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Ridge Geyserville 2017

Ridge Geyserville 2017

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"The 2017 Geyserville is a blend of 68% Zinfandel, 18% Carignane, 12% Petite Sirah and 2% Alicante Bouschet, aged 14 months in American oak, 16% new. Medium ruby, it opens with lilac, chocolate box and stone fruit hints with warm blackcurrants, red and black cherries, cranberries, cedar, tobacco leaf and dusty earth. Medium to full-bodied, it opens slowly in the mouth to pure fruits supported by fine, chalky tannins and integrated freshness on the very long finish. This is wound tight but has loads of potential and will require at least another few years in bottle. Drink: 2022-2040. 94 points

Eric Baugher says winter rains saved the vines during the heat wave in 2017. “It was a wetter year,” he remembers, “and the vines had a chance to use those water resources through the growing season. So it was a slower, more steady progression toward ripeness. It got hot during Labor Day, but the vines got through fine because there was so much water in the soil.” Alcohols were a bit lower this vintage, and Baugher has been focused on bringing down overall levels. “We’ve been disciplined about picking earlier,” he comments, noting that in 2017 most of the fruit was off the vine before the heat. “By Labor Day all the fruit at Geyserville was in,” he says. “Carignan and Petite Sirah came in after the heat but didn’t show signs of over-ripening. Carignan thrives in the heat and isn’t susceptible to shrivel, so every drop went into the Geyserville blend this year.”

Baugher is optimistic about quality in 2018. “In 2018 we slipped back to drought. There was no rain in January or February at all. It was unusually dry, and we were pushing budbreak. Then it got really cold in March and April, and things stalled out again. The summer was nice with even temperatures, no heat spikes. We ended up with good weather at bloom and about average yields.” Uniform ripeness was a hallmark of the vintage for Baugher. “2018 had much more uniform ripening, which leads to a more complete, sensuous expression,” he says. “The Zinfandels have deep flavors and a quality of tannins I don’t see every year with that grape. They are just woven in with the fruit, creating a complete wine with great length and great vineyard expression as well. All the 2018s speak of place, and it’s a trick to get that to happen with Zinfandel. It has the tendency to overripen, and that puts a lid on vineyard expression. 2013 is another great example of a perfectly ripe vintage. It happens twice a decade, if we’re lucky.”

Baugher is excited about the 2018 Monte Bello, which I tasted from barrel. “For me, great vintages of Monte Bello are when all four varieties are included,” he explains. “There are 45 plots within Monte Bello. We grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, in that order. They’re fermented and go to barrel separately. For blending, everything is tasted blind. We’re looking at aromatics, texture and complexity, not grape variety. We look at the grape percentages after assemblage is finished. The years that are special are the years all four grapes make it into the blend, because the conditions in the vineyard have to be perfect.” The 2018 is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Petite Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc. While still very primary, it’s showing plenty of nuance and complexity already, and I look forward to tasting it again from bottle."

Erin Brooks, Wine Advocate (02/20)

In case you are not already familiar with Ridge's emblematic wines, the main production is red, focusing on Zinfandel. Way back in the early 1960s, they produced some of the first old-vine, single-vineyard Zinfandel to appear on the market: in fact, the philosophy of this estate owes a great deal to  European views of terroir and was, therefore, very forward-looking for California.

The contrast between Lytton Springs and Geyserville is marked and profound, especially considering that the vineyards are just one mile apart! Lytton is generally the more unyielding and tannic whereas Geyserville is succulent and approachable. This difference is down to terroir and the fact that Geyserville contains more Carignan in the blend, which contributes to the warm fruit quality. Lytton, on the other hand, although also predominantly Zinfandel, has a higher proportion of Petite Sirah. What is interesting too is the fact that Carignan does not flourish in the Lytton vineyard and never has done: the Geyserville vineyards, though further North, are warmer and this favours Carignan. The flagship wine, Monte Bello (produced from vines grown on the Monte Bello ridge (see above) - too cool for Zinfandel but perfect for the more architectural Bordeaux varieties) is a Bordeaux field blend with at least thirty parcels harvested and vinified separately before blending. 

Ridge's wines also epitomise the positive value of history, the importance of consistency and the constant search for improvement by the fine-tuning of the relationship between the art and science of winemaking. Paul Draper, the iconic CEO, has been making wine here since 1969 when he was invited to join by the four founders. Eric Baugher, who has a background in microbiology and biochemistry and who now oversees production, has been there since 1994. John Olney, who is responsible for Lytton Springs, joined in 1996 and David Gates, who is in charge of vineyard operations, in 1989. In January 1987, Ridge was sold to a Japanese pharmaceutical company, Otsuka, but, as Antonio Galloni said, the wines have gone from strength to strength and any change in financial control has not resulted in quality being compromised. On the contrary, these wines represent excellent value for money and we cannot recommend them highly enough.