Ridge East Bench Zinfandel 2017
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The 2017 Zinfandel East Bench, made from 100% Zinfandel aged 12 months in 10% American oak, has a medium ruby color and is scented of violet, lilac, warm peaches and yellow apricot with wet clay, dust, red and black cherries, bramble fruit and notions of dried herbs and earth melted right into all that fruit. Medium to full-bodied, it has wonderful earth-tinged fruits in the mouth with chalky, integrated tannins and juicy acidity, finishing long and layered. A more serious expression.
The 2017 Zinfandel East Bench comes from the Dry Creek Valley and has a classic bouquet of spice blue fruits, sweet kirsch, cedar, and tobacco leaf. It's a juicy, forward, delicious effort that has notable purity, as well as balance. Drink it anytime over the coming 15 years or more.
Not unexpectedly ripe and fruity, yet a touch overconcentrated for some palates, this expressive effort focuses clearly on Zinfandel berries and brings along notes of dark spice and roasted vanilla beans for added range and interest. Full in body, supple and on the “meaty” side in texture, the wine possesses obvious tannin that drive it to the muscular side of the varietal spectrum. It has the depth and structure to age well, and its fruit is solid enough to last a half-decade in bottle, but this wine is always going to lean to the sturdy side, even with age.
This wine is a paean to Ridge’s devotion to California’s viticultural heritage. The 19th-century vineyard site, neighboring Ridge’s Lytton Springs vineyard, was abandoned in the early 20th century. Working with cuttings from four pre-phylloxera vineyards, Ridge has been replanting the site, including the two blocks that provided this wine, planted in 2000 and ’01. They produced a lean, fragrant red in 2017, a gracious young zinfandel with notes of stewed cherries and shiso. Pour it with applewoodsmoked baby back ribs. Best Buy
Ridge's history begins in 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor and prominent member of San Francisco's Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He planted vineyards and constructed a winery of redwood and native limestone in time to produce the first vintage of Monte Bello in 1892. The historic building now serves as the Ridge production facility.
Though Ridge began as a Cabernet winery, by the mid-60s, it had produced several Zinfandels including the Geyserville. In 1972, Lytton Springs joined the line-up and the two came to represent an important part of Ridge production. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made limited amounts of Chardonnay since 1962.
The Ridge approach is straightforward: find the most intense and flavorful grapes, guide the natural process, draw all the fruit's richness into the wine. Decisions on when to pick, when to press, when to rack, what varietals and what parcels to include and when to bottle, are based on taste. To retain the nuances that increase complexity, Ridge winemakers handle the grapes and wine as gently as possible. There are no recipes, only attention and sensitivity.
A multifaceted and highly reputable sub-region of Sonoma, Dry Creek Valley is responsible for a wide range of wine styles—both red and white. One of the smallest AVAs in California, Dry Creek Valley has a winning combination of ideal geography and climate. Fertile, well-drained soils create concentrated varietal character while long, warm days, bookended by cool nights, allow grapes to reach full phenolic ripeness and balance. The warm and welcoming appellation is home to a number of family-owned vineyards and wineries that place a strong emphasis on sustainable farming practices.
Zinfandel reigns supreme here and still produces in a great number of very old vineyards—often 100 years old or older. These old vines create a powerful, voluptuous and sultry wine unlike those of any other region. Sauvignon Blanc, the valley’s signature white grape, also performs exceptionally well. Many other varieties grow comfortably here, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Syrah. Petite Sirah is often found in blends with Zinfandel.
Unapologetically bold, spice-driven and jammy, Zinfandel has secured it’s title as the darling of California vintners by adapting well to the states’ diverse microclimates and landscapes. Born in Croatia, it later made its way to southern Italy where it was named Primitivo. Fortunately, the imperial nursery of Vienna catalogued specimens of the vine, which sourced a journey to New England in 1829. Parading the true American spirit, Zinfandel found a new home in California during the Gold Rush of 1849. Somm Secret—California's ancient vines of Zinfandel are those that survived the neglect of Prohibition; today these vines produce the most concentrated, ethereal and complex examples.