Ridge Vineyards is one of California’s greatest treasures, and one of the reasons that I became enchanted by wine.  And while they are known for their impressive range of Zinfandel’s, and most of all for their Monte Bello Cabernet Savignon, they also have some great bottlings of some other well known and less so well known varietals.  I have a nice little collection of Ridge wines going, so I thought it might be interesting to check in on a few of the “other” varietals that were lying about.  I had a Syrah, a Petit Sirah, a Grenache, and a Mataro (Mourvedre) that seemed to fit the bill.  They also all had a nice bit of bottle age on them, so it was also interesting to see how these wines age.  While Ridge seems to recommend that most of their wines can be drunk upon release and age well over the short term, I have found from experience that all their wines in fact have the ability to go much longer.  All the wines tasted here certainly were drinking well even if the time recommended by Ridge on the label had passed.  The back label on the 2003 Mataro, for example, said that the wine should best be enjoyed as a quaffing wine over three years following it’s release, but like all the wines, it was more than alive and drinking well.

When it comes to transparency in wine making, Ridge is also certainly a clear leader.  And the leader at Ridge, and one of California’s most respected winemakers Paul Draper, is very much responsible for the respected philosophy of the winery.  The back label on every bottle of Ridge wine tells the story of the wine in the bottle and the Ridge wine making philosophy.  Being able to read the story of what you are drinking certainly enhances the experience of drinking a bottle of wine.  Kudos to Ridge for being a leader in transparency of the wine making process.  And kudos to Ridge for also being a pioneer, if not the original leader, of single vineyard designated bottlings which have become all the rage since.  At a time when most wineries were putting together fruit from multiple sources, Ridge recognized the individual qualities of specific vineyard sites as being distinct and important.  So you will find a huge number of bottlings from each vintage, which can get a bit mind boggling, but I have never met a bottle of Ridge I didn’t like.

Ridge 2002 Syrah, Lytton Estate

Medium garnet with hints of rust, there is black pepper, dark chocolate, and black cherries on the nose.  There are also hints of fruit and nut and menthol.  This is evolving very nicely.  A well done and delicious wine.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Ridge 2003 Mataro, Pato Vineyard

Crimson dart garnet in color with some lite browning at the edge.  There are a lot of dark notes to this Mourvedre with dark chocolate and dark smokey cherries mixing with hints of caramel and Medjool dates.  The nose is rich and exotic.  There are some very lite tannins, and only a hint of acidity on this rich styled wine.  Back label said it was a quaffing wine to be drunk within three years, but I think the 2003 Mataro had the stuffing to go further than that as evidenced by this fine bottle.  Very delicious stuff.  RECOMMENDED

Ridge 2004 Grenache, Lytton Estate

Medium Garnet in color, this Grenache seems a bit dominated by oak.  There is dark cherry fruit, pepper spice, menthol and vanilla oak spice present on the palate.  There are also some tannins present and hints of chocolate, caramel, and sea salt.  But the nose and body remain a bit too overshadowed by the oak.  A bit of research reveals that the 2005 had 60% new to one year new American oak, so perhaps the 2004 received a similar percentage.  At any rate this percentage is a quite a bit higher than most blends that Ridge produces.  Most range about 20% maximum new American oak, and I think that this wine would have benefited from a similar proportion as the oak factor remains a bit too much.  None the less, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed either.  RECOMMENDED

Ridge 2004 Petite Sirah, Dynamite Hill

This was my personal favorite out of the group.  The color is opaque garnet and the nose is an exotic mix of blueberry compote, incense spice, and dark brambly fruit.  I tasted this wine over a couple of days and it continued to evolve with added notes of dark chocolate, dark cherry fruit, balsamic, camphor, and a hint of cured olives.  The Petite Sirah seemed to just keep gaining complexity and depth, though it remained infinitely drinkable.  I am sure this wine could continue to age much longer, but it was magic right now.  Wish I had another bottle.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – A CLASSIC