After what seemed like years, though in reality was 8 months of planning, we assembled a group of 12 to conduct a tasting primarily focused on Ridge Zinfandels from Geyserville and Lytton Springs. Joining us were Roy Hersh (visiting from Seattle) and Stefan Blicker from Napa. Roy and Stefan contributed many wines and this tasting would not have been possible without their generosity. The LA crew consisted of: Matt Lichtenberg, David Lewin, Robert Thornton, Marshall Gelb, Frank Tota, Stephen Gelber, Andy Velebil, Bennett Traub, Steve Timko (in from Reno) and yours truly.
To start the night off in style, Matt brought these beauties to the table. They were quite a treat and priviledge to taste. Not often do you get to try 28-39 year old Chards from one of California's early cult producers.
- 1967 Stony Hill Chardonnay - USA, California, Napa Valley
Well, this is my first time trying a 39 yr old California Chardonnay. The wine showed a very light straw color. The fruit began to awaken with about 20 minutes in the glass to reveal some hinting citrus and honey notes. Very light bodied and short of acidity at first. Again, things got better with air, but the wine seemed a little over the hill. The nose eventually showed a lemon custard with hints of hazelnuts and the acidity perked up a bit. Surprisingly, there was very little oxidized qualities to this wine. It was a rare treat to sample this wine at almost 40 years of age.
- 1978 Stony Hill Chardonnay - USA, California, Napa Valley
The '78 was still almost tight at first, yet the structure was clearly obvious. The color was golden rod. Once this wine opened up, it showed nice notes of crushed flowers, lemon custard and chopped nuts. Terrific acidity that was still very vibrant and again no oxidized notes. The midpalate was full and not a let down with a nice length on the finish. A wonderful wine with room to still improve. If the wines structure remains intact and developes more complexity, it could be stunner.
- 1972 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
We began our flights with the '72 and what a wine it would turn out to be. The wine seemed to appeal across the board to all at the table. I must admit that I did have a very optimistic impression prior to sampling this wine. It started out with some funk and rustic earthiness. This evolved into a glorious perfum of asian spices, brown sugar and allspice. The aromas continued to evolve, shift and change in the style of mature burgundy. The palate was soft, delicate and velvety smooth. Absloutely and utterly sexy in a refined way. The wine stayed alive for the 2+ hours it was in my glass, and while it peaked within an hour, it seemed to very slowly evolve and settle down with a slight tartiness towards the last sip. What a magnificent wine. This was the only wine we were uncertain of the cepages. The '72 is the perfect posterchild for aged zinfandel. This was a real treat and, for me, a special wine I will not soon forget.
- 1982 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
A somewhat reserved wine with little to offer following the fabulous '72. The nose seemed subdued with a very earthy quality an a hint of VA. Rather hollow on the midpalate. The finish on this wine was also short and clipped.
- 1985 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
The nose was somewhat soapy with hints of cherry underneath. Not a very compelling wine with little complexity. Another wine with a clipped finish.
- 1989 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
An off vintage in California yet this wine managed show very well. There was a clear note of mint/spearmint with an herbal quality that remined throughout the night. The palate was not as intriguing as the nose with less structure as in slightly disjointed. The finish seemed to dry out and shorten. Still an interesting wine in the line up.
- 1993 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
At first the nose seemed medicinal but with time this resolved to show earthy notes of leather and spice. The fruit is still seems to be evolving with some darker fruits beginning to show secondary flavors. Again, this wine like many tonight, showed solid structure and nice length on the finish.
- 1995 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
Aromas of herbs and spice with some darker fruits. The palate is still primary dark fruit with a mineral quality showing through. Not very complex. Still tannic with a prickly mouthfeel. Seems like this wine will benefit from more cellar time.
- 1997 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
Initially aromas of vanilla,yet after some time the telltale signs of spices came through. The fruit is remarkable lush with chocolate covered cherries. The texture is again rich and palate coating. I liked this wine after it had time to open up. The structure is well balanced with good length to the finish.
- 1999 Ridge Geyserville - USA, California, Sonoma County
Still quite young in this super flight. Rich upfront fruit with chocolate and expresso dominating. Well structured with a long finish.
- 1988 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
The nose began with a floral leathery nose. With time, spicey aromas of clove, baking spices emerged. Elegant on the palate with wonderful nuanced fruit. Terrific secondary flavors here of forest floor, leather and complex spice. Super balance and again just an elegant, smooth wine. Clearly my favorite LS of the night.
- 1990 Lytton Springs Winery Zinfandel Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
Unfortunately I have nothing written down on this one and can't remember it.
- 1991 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
I'm short on notes for this wine and memory is useless whne you've drunk 10 zins at this point. All I have written down is smooth and chocolate. Others will fill in.
- 1993 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
Initially showing dill in the nose eventually receding and becoming more spicey with some clove and leather. Fruit seems a bit more plumy and darker. The mouthfeel is very smooth with decent finish.
- 1994 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
Wonderful nose of again spice, some leathery notes with raspberry. The fruit is deep and perfectly interwound with a solid structure, well balanced and long finish. Super wine and showing very well tonight.
- 1995 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
Showing a raisiny, pruny nose at first. This eventually morphed into a softer spicey nose. The fruit seems a little stewed, almost amarone like. The finish was also somewhat clipped. Not a bad wine on it's own, though there were better wines in this flight.
- 1997 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
The textbook baking spice came through on the nose. Fruit was rich and spicey more on the darker side with chocolate and expresso. Some tannin, but on the most part smooth texture. I enjoyed this one.
- 1998 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
- 1999 Ridge Lytton Springs - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
Upfront fruit of raspberry with a textbook brambly quality. Very Zinfandel like. Well structured and should go the distance in the cellar.
- 1983 Château Suduiraut - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Honeyed appricots on the nose with lush fruit on the palate. The palate was the best part of this wine with a long even finish.
- 1986 Château Guiraud - France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
A beautiful nost of stone fruits, honey and spice. Medium bodied, with a slightly shorter finish than the '83 Suduiraut.
- 1995 Stony Hill Sémillon de Soleil - USA, California, Napa Valley
Marshall through this in for good measure and while it was an interesting wine, it was not very compelling. The color was darker than the older Sauternes. I've had the '79 and was also not very impressed.
- 1994 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain Vendange Tardive - France, Alsace, Thann, Alsace Grand Cru AOC
Corked!!! Arghh...I was really looking forward to this. I was able to get a whif of fruit immediately, but then TCA.
- 1968 Mayacamas Vineyards Zinfandel Late Harvest - USA, California, Napa Valley
Beautiful bottle that looked almost fresh off the shelf. Unfortunately this wine also was a dude. Some at the table felt it was dry with no RS left. It was hot and disjointed. Too bad, but thanks to Stefan for bringing it along
- 1974 Quinta do Noval Porto Colheita - Portugal, Douro, Porto
Served blind. Many gueses including Madeira and Sherry. I mumbled tawny but did not venture a guess, but Marshall spoke up and declared Tawny. We drank this at the end of the night and the nutty, maple syrup notes of a tawny were quite evident. The wine would have benefited from several hours in the decanter. A nice finish to a great evening.
What a great night of focused wine tasting, great food and terrific people. While I’ve had a few aged Zinfandels before, I have never systematically tasted so many in one sitting. I’ve always believed in the ability of this varietal’s age worthiness. They certainly showed this tonight and proved that Zinfandel is a classy grape capable of complex old wines. This certainly was a memorable event. A big thanks to all that contributed wines and traveled far to join us. I walked away with a new found appreciation for old Geezers!