Sonoma tagged posts

The Brilliant Wines of Ridge

October 4, 2016 News and Opinion  No comments

IMGP6222In the last year I've had the pleasure of visiting two of Ridge's most famous vineyards: Lytton Springs in Sonoma and Monte Bello in the Santa Cruz mountains high above Silicon Valley.  Those two vineyards, along with Geyserville, make up the top bottlings for Ridge, and have for over 40 years.   During that time, very little has changed and the result is one the longest-lived wines in the U.S. (Monte Bello) and two of the most American wines (Lytton Springs and Geyserville).

Here are some of the reasons I love Ridge:

Monte Bello is one of the longest-lived wines in the country.  This year, I tasted a vertical of the '88, '03 and '12 and they were all brilliant.  That's especially impressive considering '88 was a poor vintage in California and the wine was 28 years

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A Killer Single Vineyard Sonoma Syrah for $17

September 27, 2016 High End Values  No comments

baldassari_syrah_nolanThere are less great wine deals than there were 4-5 years ago.  That fact, combined with my increasingly picky taste in wine, means that when you see a post about a great deal on this blog, you can rest assured the wine is noteworthy.  That said, there are great wines available at every price point and there should be no need for qualifiers like"it's good for the price".  Here is a great example:

Fans of cool-climate Syrah are going to want to check out this excellent single vineyard from Sonoma's Bennet Valley.  This cool climate growing region is a sweet spot for Syrah and Baldassari has nailed it with their 2013 from Nolan Vineyard.

This shows like a slightly riper St. Joseph with a deep purple color, beautiful black pepper on the nose and notes of smoked meat with a nice mix of

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Another Winner from Ridge – 2013 Geyserville ($31.95, AG 92-94)

June 17, 2015 Uncategorized  No comments

Ridge GeyservilleAs I've mentioned several times on these pages, Ridge makes a couple of my favorite wines - Geyserville and Lytton Springs.  They are both Zinfandel-based blends, both age-worthy and both remarkably consistent.  They are also some of the best values in American wine.  These are truly top-notch reds in the low $30s.  Compare that to a Cabernet of the same heritage and we would be looking at 2-4x the cost.

Though I haven't had a chance to try either wine this year, I popped a 2012 Geyserville in preparation for this post and only a little over a year after release, it's open for business.  Remarkably, this wine ages well, with some examples from the 70s still drinking well.  Not that it's likely to last that long in my cellar...
Buy Here: 2013 Ridge Geyserville $31.95


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A $32 Cab for under $20 (AG90, $19.95)

May 21, 2015 90+ Bargains  No comments

beringer_knights_LRGBeringer's Knights Valley Cabernet sells for $32 at my grocery store and most grocery stores around the country.  I know this as I've gladly paid $32 for this wine, because at many grocery stores, it's the only great wine they carry.  Until I got smart... I bought a case of this wine to put an end to the grocery store trips, and a few bottles in to the case, I'm more impressed than ever.

If you avoid their "Founder's Estate" line of wedding caliber wines, Beringer's entire lineup is excellent, but the Knights Valley Cabernet may be the best value of them all.  It routinely scores 90 points or above from a range of critics and at $20, you certainly won't find a Napa Cab close to this good (Knights Valley is in Sonoma County).  It's polished, balanced and frankly just excellent - with no

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A Paul Hobbs Made Single Vineyard Chardonnay For Under $25

February 2, 2015 High End Values  No comments

Ahnfeldt Chardonnay Estate 2012Paul Hobbs is the original Winemaker Superstar creating some of the most highly rated wines ever under his own label and, more recently, as a consultant.  Under-the radar winery, Ahlfeldt, which I've raved about before, hired him as consulting winemaker a few years back and they are going through a major quality renaissance.

This particular wine comes from a single vineyard in the Sonoma Valley AVA called Thornton Ranch.  Paul Hobbs is best known for his single vineyard wines and the single vineyard Chards from his own label start at around $65.  For around a third the price, this wine has all of the Paul Hobbs' signatures. It shows richness while staying well-balanced and very focused.  California Chardonnay has the ability to be a buttery oaky mess and though this was raised in 50%

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The Next Coming of The Prisoner: Coppola Director’s Cut Cinema

July 2, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

I was a big fan of Orin Swift's "The Prisoner" when it came out.  So much so that it was the first wine I spent real money on.  The receipt below shows I spent $210.28 on a six pack at over $35 per bottle!

The price of The Prisoner has dropped since then, but in my opinion, so has the quality.  I thought maybe my tastes had just changed, so I opened my last bottle of the 2005 vintage The Prisoner earlier this year and confirmed I do indeed like that wine better than the last several releases (they are now on 2010).  As so often happens with popular wines, the temptation to increase production caused quality to diminish.

I have never tasted a wine quite like the early versions of The Prisoner until now.  And, it came from an unexpected source:

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Two Values from the Legendary Paul Hobbs: Crossbarn

July 20, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

Paul Hobbs makes wine from the very best vineyards in California.  Think names like Hyde, Stagecoach, To-Kalon and Dr. Crane.  He has numerous 100 point ratings and has established himself as perhaps the top winemaker and consultant in California and beyond.

But what happens to all of those expensive grapes he buys that don’t quite make the cut for his $100+ wines?  I'll give you a hint.  He doesn’t just throw them away.  He makes them into his Crossbarn series of wines.  You might call Crossbarn a second wine, but that wouldn’t really do these wines justice.  The Crossbarn series are on par with most wineries top tier productions, but Hobbs just holds himself to a higher standard.

I've had a number of vintages of both the Chardonnay and the Cabernet and each impress every time. 

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Deal Alert: 2007 Chalk Hill Estate Red – RP95 for $54.95

May 17, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

This is just one of those outstanding deals of a vintage where the score and the price don't match up.  Chalk Hill has a fabled history of producing one of Sonoma County's top Bordeaux Blends. The perfect 2007 growing season, combined with their continuous efforts to find the perfect site/varietal/rootstock combination, have paid off in a major way.  Half Cabernet and a quarter Malbec, make this a unique blend for California, but as Allison Steltzner pointed out, California is a great place to grow Malbec and I applaud Chalk Hill's liberal use of the varietal.

Buy this wine to drink now or lay it back for 20 years.  Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast gave it 95 points and Wine Spectator gave it 93.  The lowest price on for a 95 point California Cabernet blend is $70 and this

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Amapola Creek Syrah 2007 – Dick Arrowood’s personal masterpiece.

May 16, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

I predict that 10 years from now, Syrah will be right up there with Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of popularity in the United States.  Wine writers have been touting U.S. Syrah for a while, but I think they were a little premature with their predictions.  It takes time for growers to figure out the best locations, rootstock, vine trellising and production methods.  I believe that the U.S. has now figured out the grape that the French and Aussies made so popular before us.  American Syrah has arrived.

Richard "Dick" Arrowood started his career in wine in the '60s and by the '70s became winemaker at Sonoma icon Chateau Ste. Jean.  There, he created arguably Sonoma County's most famous red wine, Cinq Cepages.  Arrowood went on to found his namesake winery, which he sold in the 90s when the

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Ridge Lytton Springs ’08 – Perfectly balanced. $29.95 RP93

April 17, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

In my humble opinion, Ridge makes the best Zinfandel in the country.  Plain and simple.  I'm admittedly not a huge Zin drinker because the super high alcohol, sweet style doesn't appeal to me.  In fact, some Zins are so sweet that I'm sure there is residual sugar, much like dessert wines.  That fact got me wondering why I like the Zinfandel grape at the hands of Ridge's capable winemaker.  So, I read the label.

Though most modern wine labels focus on pretty pictures (gimmicks), Ridge actually includes useful information on theirs.  There I discovered the answer to my question.  Ridge Lytton Springs only contains 14.4% alcohol.  It's not uncommon to see Zins above 16%.  It's also perfectly dry.  Since sugar equals alcohol, the picture is all of the sudden becoming clear.  Reading on,

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