Category Archives: 2007

A Vertical Tasting at Ridge Vineyards

Ridge Vineyards winery

Ridge Vineyards winery

Nina and I are low-key planners when it comes to our trips. Just like our California trip to see family, until we arrived, all we had were the tickets and a place to stay. The rest usually comes naturally. And so it did. During a dinner with one of Nina’s cousins, he mentioned that one of his cousins is a vineyard manager at Ridge Vineyards…I did not take notice immediately, but then I saw a Ridge label in a wine store and realized: Wait a second, I have heard of the winery before!! This is not some local hack, this is actually pretty decent California wine royalty.

So we pestered cousin 1 to get in touch with his cousin 2 and see what he could do to get us to the winery. I know, I know. I am a sucker for good wine, and I wanted to see whether we could get a decent tasting. And a decent tasting we got. Turned out that the day we were in the region (we were in San Jose, while the winery and tasting room is in Cupertino), they were having a Wine Club exclusive tasting. And that tasting included a vertical of Ridge’s Bucchignani Ranch Carignane. We naturally made ourselves available for this and ended up on the guest list, together with two friends of ours.

Let me tell you about the winery: Ridge Vineyards was founded in 1962, but its roots go back further. In the 1880s, a doctor bought land in the Monte Bello Ridge, a mountainous slope near Cupertino. These vineyards were later bought by the then owners of Ridge in the 1960s, and Monte Bello is still their flagship vineyard. Apparently, the winery has been owned by a pharmaceutical company since the 1980s (weird!!). It now mostly has holdings in Napa and Sonoma (north of the San Francisco Bay), with Monte Bello still being part of its portfolio. It became famous when during the Judgment of Paris in 1976, a blind tasting in Paris that compared California and Bordeaux reds as well as California and Burgundy chardonnays, it came in fifth with its 1971 Monte Bello, an outstanding achievement (the first wine was a California, then three Bordeuax, then Ridge). In a re-enactment 30 years later, Ridge came in first with its wine!!

The label (Photo credit:

The label (Photo credit:

Let me say this first: I love the bottles for their iconic, simple labels. They’re just really stylish.

The drive up to the tasting room is gorgeous in itself. You wind the car up and up and up and then reach the winery, which overlooks Silicon Valley. It’s just spectacular.

But off to the vertical. As I indicated, we had a vertical of 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011 Ridge Bucchignani Ranch Carignane. Bucchignani Ranch was added to Ridge’s portfolio in 1999. The vineyard is located in the northwestern edge of Alexander Valley. The majority of the Carignane vines in this vineyard were planted in the 1940s, with oldest dating back to 1927 and the youngest to 1952.

We started with the 2006 Ridge Bucchignani Ranch Carignane. In the glass, the wine showed a lighter red with slight browning at the edges. The nose was enticing, with blueberry pie, salt caramel and sweet almond aromas. Quite unexpected, very pretty. On the palate, the wine was light bodied, with firm tannins that were nicely balanced. The wine was showing some contraction, with rather low fruit aromas. However, it felt a bit thinnish to me. It got more impressive when paired with the salty cheese that ridge was providing. I’d say a good to very good wine. Not impressive, but solid.

Next up was the 2007 vintage. The pourer informed us that 2007 was a very hot year. The wine presented itself in a darker, ruby red color. The nose was very intense, it was hard to focus on what aromas I got: it was perfumy, one of our friends remarked on butter scotch, although I am not sure I got that. To me, there were meaty aromas going on…whatever that says. So, yeah, definitely interesting nose. On the palate, the wine was medium-bodied, with a surprising amount of acidity and lots of tannins. Very different from the previous vintage. It felt rather balanced, but was a bit all over the place. What I liked most about this wine was the taste after you swallowed. About 20 seconds in, aromas became jammy and fruity. I really enjoyed that finish. For my flavor profile, though, this might have been a bit too strong. I could see it go well with food, though!

Us with our good friend in the tasting room

Us with our good friend in the tasting room

We then moved on to the 2008 vintage, which was of a lighter ruby red color. In the nose, we got orange peel, cloves, I detected some sweat. Not a bad nose (despite the sweat). The great thing about this wine, though, was its structure. Unlike the other two wines, it was spicy right in the beginning, not the end. There was very good balance in the wine. I detected some chalk in the mid-section that leads over to well developed flavor in the back. Very good, lingering finish that wraps up the wine well. I thought this was very good.

The final wine in the vertical was the 2011 Ridge Bucchignani Ranch Carignane. A bit more powerful in color, this wine showed very young aromatics in the nose, with balsamic vinegar, stone fruit and blackberry. Again, a nose that was very nice to linger in for a while. In the mouth, this wine was medium bodied with strong acidity, but the flavors were dominated by its jammy-ness. Later I got vanilla and scone batter. I noted down that this wine was very refreshing. It might have been a bit unbalanced still with the rather strong acidity, but I still thought this was a very good wine. And give it a few years and the acidity will calm down a bit, too.

All in all, it was a good tasting. The wines were definitely interesting and diverse and gave a good impression of the skill that is going on at Ridge. The wines are definitely a reason why this winery has a good reputation. I’d come back any time. :)

The wines from this line are apparently only sold to members of the Wine Club. The 2011 vintage is being sold at $26, which seems a fair price when compared to other California wines.

Goofing off, Silicon Valley in the background

Goofing off, Silicon Valley in the background

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2007 Treana Red Paso Robles

2007 Treana Red Paso Robles

2007 Treana Red Paso Robles

Some of you may remember the dinner I had with my fellow blogger and wine friend John, The Wine Raconteur, earlier this year. John, being the wonderfully generous man that he is brought us a bottle of wine as a gift, which caught us off guard because we clearly did not anticipate this, and had nothing to reciprocate. Well, we promised to make up for it and we will. The wine John gave us was the 2007 Treana Red, a wine from Paso Robles on California’s central coast.

I am not very familiar with California wines: I find most to be overpriced and the chief reliance on Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape variety I am not overly fond of, doesn’t help. I explained earlier that a good friend of ours has made me drink more California reds and I have found ways and makers that I enjoy, but I am still a complete ignoramus when it comes to these wines. I might have heard Paso Robles before, but I would not be able to locate it on a map at all. So, I am afraid a drew a blank when John gave me the wine and looked at me expectantly…I still feel guilty for that.

In an order to redeem myself, I did some research: Treana is part of the family owned Hope Family Wines company which maintains five different brands, of which Treana is one. The family arrived in the late 1970s and planted apple trees and vines. They planted the classic varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. In 1996, they produced their first Treana white and red. The current owner and winemaker, Austin Hope, is the son of the founders who was eight when the family moved to Paso Robles.

Treana Red is what the winery deems its flagship wine (I was SHOCKED to see the retail price! John, thank you so much!!). The wine is made with 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah. It is sourced from their up to eight different best vineyards in Paso Robles. It is fermented with cultivated yeasts and matures for ten to 14 months in French oak (50% new oak). The grapes ripen separately, and in the summer the best barrels are combined in barrels. Before filling, the wine is moved to a tank. The winery describes it as somewhere between a Napa and a Bordeaux wine (now if I only knew what that could possibly mean). According to the label, the 2007 had 15.5% ABV.

The wine poured in an inviting ruby red. The nose was full of cassis, as in full of it. Gorgeous. Add in some perfumy and herbal notes (branches). It was deep and inviting. On the palate, the medium-bodied Treana initially hit us with a quite strong acidity that made it feel unbalanced. There were peppery notes, the perfume continued. But we couldn’t get over how acidic it was. The texture however was great, a really nice silky mouth feel. The finish was of medium length with some bitterness.

We waited a bit, and lo and behold, some beautiful crushed coffee bean aromas started showing up in the finish. I loved that. After an hour, the wine was more herbal and felt much more concentrated than we initially thought, but the acidity persisted. Only after two hours was the acidity finally balanced and gave the wine a good structure.

Nina really liked the wine, and I thought it was pretty good, too. We have different tastes in red wine, and she likes the bigger reds more than me, so that makes sense. Thank you, John and your lovely bride, for providing a great evening for us!


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Sunday Read: Almaroja Pirita 2007 Arribes

This week’s Sunday Read is a novelty. It is just one review, but this wine review has a couple of things that I want to share. First of all, it is written by Jancis Robinson, who I really like and who in my view is one of the most gifted wine writers out there.

Second, it is one of those many interesting wine stories out there, about a person following her dream, opening a winery in a remote area of Spain. I love those stories.

Third, the wine review is about a wine that I just had Friday night. I really enjoyed the wine a lot, but did not take any notes because it was during Nina’s birthday party which, since our time in Germany, has always had the theme “we provide cheeses and some mustards and you bring a bottle of wine you like”. This year, the invitation encouraged guests to bring obscure varietal wines to help us in our quest to make the Wine Century  Club.

And that is the fourth reason why I am sharing this review: This wine catapulted me across the 100 different grape varieties tried threshold to enter the Wine Century Club with its mostly unknown grapes  Juan Garcia, Rufete, Bruñal, Tempranillo, Tinta Madrid,  Bastardillo Chico, Bastardillo Serrano, Tinta Jeromo, Gajo Arroba and Verdejo Colorado. I will soon mail in my application and then will be a proud member! I will write wrote more about this club in a separate post

For now, happy Sunday. Enjoy the read and put something nice in your glass.

Jancis Robinson: Almaroja, Pirita 2007 Arribes

2007 Pirita

2007 Almaroja Pirita

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