Automatic Tasting Programs

It’s the week after the Wine Bloggers Conference, and I’m at home, recovering, and preparing for my new job to start.  As luck would have, I was invited to participate in the 2nd Blogger Tasting panel at Ridge Monte Bello, and headed on down to the mountains above Silicon Valley to see what Christopher Watkins, blogger and Chief Monte Bello Dude, had in store for us.

Christopher Watkins ponders the sanity of letting us inside...

We were greeted with a series of vertical tasting flights from the ATP series, which is the club only wine that Ridge produces.  These wines are winery direct, and are often only available to club members upon release, so this was really a special tasting.  We started with the 08 Mikulaco Chard, which is a small property on Monte Bello.  The fruit here is normally allocated to some of the other chardonnays that Ridge produces, and this is only the second vineyard select wine made from the vineyard.  There was vanilla, guava and tropical fruits, toasted caramel and a mineral finish of stone fruit, particularly peaches, and golden raspberries.  It is fermented in 15-20% new French Oak, with the remainder in 1-3 year old American oak.  I really appreciate a subtly oaked Chardonnay, and as you probably know I’m often a member of the ABC Club.  This was a bit to tropical for me, but enjoyable all the same.

Next up we move to the 02 Carignane from Buchignani Ranch. This is the northern most property Ridge sources from, and is only planted to zin and carignane, the old school field blend classics.  True to it’s nature, I tasted blueberries, blackberries, bay leaf (I know, but I swear I did!), bittersweet chocolate and an herbaceous tobacco finish.  Paired with the 02, we tried the 05 Carignane.  Again, there was a heavy herbal profile, with mint, eucalyptus, and spice box, and a bright berry bust with a tannic backbone.  It was quite spicy and showed a fair bit of earth.  Finally, we had the 08.  This was much fruitier, with smoky blackberry, bright purple color, and juicy red berries.

Next up, we went rogue Rhône leaving Sarah Palin at home – with the Fity-Fity.  This is my pet name for the SyrahGrenache blend from Lytton Springs, and I think they should relabel it, don’t you?  I meanr really.  With the blackberry pie and fig spice on the 06, this could be dessert.  I also tasted chipotle chocolate, coffee, and dried blueberries.  YUM!  I could drink this all day.  In fact, I need to arrange this.  Paired with the 06 we tried the older 05.  This was much earthier, with dark mushrooms, smoke, and stewed fruit.  I didnt’ care for it at first, but I left some in my glass for a bit and ti grew on me.  still, the 06 won my heart.  BUY  the 05 just needs some air so TRY

Ah syrah.  Where have you been my whole life!  First, the 03 Lytton West.  With 9% viognier co-fermented, this is an old school Rhone classic.  The aromatics of the viognier add to the loganberry and chocolate flavors with jasmine and honeysuckle notes.  It’s little sister the 05 was smokey and spicy, and much more subdued with more fruit and less complexity.  For this reason, I give the 03 a STRONG BUY and the 05 a HOLD.

Big Love means Petite Sirah.  This sneaky grape, aslso known as Durif, makes for some wild wine.  The 06 Dynamite Hills comes frmo 65 year old vines in York Creek, and I had a really hard time getting a nose.  It had some chewy smoked almond flavors, with salted plums (you know, those Asian dried salted thingys) and firm tannins.  Not my fave.  It’s 03 counterpart was more to my liking with blackberry and plum compote, with smoke and blackpepper, black fruit and spice.

Part of the joy of discovering wine is tasting the same wine, with different vintages, side by side.  I adore verticals, and you should try your own!  Wine is a living creature, and develops over time.  Something for the better, sometimes not, but how will you know unless you try?  See what happened to Dave Tong of Santa Cruz Mountains wine Blog when he tasted the older vintages?  I rest my case.

Of course, Dave's British so he's already a little crazy but...

I really love doing these pairings, and special thanks to Christopher for having us and putting out the good cheese!



2 Responses to “Automatic Tasting Programs”

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