Sat (1/26) was the 4'th anniversary of DonnReisen's death, so Susan & I hoisted a few glasses of Ridge in celebration of a life well-lived:
1. Ridge Calif Chard SantaCruzMtns (MonteBelloEstate Vnyd; 14.6%; Bttld: Jan 2007; Drk: 12/06-12/10-12/11: EB) 2005: Med.gold color; intense smokey/charred/pungent/ozone bit toasty/oak slight earthy/melony/pineapply/Chard slight Mosel valve oil complex nose; soft some butterscotchy/toasty/oak strong smokey/pungent/charred rather earthy/chalky/melong/pineapple/Chard/Mosel valve oil rather smooth/rich/lush some old WhiteBurg/nutty flavor; very long pungent/smokey/ozone some caramel/toasty/oak bit nutty/oxidized slight earthy/chalky/SCM Chard/melony/pineapple ripe fairly complex finish; probably as good as it'll get; quite complex/interesting Chard some like old Burg, some like middle-aged Riesling.
2. Ridge Calif Zin HowellMtn/NapaCnty (86% Zin/14% PS; 13.6%; Bttld: 5/92; Drk: 4/92-4/97-4/98: PD) 1990: Very dark color w/ slight browning; beautiful/complex blackberry/Zin rather HM/earthy/rustic quite perfumed/fragrant bit mushroomy/truffly/pungent light toasty/smokey/oak nose; fairly tart some tannic/astringent/dried out rather earthy/mushroomy/blackberry/HM Zin light vanilla/toasty/smokey/Am.oak complex flavor; very long smooth/silky fairly strong blackberry/briary/earthy/HM Zin rather complex finish w/ some tannic/astringent/dried out in the aftertaste; a classic HM Zin/earthy complex nose but starting to dry out on the palate; seen better days and pretty much dead in the next morning. $12.30
3. Ridge Viognier LyttonWestEstate/DryCreekVlly (14.9%; Bttld: Aug 2010; "Opulent/Slightly Sweet"; Drk: 6/10-6/20: EB) 2010: Med.light gold color; intense peach/Viog very floral/perfumey/very ripe pear almost GWT-like light earthy nose; soft bit pencilly/oak slightly sweet very intense/perfumey/very ripe peach/Viog almost spatlese-like/floral light earthy interesting flavor; very long intense/floral/very ripe peach/Viog slightly sweet light earthy finish; lots of very ripe Viog character. $19.00/hlf
And stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:
1. Donn: JeezLooeze I miss that guy. I first met Donn in the early-80's, probably about the time he was named head Marketing guy there. I was making my 4'th or 5'th visit up to TheRidge and when I requested a visit, I got a letter (before e-mail...these were little paper thingeys that the US Postal Service stuck in a box you had out front of your house) from Donn confirming my visit. Say whot??....they're sticking the important TomHill w/ some marketing weenie for this visit??
I, as most people did w/ Donn, took an instant like to the guy. He had a very special way of connecting w/ people immediately. With that big/bushy mustache and eyebrows that were always in motion..my first thought was "goofy". Not as in stupid goofy....but in the endearing way of WaltDisney's Goofy. And, unlike many marketing types, Donn was not the kind to make you want to reach for your wallet to protect it. He showed me the new Ridge releases and I soon realized he knew as much about the wines and their winemaking as, probably, PaulDraper did. It was a wonderful afternoon up on TheRidge.
This was during a period that I was about to give up on the Ridge wines. In the late-'70's, as with many other wineries in Calif, brettanomyces was starting to creep into their wines. By the '80-'82 vintages, it was getting particularly bad w/ a lot of pretty stinky wines. As we tasted thru the new releases, I commented to Donn (I seldom pulled my punches when I thought Ridge had stumbled w/ a wine) about the barnyardy stink. He arched his eyebrows, nodded slightly in agreement, but admonished me to "keep the faith" that they'd get better. Shore 'nuf, by the '84 vintage, Ridge had pretty much licked their brett problems.
It was the start of a long & beautiful friendship. There were many meals together, over the yrs, often including Marilyn. In addition to good food/good wine. they were always marked with high laughter and much back & forth good-natured banter.
Donn was the frequent representative of Ridge to the SantaFe Wine&Chile Feista. Susan & I sometimes got to pour w/ Donn at the Ridge table. That was always a treat. Everybody wanted to talk to Donn, and he was obliging. So Susan & I would do most of the pouring as Donn conected w/ people, most of whom were already big Ridge fans. One year, BillyAdams, somm at BlueStar in ColoradoSprings, came up, wanting to meet Donn and taste thru the new wines. When he finished, he asked Donn if he could have a Ridge corkscrew. Donn explained that they needed it to open the btls, but if he came back at the end of the GrandTasting, he could have it. Alas, as things were winding down, Billy failed to show. So Donn grabed the corkscrew and plunged into the crowd in search of Billy. Found him & made a lifelong believer in Ridge. Then, when he returned to Ridge that next week, he sent Billy several more Ridge corkscrews for his staff to use. That was Donn's way w/ people.
Many other stories to spin but....Jeez....I miss that guy.
2. Ridge Whites: I have, of course, followed the Ridge whites, Chard/Sylvaner/WhiteRiesling, from MonteBello and VineHill vnyds. The early ones I tried from the early '70's, I did not care much for. They were acid/austere/rough/rustic whites w/ some oak and a lot of the chalky/earthy SCM terroir character. Not my cup of tea.
Around '75 (by crackey), I took a group of nuclear types up for a visit to TheRidge. Hosting us was DaveBennion. We tasted thru all the new Ridge releases (Zin & MonteBello) and were dutifully impressed. It was a cold/wet/windy afternoon out on the brow of the hill in front of the lower winery. As we were preparing to leave, I remarked that I really like the Ridge reds but that the whites sucked (not in those exact words, of course). Dave took this as a personal challenge and started pulling old Chard/Sylbaners/WhiteRieslings from out of the cellar dating back to the mid'60's...ending w/ the Ridge TBA Riesling. With age, they developed that nutty/slightly oxidized character you find in old German Riesling and WhiteBurgs. Made a believer out of me.
Nowadays, Ridge makes their Chard in a more approachable style and they don't have (much of) that lean/hard/austere/chalky/earthy character that speaks of SCM Chard....that SCM terroir. But they seem to develop quite nicely (as did this '05) and eventually show more of that SCM terroir.
3. Viognier: When I first tasted this wine, I took an immediate and intense dislike to it. It was soft/fat/porky and overripe and cloyingly sweet. When I tasted this Sat night, I liked it a whole lot better. It seems to be coming together and developing into something more interesting. It's still a bit soft and sweet, but more interesting things are starting to come to the forefront. It reminds me some of the Cuilleron off-dry Condrieus. Maybe sort of an old-timey Viognier as most Condrieu was made in this style in the early-mid-1900's (before my time). I think it's probably going to be a fine wine w/ more age.