

On the nose, there is an immediate, undeniable scent of fresh ground espresso.  The good stuff.  You know what I’m talking about.  Add in a touch of cocoa powder, raspberry, and orange zest.

Wow!

On the palate, there’s a great acidity of cranberry and a touch of green bell pepper.  It’s medium bodied with big tannins.

Wow!

After that Cab Franc, I needed a little food break…

Pate with Cherries and Celery Leaf provided by The Chef's Chateau

Bread from Gayle's Bakery and Cheese from Cowgirl Creamery

Back to the components…

Ridge 2011 Merlot Barrel Sample from La Vasseur Block of Monte Bello

There’s a great dense red color to this Merlot.  The nose is loaded with blueberries.  Behind the blueberry fruit are some nice herbaceous layers and tobacco leaf.  On the palate, this is a juice monster of cranberry, cherry, and red apple.  Very nice.

Ridge 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Sample from La Vasseur Block of Monte Bello

The backbone of Monte Bello, this Cabernet brings it from all angles.  Dense reddish purple color.  Chocolate, orange, and (yup) espresso on the nose.  Firm tannins.  Lively acidity.  Beautiful cassis and cranberry fruit.

Fantastic!

Ridge 2009 Monte Bello

Before getting to the 2011 Monte Bello first assemblage, we went back in time to the 2009 Monte Bello…

Blackberry, blueberry, espresso, and a nice herbaceousness to the nose.  There is some good cranberry fruit along with black tea and olives, rounded out with fine tannins.

Just released, the 2009 Monte Bello is very young.  This is one to stash a way for a long time.  I’d love to see how the flavor profile comes together in a few years.

Now…

Back to the future!

Ridge 2011 Monte Bello first assemblage Barrel Sample

There’s a really neat process of blind tastings (with controls and everything) that goes into assembling the Monte Bello.  I suggest you check out what Christopher Watkins (Tasting Room Manager and Assemblage Participant at Monte Bello) had to say about it in his blog.  It’s hella interesting… That, and he’s a much better writer than I am.

As a result of the first assemblage, this 2011 Monte Bello Barrel Sample consists of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc.  Of course, as the wine develops in the barrel, (winemakers) Paul Draper and Eric Baugher may decide to add in grapes from other blocks to round things out.

Color: Dark red.

Nose: Espresso (now I’m just obsessed with that scent), chocolate, and orange zest.

Taste: Cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, and red currants are all present up front.  There is a layer of red apple skin.  There are some very nice fine tannins that smooth this wine out.

Another very young wine (considering my bottles don’t arrive until 2014), but I’m excited to see how this wine evolves over the next couple of decades.  And that espresso thing is just driving me crazy.

I asked Eric Baugher about those espresso notes.  I was wondering if that was representative of the vintage.  His take was that it was more reflective of the wine’s youth.  He says that those toasty espresso notes are primarily a result of the American oak barrels.  As the wine ages, he would expect the espresso to mellow out and give way to the fruit.

Later, in talking to Christopher Watkins, he suggested that a lot of the Earthy notes (like the espresso) are going to marry well with the acidity.  The expectation is that the fruit of this wine is really going to flesh out as the wine develops in the bottle.

Man!

I can’t wait until 2014…

or 2024…

or 2040!

This wine is gonna be F-ing rad!

Onto more tasting…

Pre-Releases: Ridge 2009 Estate Merlot and Ridge 2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Estate Merlot:

It’s been a while since Ridge has released a Merlot on its own.  I’m glad they’re bringing it back.  This bad boy is juicy.  Tons of red apple with layers of tobacco leaf and black olive.  The goods!

2009 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon:

I’ve always loved the Ridge Estate Cabs.  Pound for pound, these wines are some of the best cabs for their price ($35).  Dark red color.  Sweet oak and plum on the nose.  Bright raspberry and plum on the palate with chalky (you know I love chalk) tannins.  The bomb!

2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon from the Historic Vineyard Series

This was my second time tasting the Klein Cab.  The first time at the Ridge Blogger Tasting in December of last year (You can read my original notes here).

3 months later… I’m loving this wine more than I did originally.

Hella chalky.  Cranberry.  Plum.  Elegant.

Ridge 2006 Monte Bello from the library and the "famous" rings of Christopher Watkins.

What a great way to close out the tasting.

The 2006 Monte Bello has just enough age on it to give that fleshy fruit that people love, but you know that it has the structure to keep developing for another decade or two (or three).

Great concentration of red fruit.  Bright acidity.  Earthy notes of black tea leaf.

Fantastic!

The ’06 was my favorite wine of the day.

With some time to spare, Kara and I decided to go play in the vineyard…

Snakes be damned!

This place is for the birds.

The Real Gnarly Heads

The only thing that was left to do, was figure out how to get off of the mountain.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Back in the Day… But First… Friday!

February 3, 2012

One of the perks of membership at Ridge Vineyards is getting to experience their First Friday series at the Monte Bello tasting room.

First Friday is a neat members-only tasting event with a new theme every month.

For February, they went “Old School”.

Check out the menu…

Going "Old School"!

For starters, there was a three vintage vertical from the Old School block of the Geyserville Estate… a block that traditionally brings some hella ripe Zinfandel to the table.

First on the list was the 2003 Independence School (Soon to be renamed “Old School”)…

Goin' back to the Old School!

The ’03 brought some extremely concentrated red fruit on the palate.  Extremely concentrated.  Like… Extremely concentrated.

Moving into the 2006 Old School, that concentrated red fruit was still present… but not nearly as overpowering.

The 2009 Old School… Now that was my jam.  This Zinfandel blend still brought the concentration of the prior vintages, but was rounded out with these really nice, powdery… dare I say… CHALKY tannins.  You know I love chalk.  Love it!

In general, I really liked this Old School vertical.  It gives a good idea of how the ’09 would evolve over the next couple of years.  For my money (at $30 a bottle), I would have no qualms popping and pouring this one.

Now, on to the some fun stuff…

Barrel Samples!

Ridge 2010 Geyserville Barrel Sample!

You know that Geyserville is one of the iconic single vineyard wines from Ridge.  It’s a fantastic, Zinfandel based field blend that “brings it” year in and year out.  2010 is no exception.  Red fruit.  Acid.  Spice.  Minerality.  This wine has it all… All!

As great as the Geyserville was, there was one wine I had at First Friday that I just cannot get out of my head…

Ridge 2010 East Bench Zinfandel Barrel Sample!

Here’s the thing about the 2010 East Bench…

This is a powerful wine.

Powerful!

One sniff of this Zin, and I was 18 again.

Let me explain…

The Summer after I graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High School, I worked at a juice bar in downtown Santa Cruz.  The juice bar was called Juice World.  The year was 1997.

You won’t find any Juice Worlds today.  They went out of business in 2000.  They just couldn’t compete with the juice juggernaut that is known as Jamba.  To this day, I am convinced that JW was the best juice bar on the planet.  We made some bomb smoothies!

Working there, I was given my first real opportunity to experiment with flavors.  As part of our pay, we got one free smoothie for each shift we worked.  Each day, I would play around with different combinations of juices, sherbets, and fruits to see which combinations would work the best.

My favorite smoothie was a blend of strawberries, cranberries, raspberry and orange sherbet, and peach juice.  I called it the Orange Screech.

In retrospect, drinking 32 ounces of sugar every day isn’t the best thing for your body… But I did load up my smoothies with tons of supplements (like protein powder, bee pollen, and vitamin C)…

Chalky…

Chalky…

Chalky Supplements.

I probably haven’t had an Orange Screech since 1999, and yet… as I took my first whiff of the 2010 East Bench Zinfandel, that’s exactly what is smelled like.

Strawberries.

Cranberries.

Raspberry and Orange sherbet.

Peach Juice.

Chalky Supplements.

The Orange Screech!

I’ve got to be honest with y’all…

I don’t even remember what the East Bench tasted like.

But the way it smelled…

I’ll never forget it.

I want some more!

F-ing Devine!

I wanted to hang out in the barn at Ridge and smell that wine for another hour, but sometimes you just gotta move on…

Night Falls Over the Ridge

That…

And I was hella hungry.

On the way home, we stopped by Toto Trattoria for beer…

Acme IPA

And pizza…

Pineapple and Prociutto Pizza

What a great Friday.

I still can’t get the smell of that East Bench out of my mind.

It makes me wonder…

When is the last time you’ve had a wine take you “back in the day”?

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Stay Rad Wine Blog TV Episode 12: Chinon You Cuvee Diamond

January 7, 2012

In this episode, Jeff tastes his first wine of 2012… This Chinon is the bomb!

Cuvee Signee 2009 Chinon

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Pinky Strength: The #RidgeVineyards Blogger Tasting

December 11, 2011

Full Disclosure:

1. I love Ridge Vineyards.  The first wine of theirs I ever tasted was the 2003 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon blend at Vintage Wine Bar in Reno, Nevada.  I bought that bottle about four years ago, and it will be sitting in my wine fridge for another 5 years or so.

2. This past Spring, I joined their Monte Bello Collector Wine Club within fifteen minutes of setting foot in their Monte Bello tasting room.  Their wine is THAT good.  And the tasting room is THAT rad.

3. Ridge Vineyards is the reason why I started this blog.

Let me explain…

Ever since I joined their wine club, I obsessively began to read up on all the different wines that they produced (and there are hella).  Through combing the interweb, I quickly came across 4488: A Ridge Blog.  It’s a beautifully written blog, hosted by Christopher Watkins (the Tasting Room Manager at Ridge Monte Bello, who also happens to be a fantastic poet… and is also as cool a cat as they come).

So… on June 9th of this year, I read this post on Christopher’s blog.  In his post, he was looking for wine bloggers to attend a private tasting at Ridge Monte Bello.  In reading the post, I thought to myself, “How f-ing cool would that be?”  The only problem was that I didn’t have a blog.

But…

If your only problem in life is that you don’t have a blog, there is a very simple solution…

On June 11th of this year (two days later), I created Stay Rad: A blog about wine and all things awesome.

You may notice a few things about my blog.  One, is that the theme (the layout of the blog) is identical to that of Ridge Vineyards.  This is in tribute to the winery and the blog that got me started.  The other thing is that although I review Ridge wines every once in a while on this blog, I never give them scores.  This is because I am a member, and I don’t want that to effect the scores I give them.

So…

Let’s move on.

Today is the six month anniversary of the day that my blog went live.

Also, guess where I went today (and for what purpose)?

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The December Blogger Tasting at Ridge Vineyards!

Full Disclosure:

4. I’ve been fighting a cold for the last week.

5. Kara and I hosted a holiday party last night.

6. We did not go to bed until 3am.

7. I woke up at 8am feeling a little “under the weather”.

8. I would not miss this for anything.

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9. This made me feel a whole lot better.

As I walked into the private tasting room at Monte Bello, I decided to start tweeting…

@JeffIsRad: Busted my cold in time to make it to the #RidgeVineyards #WineBlogger tasting.

As I looked around the room, I discovered a large screen tv that would be posting our tweets live…

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@JeffIsRad should get a new profile pick.

While waiting for the last of the bloggers to show up, Christopher poured us some of the 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay.

Full Disclosure:

10. For the purposes of this post, I will be scoring all (most) of the wines.

11. If you don’t like it, you can sit on a tack.

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Ridge 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay

Ridge 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay:

Color: Golden Yellow.

Nose: Pear and vanilla.

Taste: Great acid and minerality.  Creamy.  Fantastic.

Score: 91 points

As everybody got settled, Christopher began the tasting by introducing the theme.

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Christopher Watkins breaking it down.

For this tasting, we would be taking a journey through history.  After the Monte Bello Chardonnay, we would taste three of the Historic Vineyards single varietal wines, a vertical of three of the Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon blends, and a mystery bottle donated by fellow blogger Allan Bree.  To take us back in time, we were each required to provide tasting notes for one of the wines using a manual typewriter.

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The Lineup

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The Historic Vineyards wines.

We were each provided with a fact sheet on the historic vineyards of Monte Bello.  You can read about them here.

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My tasting notes and fact sheet on the historic vineyards of Monte Bello.

Oh yeah, and there was food…

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Say cheese!

So…

Once we got set up, we dove into the wines.

Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon in the glass...

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Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon in the bottle... and a typewriter.

Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon:

Color: Light ruby red.

Nose: Tires.  Mint.  Cocoa.  Butter.

Taste: Bright raspberry and cranberry fruit.  Mint and white pepper.  This was described by Christopher as being “Elegant”.  I agree.

@JeffIsRad: #RidgeVineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon… It’s tasty.

Score: 91 points.

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Ridge 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot

Ridge 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot:

Color: Deep purple.

Taste: Juicy leather.  Buttery.  Dusty.  Raspberry, blueberry, plum, and olive.

@JeffIsRad: #RidgeVineyards 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot… Blueberry.  Plum.  And, yes, Olives.

Score: 90+

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Ridge 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc

For the Ridge 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc, I decided to take my shot at the manual typewriter…

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Wish me luck...

It took me a while to get used to the typewriter… You gotta hit those keys hard.

Here’s what I wrote…

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From here on out, I will be building up my pinky strength...

Color: Bright ruby red.

Nose: Chalky mocha and mint.  Bike tires for days.

Taste: Powdery chalk.  Plum, blackberries, and green peppers.  The wine is great, but I’m having issues with the typewriter.

@JeffIsRad: #RidgeVineyards The 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc was DOPE.  The typewriter made me feel like one.

Score: 92 points.

After struggling with the typewriter, I had to step outside for a break…

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The view from the ridge.

When I came back inside, Christopher set us up with a vertical of the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cabernet Sauvignon blend from 2003, 2004, and 2005.

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Santa Cruz Mountains in the bottle...

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Santa Cruz Mountains in the glass...

Ridge 2003 Santa Cruz Mountains:

This is the same wine that I have in my wine fridge.  The wine that I bought in Reno.  The wine that got me into Ridge.

Color: Ruby red.

Nose: Cocoa powder and blackberries.

Taste: Blackberry and eucalyptus.  Dusty tannins.  Cranberries.  It makes me smile.

Score: 92 points

Ridge 2004 Santa Cruz Mountains:

Color: Ruby red.

Nose: Dusty rosemary and raspberries.

Taste: Cranberries and fine tannins.  Bright red fruit.  This is a thoughtful wine.  This is the type of wine that would go buy you a burrito at La Choza if you were hung over.

Score: 92+

Ridge 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate:

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Blackberry and blueberry fruit.

Taste: Big and juicy.  Powdery tannins.

Score: 91 points

@JeffIsRad:  #RidgeVineyards Santa Cruz Mountains 03, 04, 05 Cabernet Vertical = Hella x 3

After the vertical, we were each poured a glass of Allan Bree’s mystery wine…

Color: Bricking red to orange on the rim.  There are these tiny, dancing, black speckles floating around in it.

Nose: Dusty blueberries.  Smells sweet.

Taste: Very juicy.  Becomes very dry on the tail end.  It reminds me a little bit of those chocolate oranges.

After some of the bloggers took their guesses as to what the wine was, Allen revealed the answer…

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Ridge 1994 Monte Rosso Zinfandel

I knew it!

Too bad I didn’t speak up.

And with that, the final Ridge Vineyards Wine Blogger Tasting of 2011 came to an end.

@JeffIsRad: @RidgeVineyards #ThankYou for the #BloggerTasting

#StayRad

– Jeff

From the Ridge to the Sea…

September 5, 2011

On Saturday, Kara and I headed up to Ridge Vineyards to check out the new Fall Releases.

It sure was an event to behold.

Check it!

At check-in, we were greeted with the 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay. The nose is loaded with baked apple and a hint of lemon grass. There's a nice acidity on the palate. This wine screams for cheese.

Next, we headed up to the barn to get some of the 2007 Mazzoni Home Ranch. This Zin comes blended with 39% Carignane. The palate is loaded with juicy black fruit with that hint of tire that I'm in love with.

We then moved over to the 2009 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel. This one had a bright acidity and dark fruit. It was a bit too jammy for me. That last sentence is the worst thing I have ever said about any wine from Ridge... Ever. Think about it.

At table three, we hit up the 2009 York Creek Zinfandel. It had a palate of tires and berries. With 7% Petite Sirah, this wine had a LOVELY grip.

Now the 2009 Lytton Springs was just dope. Great dark fruit rounded out with round, chalky tannins. You know I love chalk. This wine was F'ing Delish!

Finally, we moved down to the main tasting room for some Monte Bello action... The 2008 was FANTASTIC! This vintage is one of the first in a while that only consists of Cabernet Sauvignon (72%) and Merlot (28%). This bad boy was loaded with big blue fruit and silky round tannins. When Robert Parker tasted this vintage in 2010, he gave it 94 - 96 points... I can see why.

To finish off the tasting, we got to try the 1992 Monte Bello from a magnum bottle. This wine was an interesting fellow... The fruit, as it should, is starting to drop out. Coming to the forefront on the palate is this nice black olive component with a little bit of tires and chalk. I think the '92 is gonna turn into a very fun wine to play with in another 5 years or so.

As great as the wine was, there was another reason for taking a trip up to the top of Monte Bello Road…

In the days leading up to the event, I came to learn that the wine was to be paired with wood-fired pizzas from Pizza Politana!

Three pizzas to pair with the '08 Monte Bello Chardonnay, 2009 Lytton Springs, and 2008 Monte Bello. Loved 'em all!

Finishing off some Ridge sausage and eggplant pizzas. Yum!

The legendary Pizza Politana oven on wheels.

If we coulda’, we woulda’ stayed at The Ridge all day… but we had dinner plans…

So…

We hustled down to sea level to meet Kara’s dad at The Fish Market in San Jose for dinner…

While waiting to be seated, I picked up a Johnny Walker Red on the rocks from the bar.

For starters, I had to have me some oysters on the half shell. I am obsessed with these!

For the main course, I got me some catfish with fries and coleslaw. Triple yum, foo!

What a day!

From the Ridge, to the sea, to my bed for a hardcore nap.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

We followed the Wine Road and wound up at a dive bar. Happy Anniversary!

July 21, 2011

Does it get any better than this?

Sit down.  This may take a while…

My wife’s name is Kara.  This past Sunday, July 17th, was our first wedding anniversary.  In total, Kara and I have been in a relationship for almost nine years.  As familiar as we are with each other, in the last year, being married, our love has grown to heights I could have never imagined.  She is my best friend.  She is my heart.  She is my everything.

She already knows all this…  I tell her every day.

When searching for a way to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we knew we wanted to do a wine vacation.  We just weren’t sure where to go…

A while back, Kara’s aunt and uncle introduced us to a neat little book called Bed & Breakfast and Country Inns.  This reference book from American Historic Inns Inc. lists over 1,400 bed and breks from across the country, plus it comes with a one night free gift certificate.

We cracked open the book and started to browse the California section, when it came to us…

Healdsburg!

Healdsburg is a small little town at the center of a BIG wine region… Sonoma County.  Northern Sonoma County is home the Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley AVA’s.  These appellations play host to some of the greatest wineries in the world (Ridge anyone?).  As an added bonus, the area is only a two-hour drive from our doorstep.

Once we decided on Healdsburg, I called up the Camellia Inn (from the B&B book), and booked us two nights for the price of one.  Next, I had to pick out which wineries to visit…

Not being familiar with the area, I dove into the internet and stumbled upon a great nugget of information.  It appears that many of the great wineries are members of an organization called Wine Road.  On their website, you will find a bunch of info on the region, the wineries, and lodging.  The best part is that you can also buy passes for tasting online.  A one-day pass is 25 bucks, and three days is $50.  Since we were staying for two nights, we opted for the 3-day pass.

And now, ladies and gentlemen… A trip down the Wine Road!

Day One:

Kara and I got up at the butt crack of dawn to get our clothes packed, drop off the dog at her mom’s house, and hit the road to our first destination… Sonoma-Cutrer.

Outdoor tasting at Sonoma-Cutrer.

We got to this Russian River Valley winery in Windsor just a little bit after 11:00 am.  Apparently, although Sonoma-Cutrer has been making wine for decades, the tasting room is just about a year and a half old.  I’m glad that this place is now open.  The grounds are beautiful!  Upon our arrival, our server asked us to pick a seat on the patio where he would bring us our wine.

Just below where we sat there was a gigantic croquet court packed full of locals dressed in their Sunday whites to play a tournament.

See!

Here’s what we tasted…

2009 Russian River Ranches Chardonnay ($23): A light style chardonnay with a nice acidity and tropical fruit.  A solid 88.

2007 The Cutrer Chardonnay ($35): For me, this was the pick of the litter.  A classic, rich and viscous, creamy chardonnay.  This guy was big, but not goopy.  The Cutrer showed balance and restraint.  You must try this 91-pointer.

2007 Les Pierres Chardonnay ($32): Plenty of fruit and minerality.  More of an old world style.  Give it 89.

2007 Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley ($34): A nice juicy Pinot Noir loaded with cherry cola.  Good cool climate fruit.  89.

Sonoma-Cutrer is an amazing winery, and a MUST-visit.

Next stop…

Rodney Strong. Not Rodney Weak.

Okay…

So, a few years ago we went on a wine tour with Dave and Kara Thevegetarian and the bus stopped at Rodney Strong.  Since we’d been there before, I thought it would be a good place to revisit.  The last time around, I purchased a bottle of 2005 Symmetry (their Meritage).

This time around, Kara and I each had separate flights.  I did an estate tasting, while Kara tried out the reserves (including the 2007 Symmetry).  She LOVED all the wines she tasted.  I was kind-of like, “Meh”.  Please remind me to do the reserve tasting next time.  Please!

After a quick minute at the Strong, we took a few back roads over to Twomey Cellars…

Twomey? More like For Me! Am I right?

Twomey Cellars is a winery in the Silver Oak family.  They have a winery in the Napa Valley and on Westside Road in Healdsburg.  These guys are most known for their Pinot Noir and Merlot (as opposed to Silver Oak’s Cabernet Sauvignon).

It was a pretty slow Sunday in Healdsburg, so when we got to this tasting room our server lined us up a few verticals of their Pinot Noir and their Merlot.

Here’s what it looked like…

Pinot vertical. Hear no complaints.

Here’s what we tasted…

2010 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($25): Grassy apple sauce.  Lemons.  Limes.

2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($50): Musty (in a good way).  Cinnamon.  Leather.  Light bacon fat.  Bell pepper.

2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($50): Cinnamon toast crunch.  S’mores.  Cranberry.

2008 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($55): Ham.  Raspberry.  Smoke.  Tomato.

2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($55): Sugar.  Tomato.  Bacon.  Hickory Smoke.

2006 Napa Valley Merlot ($50): Cherry.  Mustard.  Black Tea.  Bell Pepper.

2005 Napa Valley Merlot ($55): Eucalyptus.  Black cherry.  BIG black tea.  Wood.

Here’s what I thought about Twomey…

It’s pretty cool.

It was time for lunch, so we drove up to Lytton Springs Road to another place we’d been to before with the Thevegetarians…

Mazzocco!

They’ve got a nice picnic area, and they ain’t afraid to share it, so Kara and I pulled out the cooler and went to town.

Smoked mozzarella panini, olive oil, vinegar, and a few paper plates.

After lunch, we headed inside for a tasting…

I'm pretty sure that's a Zinfandel.

Mazzocco is a very chill winery in the Dry Creek Valley that specializes in single vineyard Zinfandels.  They remind me a whole lot of Ridge (their next door neighbor).

We got to talking to our server about other wineries we had already visited.  In passing, we mentioned the Pinot Noir vertical we had earlier.  Not to be outdone, he did the same thing with their Zins…

Boom!

Some 14 wines later, we had to purchase their 2009 Thurow Zinfandel.  It has just a touch of Petite Sirah.  In a world of goopy fruit bomb zins, the Thurow shows true restraint and good vegetal characteristics.  Nice!

The last winery of the day was next door at the Ridge Lytton Springs tasting room.  Being members of Ridge, it was nice to finally see where all of their awesome Zinfandels come from.  And, my goodness, did we like what we saw…

Lytton Springs through the looking-glass.

Here’s what we had…

Lookin' good!

2009 Estate Chardonnay ($40): Buttery apple pie.  Peaches.

2009 East Bench Zinfandel ($26): White pepper.  Bell pepper.

2007 Lytton Estate Zinfandel ($30): Tasty new bike tire.  Zippy peppers.

2006 Lytton Estate Syrah/Grenache ($28): Bright tires (I don’t know how else to name it.  Taste it head to head with the 2007 Lytton Estate Zin, and you’ll see what I mean).  Restrained.  Yummy.

2006 Monte Bello ($150): Deep purple tires.  Chalky (I love chalk).  Rich.  Ripe.  Delicious.

I’ve said it before.

I’ll say it again.

I love me some Ridge.  After experiencing the Lytton Springs tasting room, I just love it a little more.

Although we had finished tasting for the day, the fun was just beginning…

Checking in at the Camellia Inn.

We checked in to the Camellia Inn around 5:30.  We went up to our beautiful room and unpacked our junk.

After freshening up, we went downstairs to the pool for their wine and cheese reception.  We had a great time kicking it with the other guests.  The wine wasn’t bad either.

The Camellia Inn is a two block walk from the downtown Healdsburg Plaza, so we were able to walk to our dinner destination…

BarnDiva!

Shakers can't contain this salt and pepper combo.

I must say that this place is the bomb.  This restaurant’s focus is American cuisine featuring only the freshest local ingredients, served in a hip atmosphere.  BarnDiva is all about detail.  Not just detail in the preparation and presentation of the food, but also detail in the way they treat their customers.  I mentioned that it was our anniversary when I made the reservation, and from the time we entered until the time we left EVERYONE (from host to waiter to busser) made sure to congratulate us.

We began our BarnDiva experience with one of their specialty cocktails.  Delish!  We each had an Heirloom Beet and Endive salad…

Just a dope salad.

This is possibly the best salad I have ever had.  You see those brown balls on diagonal corners of the plate?  Those are warm croquettes of chevre.  They were so f-ing good.  So good!

For the main course…

Local beef filet with lobster risotto and deep-fried squash blossoms for Jeff. Rad!

Some fresh ass pasta for Kara. Rad!

Did we save room for dessert, you ask?

A big mound of chocolate awesome with a scoop of lemon ice cream.

Yes we did!

Was it good?

Mmmmmmmmmmm...

Yes it was!

Kara and I were having such a great time, we decided we should go out somewhere to get a drink.  The problem with Healdsburg is that the town kind of shuts down around 7:00 pm each night.  I decided to ask our waiter for a suggestion of where to catch a drink as we were settling the bill.  He started talking about a sports bar, but I really wanted to experience the local flair of the city.

“Are there any dive bars around here?” I asked him.

“Well, I always like to hit up the B & B Lounge.”

“Perfect!”

The only picture I took at the B & B, and it's a bad one. It was a long day.

The B & B Lounge was a great bar, complete with a pool table, red leather booths, and cheap drinks.  The best part, however, was the same thing that we had experienced all day… the locals.  From the bar tender, to a group of field workers, to a dog named Marley.  We made plenty of friends in the brief amount of time we spent there.

Once they found out it was our anniversary, it was on.  We didn’t pay for a single drink the rest of the night.  See those wooden nickles in the picture?  Think about it.

Then we walked back to the Camellia Inn.

Then we went to bed.

Day Two:

We woke up at 12:00 pm the next day.

We missed breakfast.

No breakfast, but we did have coffee.

We didn’t leave out the front door until 1 o’clock, so we walked right over to the Healdsburg Plaza to have some lunch.  We decided to eat at Bovolo.  At first glance, the restaurant looks like a cafeteria in the back of a book store.  Looks can, however, fool you.  Bovolo specializes in the “Slow food… fast” concept.  After we placed our order at the counter, we made our way to the back patio.

Here’s what I had…

Half-order of Caesar Salad. No joke. Those are the best croutons I've ever had.

The world-famous pork cheek sandwich. Amazing!

After lunch, we made our way around the Healdsburg Plaza.  We checked out a few shops and boutique tasting rooms.  Here’s where we went…

Topel Winery: A cute little tasting room with a very nice staff.  I just didn’t like their wine.  Any of it.

Vintage Wine Estates: Another cute boutique tasting room.  These guys carry wines from several small wineries, including Windsor Sonoma, Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Stonefly Vineyards.  The wine was okay, but nothing  special.

Trying some Windsor Sonoma at Vintage Wine Estates.

Kendall-Jackson: You’ve heard of these guys.  You’ve seen it in your local grocery store.  They make some good chardonnay.  As far as the experience at their tasting room, they gave off an attitude like they are doing you a favor by letting you taste their wines.  Look… It was interesting to taste some of their single-vineyard chardonnays.  They are not available anywhere else.  A wine, however, can only be as good as the time you have while drinking it.  In spite of some huge scores they had printed for some of their wines, I was not impressed.  Not at all.

Seco Highlands Chardonnay by Kendall-Jackson. Would have tasted better without the attitude.

In all, I’d say that I wasn’t very stoked on the tasting rooms around the plaza.  Maybe it’s a little premature, but it seems to me that most of these boutique tasting rooms are not worth your time (especially when there are amazing wineries just a few miles away).

Planning dinner in Healdsburg on a Monday can be tricky.  Many restaurants are not open on Monday nights.  We decided to hit up the Healdsburg Bar and Grill.  This is not your typical bar food.  Word on the street is that the HBG is owned by the folks that brought you Cyrus (A fancy schmancy restaurant with two Michelin Stars).  This restaurant also made the Food and Wine Magazine’s list of the 25 best burgers in the United States.  Guess what I ordered…

HBG Burger. A delicious burger with these amazing pickles. The best pickles in the world!

We both had cold cucumber soup to start. Yum!

Kara got a seared tuna sandwich... That basically means I got half of that sandwich. Double yum!

It's not only recommended that you share the truffle oil and Parmigianno-Reggiano fries. It's mandatory.

The HBG was amazing.  You should go.  Now.

After dinner we walked back to the Camellia Inn.

Then we went to bed.

Day Three:

There was no way we were going to miss breakfast again, so the next day we woke up EARLY.  I sure was glad we did.

Breakfast was great.  The inn had set up a serve-yourself spread.  Water.  Tea.  Coffee.  Coffee cake.  Orange juice.  Breakfast smoothies.  Toast.  There was an amazing farmer’s souffle with egg, potatoes, and sausage.  Great.  Just great.  It was all great.

After our checkout, we hit the road.

On our way down 101, we were all like, “Look.  We’ve got one last day of free tasting on our pass.  Let’s use it!”  So…

We had to make one last stop.

Can you guess where?

De Loach Vineyards!

We arrived at this Russian River Valley winery at 9:45 am.  Since the tasting room wasn’t scheduled to open until 10, we took some time to enjoy the view (That’s what Whoopi always says).

De Loach... De Lish!

Much like our first day of tasting, we were very stoked on the folks that worked at De Loach.  Our server poured us a bunch of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs side-by-side.

Double vision.

The highlight of our stop at De Loach was their Zinfandels.  We didn’t even know they made those.  After buying a bottle, we got back on the road.

We returned to Morgan Hill around 1:00.

Hungry, we decided to get sandwiches at Ricatoni’s and have a picnic at Guglielmo

Taking a vacation from the vacation.

After lunch we came home to find our first ripe cherry tomato of the season in our garden…

A tomato built for two.

Does it get any better than this?

No.  No it does not.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

It’s all good: A two day extravaganza @ #RidgeVineyards

July 6, 2011

Chillin' on the Ridge.

I’m just gonna say it.

Somebody has to.

It may as well be me.

Ridge Vineyards is the raddest winery in the history of all that is awesome.

A couple of months back, after visiting their Monte Bello tasting room in Cupertino, Kara and I decided to become members.  The membership allows us free tasting, discounts on wine, and the ability to buy futures of their Monte Bello at a DEEP discount.  One of the really neat things we’ve discovered since joining Ridge is how many cool members-only events we get to take part in.  Recently we were able to go to two different events on back-to-back days.

Here’s the rundown…

July 1st: First Friday at Monte Bello

During the summer season, the Monte Bello tasting room will serve a special flight to club members on the first Friday of each month.  Although Ridge is most known for their zinfandel and Bordeaux blends, for July, they offered a vertical tasting of chardonnay.

Who says white wine can't age?

The tasting consisted of the 2003 and 2004 vintages of the Monte Bello Chardonnay, as well as the 2005 and 2006 vintages of the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Charonnay.  The great part about this tasting was seeing just how well chardonnay can age.  The two Monte Bellos were very much smooth and balanced.  They both had really nice acidity.  The 2005 Estate was a crowd-pleasing chardonnay with a beautiful creamy finish.  The 06 Estate had this amazing smell of figs, but the taste did not live up to the nose.  The winner of this throwdown was…

The 2003 Monte Bello Chardonnay. Class in a glass.

After the chardonnay vertical, I had a hankering for a zinfandel and a picnic.  Now, if you’re talking zins, Ridge has ’em.  Based on a recommendation, we got a bottle of this bad boy…

Ridge 2007 Carmichael Zinfandel and a picnic.

This zin had a nice spice and ripe fruit, without being too jammy.  It was a great way to cap off the day…

Okay…

Seeing this thing on the road on the way back was pretty cool too…

If my car were just a little bit smaller, I'd have tried to drive under this thing.

July 2nd:  Zins, Blends & BBQ

For an early 4th of July celebration, the next day, Ridge offered barbecue paired with many of their fine wines.  Here’s what we had…

Check in with a glass of 2009 Mikulaco Chardonnay. Don't mind if I do.

2009 Geyserville paired with a bomb ass North Carolina Pulled Pork sandwich.

2006 Mazzoni Home Ranch with Kansas City Baby Back Ribs and a bunch of forks.

2007 Lytton Estate Zinfandel w/ California Tri Tip and Blue Cheese Potato Salad. Yum!

I found this 2008 York Creek Zinfandel hiding in the corner with Texas Beef Brisket. This York Creek has become one of my favorite zins in the Ridge collection.

After these pairings, there were three more wines for us to try in the main tasting room…

"Would you like to try our 2009 Jimsomare Chardonnay?" "Does a bear poo in the woods?"

The 2009 Buchignani Carignane. So nice, I had it twice... You'll see.

2006 Lytton Estate Syrah done in the true Côte-Rôtie style with 8% viognier.

We were such fans of the Buchignani Carignane that we got another bottle to have with our picnic leftovers from the day before.

I told you.

And there you have it!

13 wines.

4 barbecue dishes.

2 picnics.

1 dope time.

The shadows of Kara and JeffIsRad on the Ridge.

Stay Rad,

Jeff


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