Discovering Wine: A Treasure in California

In my first wine related article I had a “buyer beware” tag on Napa Valley. However, that does not mean you should stay away from California entirely. Today I am highlighting a few wines from one of my favorite producers, Ridge Vineyards. Their wines are not bargain finds, but they are really well made and if you are looking for a wine to celebrate a special occasion I highly recommend you look these wines up.

Ridge’s most celebrated wine is the Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was featured in the wine tasting that really put American wine on the world stage known as the “Judgment of Paris” where American Cabernet was blind tasted vs the top French Cabernet and came out on top. When these wines were re-tasted in 2006, the Ridge Monte Bello was the #1 overall winner. I have never had this wine because it is hard to find and quite expensive. However, they make a variety of wines that, while not cheap,remain really strong values and are a delight to drink.

2018 Three Valleys Zinfandel Blend

This wine retails for around $30 and it is amazing. Some of their wines will benefit with some age, but this one is ready to drink now and is singing.

This is what the winemaker has to say about the wine:

“Ruby-garnet red color. Pungent cherry and raspberry fruits, sweet oak, and complex minerals. Intense cherry fruit entry, ripe plum, lively acid, and exotic spices and barrel toast. Tannins are supple and coated by appealing fruit. Wonderfully long finish. EB (1/20)”

What I enjoyed most about this wine is its balance. Great fruit flavors which are not overwhelming. Sometimes the hot climate in California creates wines made with really high sugar and alcohol levels. This results in wines that taste unbalanced, often like over-cooked fruits or with biting alcohol taste. Three Valleys Zinfandel has great balance with nice cherry/plum flavors and acidity to balance out the finish. I highly recommend this wine if you can find it at your local store or online.

2018 Geyserville Zinfandel Blend

Another Zinfandel from Ridge, this is probably their second most famous wine retailing for ~$45. They have been making this as a single vineyard since 1966 from vines over 100 years old. It is slightly more “serious” than Three Valleys and, while approachable now, will be drinking better in 5 years. I bought three bottles, drank one, and will be saving the other two for special occasions.

Notes from the winemaker:

“Dark ruby color. Intense black cherry fruit aroma, exotic oak spice, cola, mint, and complex gravel earth. Intense bramble fruit entry, sensuous textural tannins, lively acid, and showing great minerality in a long finish. EB (2/20)”

What I noticed about this wine (and you can see in its description above) is that while there is plenty of fruit you get more of the secondary types of flavors (i.e. mint, cola, and oak spice). Wines with the secondary flavor characteristicswines can benefit from a little more bottle aging for the primary and secondary flavors to come together better. The black fruit bramble characteristic is really nice in Zinfandel and I’m excited to open it again in a few years.

Ridge makes a variety of other wines and I have never had a bad wine from them. If you see any of their bottles, I recommend grabbing them, but these two in particular are worth the hunt! 

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