Last week, I recounted the first half of the time that I spent with Eliot Nett, the hospitality director at Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs in the Dry Creek Valley. As you may recall, we had just finished the 2010 Monte Bello, but we did not stop there.
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate: Retail $50. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. There was not much that could follow the 2010 Monte Bello, but this certainly tried. Drinkable now with good fruit and a bit of pepper, this could also benefit from a bit of cellar time. The grapes come from 20 year-old vines grown at 2000-2500 feet, providing ample acidity to hold it all together. I feel like I used all my superlatives for the Monte Bello, but this is no slouch (and a third of the price). Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
In the last post, I mentioned that Eliot broke out the “big guns”: a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Lytton Springs and a 2010 Mont Bello.
I was wrong.
Or perhaps it is better to say that he had a “bigger gun”. A much bigger gun.
1995 Monte Bello: Retail? 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc (12.5% alcohol). I guess I was a bit stunned when Eliot pulled this bottle out since I forgot to ask what the retail price was (Wine Searcher has it from $150 to $500). Maybe I asked, and just did not remember. Maybe Eliot told me and I momentarily blacked out. I am not even sure if you can purchase it at the winery (although I imagine you could). Eliot used his Coravin to pour me a glass of this nearly 20-year-old Monte Bello, after our discussion centered on my love of older wines. As I delicately swirled the wine, I noticed an ever so slight amount of bricking around the edges, but other than that, there was no sign of age. While the 2010 was rather tight, the 1995 was beautifully open and singing—the nose was magical, I did not want to take the glass away from my face. I briefly thought I should take some notes on the wine, but only for a moment. Instead, I decided to sit back, look over the vineyard, and just enjoy. Eventually, I did jot a few words down: “Wow. Wow. Wow again. 95-97 Points.” That was all I could muster. I even forgot to take a picture.
A relatively new electric-powered vehicle. As a the proud, self-righteous owner of a Prius, you can likely imagine how badazz I thought this was. We drove up into the vineyards and Eliot pointed out some of the highlights of the Ridge story, which began in the early 1960’s on the Monte Bello ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains (the vineyards date back to the late 1880’s). The first vintage under the Ridge label was 1962, and the first wine? The Monte Bello, of course. The first Zinfandel was made in 1964, the first Geyserville two years later, and the now famous wine maker Paul Draper came to Ridge in 1969. The Lytton Springs property was added in 1991 and the entire production of Ridge Vineyards is right around 65,000 total cases.
When we got back to the patio, it was now close to three o’clock and there was a wonderful box lunch waiting for us. Eliot inquired if I would like to have any wine with lunch and I tried to suppress the “did he really ask that question?” look, but clearly I failed since he left smiling before I could answer. He came back with another two bottles to first taste and then have a glass with lunch.
2007 Lytton Springs: Retail $38 on release, $50 Library. 71% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, 7% Carignane. Some really great red berry fruit, but seemed a bit thin on the mid-palate (no doubt my little buds were somewhat spoiled by the ’95 Monte Bello). The fruit comes back on the finish, with a still impressive backbone. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2005 Syrah Lytton West: Retail $34 on release, $41 Library. The Syrah is co-fermented with 6% Viognier from an adjacent plot to add a more floral quality to the wine. That floral quality came through on the nose, along with some allspice and plum. This wine was fantastic, full of the same fruit and spice on the palate. Unbeknownst to me, there is actually a bit of tannin in the Viognier skins, which provides a bit more firmness to the wine, particularly on the finish. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
The choice of which wine to have with lunch was an easy one (since the ’95 Monte Bello had been wisely removed from the table)—I opted for a glass of the Syrah, a wine that usually sells out rather quickly through Ridge’s wine club. As I inhaled the wonderful sandwich and accoutrements, Eliot shared story after story about Ridge in general and Paul Draper in particular. I started to take notes, but quickly realized that there was no way that I would ever be able to recount the stories in a way that would do them justice–these were oral histories, and as such, they were best to be “handed down” over a glass of wine.
Eventually, I made it to the end of my glass, but not my sandwich–I was silently hoping that Eliot would provide me with a splash more of the Syrah, which he graciously did. As I finished off this second glass, I glanced at my phone–it was a hair after 4:30. The scheduled two-hour tasting had turned in to more than three and a half! About that same time, I received a text from Donald Goodkin, my host, wondering if I would be coming back soon. There was another tasting scheduled to start at his house in under 30 minutes.
I indicated to Eliot that I unfortunately needed to run, but I would love to purchase a couple of bottles of the Syrah (I actually wanted a couple of bottles of either Monte Bello, but I also wanted to stay married, so I opted for the more wallet-friendly Syrah).
After thanking Eliot for what was one of the finest tasting experiences I have had, I hopped into my car and headed back to Grape House–the name of the Goodkin’s bed and breakfast in the middle of their vineyard (more on their beautiful home soon).
I knew there were a few winemakers coming over for the tasting at 5:00, but I was in no way prepared for what was to happen next….