Ridge 2012 Lytton Springs

2012 Lytton Springs®

Varietal Information
70% Zinfandel
21% Petite Sirah
6% Carignane
3% Mataro
14.4% alcohol by volume


93+ points, Antonio Galloni

Click below to watch winemaker John Olney describe this wine

History

In 1972, Ridge made its first Lytton Springs from vines planted on the eastern half of the vineyard at the turn of the century, and purchased both the eastern and western portions of the vineyard in the early 1990s, (In the 1870s, under "Captain" William Litton's ownership, the two were part of one property; spelling evolved into "Lytton" by 1903.) The vineyard is planted to zinfandel and its principal complementary varietals.

Vintage

Harvest Dates: 25 September – 21 October
Grapes: Average Brix 24.8 degrees
Fermentation: Natural primary and secondary. Pressed at eight days.
Barrels: 100% air-dried american oak barrels (25% new; 55% one, two and three years old; 20% four years old).
Aging: Fourteen months in barrel

Growing Season

Rainfall: 24 inches (below average)
Bloom: Mid-May
Weather: Warm spring and a long, mild summer.

Winemaking

All estate-grown grapes, hand harvested; destemmed and crushed; fermented on the native yeasts, followed by full malolactic on the naturally occurring bacteria; 0.6 grams/liter tartaric acid; minimum effective sulfur for this wine (35 parts per million at crush, 155 ppm over the course of aging). Pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.

Winemaker Tasting Notes

Black cherry, vanilla, toasty oak and mint aromas. Complex of raspberry, black olive, licorice with chalky tannins. Long finish with intriguing notes of pepper and spice.

Tasting Notes and Reviews


2008 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2010/2/27


2008 Ridge Lytton Springs Proprietary Red Wine


Rating: (91-93) The 2008 Lytton Springs Proprietary Red, a blend of 74% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, and 5% Carignan, possesses a deep ruby/purple color and good acidity, and a more closed style than the Geyserville, with a firmer, more restrained overall personality. It should drink well for 7-8 years. (Not yet released)

Read more of this article ...



2007 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2010/1/1


Zinfandel


2007 Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley SCORE: 91 ** 71% Zinfandel; 22% Petite Sirah; 7% Carignane. Ripe enough to push its berryish fruit in the direction of high concentration, this wine pulls back from the brink with layered notes of pepper and slightly toasty, never pushy oak. Its solid yet quietly brawny side shows in latter palate tannins and firming acidity, and what starts out as a generous wine in the nose, turns tighter and quite age-demanding in the mouth. Do not be afraid to put this one aside for three to six years.

Read more of this article ...



2007 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2010/2/1


Year's Best Zinfandel


RATED: 91 2007 Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs Zinfandel This starts with the sweet richness of Dry Creek zin, with plush, candied red fruit that turns savory as tannins darken the wine into the finish. It ends with lovely briskness, a fine balance between the fruit sweetness and the tannin. With age, the earthy complexities of the wine should evolve.

Read more of this article ...



2007 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2010/2/27


2007 Ridge Lytton Springs Proprietary Red Wine


Rating: 92 The 2007 Lytton Springs Proprietary Red (71% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, and 7% Carignan; 14.4% alcohol) exhibits a similar dark ruby/purple hue as well as more black fruits and spice in the impressive aromatics. It is a fuller-bodied, richer wine with beautiful texture, purity, and length. Enjoy it over the next 7-10 years.

Read more of this article ...



2006 LYTTON SPRINGS


Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar - 2008/11/1


California's Central Coast


2006 Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley (80% zinfandel, 16% petite sirah and 4% carignane): Deep ruby-red. Vivid red and dark berry aromas are complemented by dusty floral and mineral notes. with a suave rose quality gaining power with air. Deep cassis and bitter cherry flavors are energized by tangy minerality, picking up exotic floral pastille and candied licorice nuances on the back end. Smooth and sweet, with fine-grained tannins and a long, sappy finish. This is balanced to reward at least another five to seven years of patience. SCORE: 92

Read more of this article ...



2006 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2009/1/1


Zinfandel


RIDGE VINEYARDS Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 2006 SCORE: 89 * 80% Zinfandel; 16% Petite Sirah; 14% Carignane. Although it teases with touches of spice and a nice sense of oak-sweetened berries, this gutsy young Zinfandel is relatively tightly structured at this point. It strikes us as one best set aside for several years, and its positive impressions of underlying fruit make keeping a fairly safe bet.

Read more of this article ...



2006 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2009/2/1


Zinfandel year's best


SCORE: 91 2006 Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs Zinfandel Bright spice drives through the complex dark fruit of this old-vine blend, which includes petite sirah (16 percent) and carignane (4). There’s some funk to it that reads like Brett, but it hasn’t taken over the wine. The zesty acidity makes it more versatile than most zins, especially with roast turkey or duck with cherries.

Read more of this article ...



2005 LYTTON SPRINGS


S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times - 2007/11/28


Wine of the Week - 2005 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel


Take a sip. It demands another. And another. The 2005 Lytton Springs Zinfandel from the Ridge estate is one of the best in recent memory. Rich and opulent, laden with sweet spices, it has an elegance that few Zins achieve. Terrific with food, it can sidle up to just about anything wintry -- roast duck or game hen, stews or braised meats, ribs and chops, even a hearty soup such as pasta e fagioli.

Read more of this article ...



2005 LYTTON SPRINGS


Patrick Comiskey, Los Angeles Times - 2007/6/27


Lining up some fine Ridge wines


2005 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel. From a Dry Creek Valley vineyard containing vines a century old, the 2005 is lush and sensuous, with a fragrance of briar and forest brush. It has a gorgeous, creamy, black cherry flavor accented by a touch of cassis and sweet oak, with a finish marked by cedar and grainy tannin.

Read more of this article ...



2005 LYTTON SPRINGS


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2007/4/1


Zinfandel - New Releases


2005 Ridge, "Lytton Springs," Dry Creek Valley ($33) -- Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, forward, intense, jammy, cherry and blackberry fruit aroma; medium-full to full body; rich, spicy red berry fruit flavors with a touch of vanilla; nicely balanced and structured, medium-full to full tannin; tight finish; lingering aftertaste. Should continue to develop with some bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.4% alcohol; 18,000 cases; a blend of 77% Zinfandel, 17% PS, and 6% Carignane; released April 2007. Group Score: 16.0, 0/1/0; My Score: 17 [90/100], second place)

Read more of this article ...



2005 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2007/6/30


New Releases: California


Ridge Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs 2005 $33 A zesty spice bomb of a Zinfandel, with boysenberry, ripe cherry, licorice and toasted herb notes and long, deep flavors that build toward firm, cedary tannins on the finish. Best from 2008 through 2012. 18,000 cases made. Rated: 88

Read more of this article ...



2005 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2007/9/1


Zinfandel


RIDGE Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 2005 SCORE: 89 * 77% Zinfandel; 17% Petite Sirah; 6% Carignane. Ridge's latest bottling under the Lytton Springs label achieves a good balance between concentration and berryish fruit with the latter in clear command. It is structured along slightly tighter lines with acid-pushed tannins tightening things up at the end, but this wine is destined for the cellar and needs a few years of patience before opening up.

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2006/5/1


Zinfandel


RIDGE VINEYARDS Zinfandel Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 2004 SCORE: 95 *** Taking its accustomed place at the head of the class, this year's Lytton Springs bottling from Ridge is a textbook example of the deep and expressive fruit that marks Dry Creek Zinfandel at its best. It is an optimally ripened wine that has range and richness without being in the least compromised by heat, and its careful use of complementary oak and its fine sense of structure make it a most impressive Zinfandel for everyday use as a most tasty and ageworthy table wine.

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2006/2/1


Zinfandel - New Releases


2004 Lytton Springs: "Medium to medium-dark ruby with purplish tinges; attractive, somewhat restrained, herbal, plummy, spicy, slightly jammy, black cherry and blackberry fruit aroma; medium-full to full body; spicy, plummy, dark currant and blackberry fruit flavors; well balanced; slightly hard on the finish; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. More of a claret style of Zinfandel that should continue to develop with several more years of bottle aging. Highly recommended." (Group Score: 15.7 of 20 points, 0/1/0; My Score: 16.5 [89 of 100 points], third place)

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2006/6/1


Zinfandel


SCORE: 92 2004 Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs Zinfandel An unusual vintage of Lytton Springs, this has a distinctive coolness to the fruit, partly expressed as a foresty flavor, and partly in a refreshing edge that recalls kiwi or peach. Peppery and purely zin, this would be delicious with the teriyaki ribs at Oolah in San Francisco. (1,550 cases)

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2006/5/1


Zinfandel


Let us establish at the beginning that we at Connoisseurs’ Guide do, in fact, understand the sounds made by a broken record. And, we confess without shame that we remember every single article in these pages in which we have said that we would like to see more Zinfandels made as table wines rather than as late-harvest, high alcohol, chocolaty-tasting offerings suited primarily to after-dinner drinking. And, finally, we will stipulate that there are some higher alcohol Zins that can pass as table wines and that some of them, such as Seghesio’s lovely Home Ranch 2004 show up in this Issue. With those preliminaries out of the way, we can now move ahead and tell you about our joy at finding two wines whose fruit, richness, balance and relative restraint have made them into chart-topping, three-star Zinfandels. These are wines whose first allegiance is not to ripeness but to honest, rewarding, fulfilling drinkability with the kinds of foods that have traditionally accompanied Zinfandel. Ridge Lytton Springs 2004 and Sausal Century Vines 2003 are those wines, and they are reason to rejoice. It is true, of course, that both wineries have shunned the rush to overripeness that has affected so many others, but their brilliant performances in their latest incarnations gives us reason to hope that these wines are part of a new beginning for Zinfandel. If so, it is a new beginning whose time has come in our opinions. Zinfandel is a wonderful variety. It may have served as the backbone of Sonoma County and Sierra Foothill blended wines for its first hundred years or so here, but when it emerged in the 1960s and early 1970s as its own varietal wine in the hands of folks like Ridge, Sutter Home and Joseph Swan, it was prized for its broad and bright berryish fruit and for its ability to pick up extra bits of nuance in its various homes. Dry Creek Zins, Amador County Zins, Napa Zins all had then, and still have today, the ability to produce those little extras that reflect their provenances and improve the wines. But, when those wines are made at alcohols approaching 16%, even when they have the fruit to be recommendable, they lose their brightness and their sense of place. Instead they run to chocolate and to viscosity while giving up the very characteristics that made Zinfandel such a good food wine. That is why we hope these two wines and others of their ilk signal a shift back to the deeply flavored but better balanced versions that made Zin such a success in the first place.

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2006/6/30


Zinfandel


This venerable producer, with as fine a track record as any winery in the world, continues to turn out high quality Zinfandels... RIDGE 2004 ZINFANDEL LYTTON SPRINGS --- SCORE: 90 The famed 2004 Zinfandel Lytton Springs (a 12,000-case blend of 79% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, and 3% Carignane) tips the scales at 14.5% alcohol. This elegantly-styled Zin reveals a dark ruby/purple color, notes of crushed rocks, black raspberries, and sweet oak, a distinctive minerality, sweet fruit, decent acidity, wonderful definition as well as freshness, and an excellent, long finish. Drink it over the next 5-7 years.

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar - 2006/9/1


New Releases from California's Central Coast


2004 Lytton Springs Dry Creek ($33; 79% zinfandel, with 18% petite sirah and 3% carignane): Bright ruby. High-toned aromas of blackberry and fruitcake. Juicy, creamy-sweet and firmly built, with terrific intensity of tangy berry fruit. High-toned, youthful and firmly tannic wine with a piquant finishing flavor of pomegranate. SCORE: 91

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Harold Baer, Colorado Wine News - 2007/4/1


ZAP


The 2004 Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, $33, is 79% zinfandel, 18% petite sirah, and 3% carignane. It was aged for thirteen months in American oak, 20% new, and is still closed but has concentrated aromas of briar, bramble, dark cherry, currant, black raspberry, boysenberry, and smoke. All continue as flavors laced with juicy acidity and fine, smooth, round tannins. Everything carries through the long, medium-broad finish. Well integrated, structured and balanced, it is easily drinkable now but will be even better if you can give it another six years in the bottle. Excellent. ~BEST WINE~

Read more of this article ...



2004 LYTTON SPRINGS


Linda Murphy and Lynne Char Bennett, San Francisco Chronicle - 2006/12/3


Top 100 Wines 2006


2004 Ridge Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($33) Elegant and balanced in a way few Zinfandels are today, it eschews power and high alcohol for fresh-tasting black fruit, gentle oak sweetness and spice, and refreshing acidity.

Read more of this article ...



2003 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2005/8/31



Excellent structure, with tight, mineral-edged tannins and a core of zesty wild berry and black cherry flavors that are firm and concentrated. It's almost Bordeaux-like in its balance and restraint. Drink now through 2009. Rated: 90

Read more of this article ...



2003 LYTTON SPRINGS


Thom Elkjer, Wine Country Living - 2005/9/1


Dry Creek Zinfandel Recommendations


Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley “Lytton Springs” 2003 ($30): almost a quarter Carignane, this winner from Ridge is distinctly flavored, admirably complex, and subtly sweet – structured for savoring yet warm and juicy enough for happy quaffing.

Read more of this article ...



2003 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2005/12/1


Multisource Wineries of the Year


2003 Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs Zinfandel $30 (10/05) Recommended ~ SCORE 90

Read more of this article ...



2003 LYTTON SPRINGS


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2005/4/1


Zinfandel - New Releases


2003 Ridge, "Lytton Springs," Dry Creek Valley ($30) Medium-dark ruby; pleasant, restrained, herbal, briary, ripe, sweet cherry fruit aroma with a hint of lavender and overtones - of American oak and a touch of chocolate; full body; rich, textured, herbal, cedary, chocolatey, black cherry fruit flavors; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Highly recommended. 14.3% alcohol; 12,000 cases; blended with 18% PS and 6% Carignane; released April 2005. (Group Score: 15.5, 0/0/2; My Score: 16.5 [86/100], tenth place)

Read more of this article ...



2003 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2006/1/1


Zinfandel


RIDGE Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 2003 **SCORE: 93 76% Zinfandel; 18% Petite Sirah; 6% Carignane. On occasion Lytton Springs has been the biggest and ripest of Ridge's Zins, but this offering comes with a slight sense of restraint in terms of alcohol if not in its fruit. Nicely concentrated and very deep in well-defined blackberries, it also shows complexing touches of mineral and earth that speak straight to its vineyard beginnings. It warms up a bit in its lengthy fruit finish, but it stays in careful balance, and, if a fine wine today, it will gain polish and range in the cellar.

Read more of this article ...



2002 LYTTON SPRINGS


Eric Asimov, New York Times Online - 2004/7/21


Bold Enough to Look the Sun in the Eye


Ridge Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs 2002......$30 Clear fruit flavors with harmony and structure; cries out for grilled meats. ******************************************************* Just as it is important to contemplate what you are eating when deciding what to drink, so too does it pay to take the temperature of the season. On sweltering summer days, the mental image is of an icy bottle of Sancerre or rosé glistening in the sun. The lightness and zestiness of these wines balance the oppressive weight of the heat and humidity. Yet common sense is not always enough. Even in the depths of the season, when travelers sweat forlornly on subway platforms, yearning to feel the timid breeze of an arriving (air-conditioned!) train, the time comes when white wines and rosés just won't do. The palate demands a red, and not some lightweight seersucker of a wine, but a brute — a wine with body and substance that doesn't submit meekly to the season but blows it away. Enter zinfandel, a wine that has few peers when it comes to size and strength. Judging strictly by environmental standards, wines that can be as big and alcoholic as zinfandels have little place on the summer table. But when other features of the season come to mind, like the outdoor grill with its repertory of savory, pungent flavors, zinfandel in summer makes all the sense in the world. After weeks of evaluating myriad crisp warm-weather wines, the Dining section's tasting panel took to a sampling of 25 zinfandels with satisfaction and relief. These wines were full-bodied, saturating the mouth with spicy flavors, yet the panel — made up of my colleague Florence Fabricant and me, and two guests, Karen King, beverage director at Gramercy Tavern, and David Gordon, wine director at Tribeca Grill — was impressed by how many of them balanced power with grace. This is no small thing. In the last decade, zinfandels have grown in almost every possible way. They have gotten brawnier, riper, sweeter and more alcoholic, sometimes as much as 16 percent, considerably above the norm of other dry California wines, which are in the range of 13.5 to 14.5 percent, and European wines, generally 12 to 13 percent. We all expected to be bulldozed by some of these wines, and we were. But we were also surprised by those that seemed to have been made with restraint, even allowing that restraint is a relative thing when dealing with zinfandel. "The best wines showed complexity without being jammy," Ms. King said. "They were balanced." Almost anywhere wine grapes are grown in California, you can find zinfandel. We concentrated our tasting on the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, long a leading source of high-quality zinfandel. We also included some wines from areas to the east collectively known as the Sierra Foothills, where some of California's oldest zinfandel vines still produce grapes. With 17 wines from the Dry Creek Valley and 7 from the Sierra Foothills (we had to discard one interloper from the Russian River Valley), we hoped we might discern any broad differences in style. In the past I have consistently found a sort of baked fruit flavor in Sierra zins, which often shows up in hot-weather wines made from grapes that have hung too long in the sun. We didn't find those flavors in these wines, although we did detect considerable sweetness. It may have been that the grapes for those wines were picked very ripe, and that the producers, to avoid making the wines too alcoholic, had to leave some residual sweetness rather than fermenting all the sugar into alcohol. Eight of our top 10 wines came from the Dry Creek Valley, including our first 3, and the most striking characteristic of these top wines was their harmony and purity. Both our No. 1, the Rosenblum Rockpile Road, and the No. 2, the Ridge Lytton Springs, were full of classic zinfandel pleasures — big, smoky, spicy, concentrated fruit flavors — but they never felt hot or unwieldy. Sitting in our tasting room, surrounded by the beautiful garnet colors of these wines refracting the light, we could dream only of grilled sausages, rotisserie-roasted lamb and the like, which the wines would complement so well. The Rosenblum was listed as 14.9 percent alcohol and the Ridge as 14.4, peculiarly precise figures given that labeling regulations permit a leeway of plus or minus 1.5 percent. As it turned out, only 2 of our top 10 wines were listed as having more than 15 percent: the Pezzi King, at 15.5, in which you could sense the alcohol, and the Carlisle, also at 15.5, in which you could not. Defenders of the high-alcohol monsters say the numbers don't matter as long as the wines are balanced, but even balance won't help if you plan to open a second or third bottle. Incidentally, one wine that did not make our cut came from Turley Wine Cellars, one of the most celebrated zinfandel producers and a maker of some of the biggest, most alcoholic zins around. Its 2002 Grist Vineyard wine, from the Dry Creek Valley, weighed in at 15.7 percent, and the panel, tasting blind, had trouble accepting its size and power. While we didn't include the Sierra Foothills wines to challenge the pre-eminence of the Dry Creek Valley as a zinfandel source, their 2 representatives in our top 10 — 2001's from Sobon Estate and Amador Foothill Winery — held their own. We even chose the Amador as our best value. Nonetheless, the attractions of Dry Creek Valley zin cannot be denied. We did not include some top Dry Creek zins from producers like A. Rafanelli because we could not buy them locally. One producer, Roshambo Winery, was new to me. It turns out that Roshambo is only a few years old, though its owners have grown grapes for more than 30 years. The 2001 Roshambo was classic Dry Creek zin, big but not too big, with plenty of fruit and spice, and, above all, balance. ****************************************** Tasting Report: Plenty of Sweetness, and Not a Little Spice Ridge Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs 2002......$30 Clear fruit flavors with harmony and structure; cries out for grilled meats.

Read more of this article ...



2002 LYTTON SPRINGS


Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar - 2004/7/1


Focus on California


2002 Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley ($30; 75% zinfandel with 20% petite sirah and 5% carignane): Bright, dark red. Superripe aromas of plum, blackcurrant, espresso and chocolate; distinctly port-like with aeration. Fat, dense, silky and sweet, but youthfully slightly medicinal flavors are not yet expressing themselves. Intensely flavored and serious, with considerable aging potential. 90(+?)

Read more of this article ...



2002 LYTTON SPRINGS


W. Blake Gray, San Francisco Chronicle - 2005/3/10



2002 Ridge Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley ($30) If Geyserville is the Merlot of major-release Ridge Zinfandels, this is the Cabernet. Juicy and ripe aromas of blackberry, black plum, oak, black currant, raspberry, black and white pepper and bacon. Fruit-forward flavors of blackberry, black pepper and mineral. Big body, firm structure -- you can taste the oak. Medium-long finish. Blend of 75 percent Zinfandel, 20 percent Petite Sirah and 5 percent Carignane.

Read more of this article ...



2002 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2005/2/28


Ridge Vineyards


Ridge has been a reference point winery for so many years you would think they are hundreds of years old. The fact is, their history began in 1886, when an Italian doctor purchased over 180 acres on the top of Monte Bello Ridge. Prohibition put an end to that period of history, but in 1959, some of the original vineyard was purchased by the founders of the modem day Ridge winery. Their first commercial vintage was 1962, and the current winemaker, Paul Draper, arrived in 1968. The 2002 marks 40 vintages of the Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine, making it, by California terms, an ancient cuvée. With respect to Ridge’s Zinfandel program, Paul Draper, who deserves much of the credit for making Zinfandel famous, continues to turn out a bevy of delicious Zinfandels in addition to numerous multi-varietal blends. 2002 LYTTON SPRINGS PROPRIETARY RED --- SONOMA ...One of the most famous names in Zinfandel-land is Lytton Springs, and Ridge’s 2002 Lytton Springs (75% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, and 5% Carignan) boasts a deep ruby/purple hue along with a big, sweet nose of briery, blueberry, and blackberry fruit, full body, good acidity, and notions of pepper, loamy earth, and licorice. While this beauty will undoubtedly last a decade, it should be at its finest over the next 5-6 years. ($30.00) Score: 93

Read more of this article ...



2002 LYTTON SPRINGS


Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar - 2004/8/1


New Wines from the Central Coast


2002 Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley ($30; 75% zinfandel with 20% petite sirah and 5% carignane): Bright, dark red. Superripe aromas of plum, blackcurrant, espresso and chocolate; distinctly port-like with aeration. Fat, dense, silky and sweet, but youthfully slightly medicinal flavors are not yet expressing themselves. Intensely flavored and serious, with considerable aging potential. SCORE: 90(+?)

Read more of this article ...



2001 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2003/6/1


Zinfandel


Score 91 ~ 2 Stars ** RIDGE Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 2001 17% Petite Sirah; 7% Carignane. Broadly filled and relentless in its display of deep, blackberry fruit, this big, solidly built bottling comes with lots of peppery spice and black soil accents, and its overtones of toffee, chocolate and vanilla bring an extra bit of immediate appeal. Lively acidity presently keeps its tannins well in view, but, if it finishes with a edge of coarseness, its sins are only those of youth and a couple of years of softening promise to bring it to its balanced best. $30.00

Read more of this article ...



2001 LYTTON SPRINGS


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2003/7/1


Best Buys in the Market


ZINFANDEL --- Although it may command higher prices than it did a couple of years ago, Zinfandel remains our top pick when it comes to out-and-out value in fine red wines. This month's list of worthies is headed up by a pair of outstanding 2-Star ** efforts form the perennially pleasing ROSENBLUM CELLARS. The first, the impressively layered and abundantly fruited 2001 Planchon Vineyard ($19.00) is among the better bottlings we ever have tasted from Contra Costa County, while the opulent 2001 Rockpile Road Vineyard ($26.00) is an intense, full-throttle example of fully ripened Zinfandel. The rich and very well concentrated 2-Star ** SAUSAL 2000 Private Reserve ($20.00) earns especially high marks for energetic, berry-like fruit, and both the deep, solidly built 2-Star ** RIDGE 2001 Lytton Springs ($30.00) and the fleshy, tannin-firmed 2-Star ** RANCHO ZABACO Chiotti Vineyard ($28.00) are equally deserving of attention. Among 1-Star * favorites that stand out as particularly fine values, look for the ripe but supple STONGEHEDGE 2000 Napa Valley ($15.00), the smooth and fruity VALLEY OF THE MOON 2000 Sonoma County ($15.00) and the spry, keenly focused CASTORO CELLARS 2000 Paso Robles ($14.00).

Read more of this article ...



2001 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2003/12/1


The 100 Best Wines of 2003


2001 Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs Zinfandel -- Score – 93 From Ridge's ancient, head-pruned vines on the rolling hills above Dry Creek, Lytton Springs blasts with flavor in 2001, complex, dark and brooding. Generous on the palate, with hard tannins which are fully ripe, making the finish gravelly, seeming to provide their own mineral scent in the dense aroma. Some panelists objected to the alcohol level in the wine, one warning, "Don't smoke around this wine," This critic, however, found it well within bounds of the wine's overall structure, a grand portrait of Dry Creek terroir in the year 2001, Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino, CA

Read more of this article ...



2001 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2003/10/31


California Zinfandels – A Very Good Vintage


2001 Lytton Springs Proprietary Red -- SCORE: 92 Paul Draper continues to perform brilliantly with his diverse group of Zinfandels and Zinfandel-based blends. His recent portfolio did not reveal a single disappointing offering. ...Equally superb is the 2001 Lytton Springs Proprietary Red, a blend of 76% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah, and 7% Carignan (14.7% alcohol). I was knocked out by its multiple dimensions and combination of jammy briery raspberry and currant fruit intermingled with licorice, spice, and pepper. Its dense purple color is accompanied by a rich, full-bodied palate presentation, and a long, seamless finish. Enjoy this outrageously delicious Zinfandel over the next 5-6 years.

Read more of this article ...



2000 LYTTON SPRINGS


Nick Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2002/6/1


Zinfandel New Releases


2000 Ridge, "Lytton Springs," Dry Creek Valley ($30) - Medium-dark purplish ruby; forward, intense, youthful, herbal, briary, jammy, blackberry fruit aroma; medium-full to full body; sharp, jammy, herbal, very ripe berry fruit flavors; slightly harsh finish; lingering aftertaste. Shows a lot of ripe fruit and should continue to develop with several more years of bottle aging. Highly recommended. 14.8% alcohol; 9,836 cases; blended with 20% PS; released April 2002. (Group Score: 15.9, 0/0/1; My Score: 16.5 [88/100], sixth place)

Read more of this article ...



2000 LYTTON SPRINGS


Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar - 2002/5/1


Focus on California


2000 Lytton Springs California ($30; 80% zinfandel and 20% petite sirah): Deep, bright ruby-red. Aromas of currant, blackberry, smoked meat and coffee. Sweet on the attack, then concentrated and thick, with almost liqueur-like ripeness. But bright acidity gives clarity and grip to this highly concentrated zinfandel. Sweet to the very end, with late hints of exotic orange peel and cinnamon. This has fruit of steel. 93.

Read more of this article ...



2000 LYTTON SPRINGS


Randy Sheahan, Quarterly Review Of Wines - 2002/6/1


Shoppers' Guide to California Wines


Rated 4-Star 2000 Ridge "Lytton Springs" (California), $30. 80 percent Zinfandel, 20 percent Petite Sirah. Good deep color; big, rich, black fruit and nutty oak nose; plush, opulent, ultra-ripe black fruit and nutty oak flavors; smooth, silky, almost sweet finish.

Read more of this article ...



2000 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2002/6/15


New Releases, California Zinfandel & Blends


SCORE: 87 Ridge Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs 2000 $30 A walk on the wild side, with earthy, funky, jammy sour cherry and tar notes. Offers plenty of depth, but the flavors keep you off balance. Cellar short term and keep your fingers crossed. Best from 2003 through 2008. 10,040 cases made. –J.L.

Read more of this article ...



1999 LYTTON SPRINGS


Randy Sheahan, Quarterly Review Of Wines - 2001/6/1


Shopper's Guide to California Zinfandel


1999 RIDGE "LYTTON SPRINGS" (CALIFORNIA), $30. This is 70 percent Zinfandel, 17 percent Petite Sirah, 10 percent Carignane and three percent Mataro (Mourvedre). Deep, purple-tinged, ruby color; intense wild-black-berry and anise nose; big, plump, fairly expansive, ripe-berry and nutty-oak flavors; nice, deep, rich roasted underlay; excellent balance; long, elegant finish.

Read more of this article ...



1999 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2001/6/15


New Releases, California, Zinfandel


Ridge Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs 1999 $30 Starts out with an earthy, gamy, leathery character, then pulls itself together, offering ripe cherry, plum and raspberry fruit to complement the earthy components. Drink now through 2007. 10,194 cases made. -J.L.

Read more of this article ...



1999 LYTTON SPRINGS


Ray Isle, Wine & Spirits - 2001/10/1


New World Wine Awards


1999 produced a classic vintage of Ridge’s Lytton Springs. In this field blend of zinfandel with petite sirah (17 percent), carignane (10) and mataro (3), the deep scent of currants, of blackberries in compote, of the warmth of the field and the sweetness of the sun builds and builds, alcohol lifting it somewhat - but the alcohol’s no match for the succulence of the fruit, for its refined beauty, its tight grip. One of the most evocative wines you’ll find from California, Lytton Springs is a liquid portrait of a vineyard, of vines with enough history to pack their grapes with flavors from deep in the soil, of a season that challenged those low-yielding vines to perform at their peak. But what is that vineyard so evocatively portrayed in the wine? Drive through Dry Creek Valley early on a cool day and you’ll see it, rolling sweeps of ancient vineyard, the vines themselves bent low to the earth, gnarled and wizened, disappearing into the gray morning fog. Lytton Springs is located on a bench area separating Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, at an altitude of about 100 to 120 feet - high enough to reduce the richness of the gravelly clay and gravelly clay loam soil. “It’s a particularly alluvial soil,” says John Olney, general manager and winemaker at the Lytton Springs facility, explaining that the gravel helps break up the clay soils typical of the rest of Dry Creek Valley, lowering yields and making for particularly good root penetration. The vineyard is divided into two sections, Lytton East and Lytton West, though as Olney says, “They’re really quite similar - I’d be hard pressed to tell any distinct differences.” But the vines on the two sections are different. The 42 acres of Lytton East are planted to a field blend of 109-year-old zinfandel, petite sirah, grenache and carignane; Lytton West’s 60 acres are divided between 33 acres of 46-year-old zinfandel, grenache and carignane, and 27 acres of four to 11 year old zinfandel, petite sirah, grenache and mataro. An unassuming frame house where the winery crew often sleeps during crush serves to divide the two sections. Location, location, location as real estate agents say. Olney notes that Lytton Springs “is technically in Dry Creek Valley, but it’s really located at a hub between Dry Creek, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It’s a distinct little microclimate here - warmer than Dry Creek, but not as hot as Alexander; and zin likes and does well in relatively hot climates.” The zin at Lytton Springs has been doing well now for longer than anyone reading this has been alive, and despite all odds it keeps doing well, in fact spectacularly. “We prune the vines every winter,” Olney says, “then look at them from February into March, and just can’t believe they’ll sprout again. But they do.” Ridge has a long history of research into and preservation of their old vines stock, not only at Lytton Springs. Replanting is done on a vine-by-vine basis, a much more costly and labor-intensive process than block replanting, and they maintain a rigid insistence on handpicking. But the most significant effort has been Ridge C.E.O. and winemaker Paul Draper’s ongoing project to collect and propagate budwood from their older vineyards. “What we’re working with are what the French would call selection massae, field selections, not single clones,” Draper explains. “We took field selections from three principal old vineyards that had produced very high quality wines: Heart’s Desire, the old selection at Geyserville that was planted in the 1880s by a friend of Luther Burbank; then the Picchetti selection, from a 19th century planting on Monte Bello; and the third selection is the Mendocino selection, 19th century, which we made wine from in the early ‘70s.” Draper has now included a selection of the Lytton Spring zinfandel in the program as well. Some of this viticultural stock has been used for replanting Ridge’s own vineyards, but the old vine selections Draper has chosen have also gone into the “heritage vineyard” UC Davis maintains near Oakville, in Napa Valley, and have been supplied to some nurseries as budwood, so that other winemakers will have access as well.

Read more of this article ...



1999 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2001/10/1


Zinfandel


Ridge $30 1999 Sonoma County Lytton Springs A classic vintage at Lytton Springs, this ‘99 frames all the complexities offered up by the ancient vines on these roiling, Dry Creek Valley hills. The field blend of zinfandel with petite sirah (17 percent), carignane (10) and mataro (3) builds the deep scent of currants, of blackberries in compote, of the warmth of the soil and the sweetness of the sun. Alcohol lifts it, but it’s no match for the succulence of the fruit, its refined beauty, its tight grip. This is one of the most evocative wines you’ll find from California, a liquid portrait of a vineyard. Why it costs only $30 is anybody’s guess. Buy a case before those $100 a bottle cabernet drinkers get a clue. Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino CA

Read more of this article ...



1999 LYTTON SPRINGS


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2001/11/1


Multi-Source Winery of the Year 2001


Follow the San Andreas Fault south of San Francisco toward Santa Cruz and you’ll be at Ridge - 2,600 feet above sea level. This ten-mile ridge above the Pacific originated near the fault when a major die-off of sea life formed a limestone bed. That bed crept north along the intersection the Pacific and North American plates, when the top of it was sliced off, driven out of the sea, and left here on this steep slope to collect a thin layer of decomposing rock. Today, that rock feeds rainwater to dry-farmed cabernet vines. Those 108 acres of vines - four acres planted in the ‘40s, the balance in the ‘60s, ‘80s and ‘90s - rarely flower until a month after Napa Valley cabernet comes into bloom. The altitude and the cool influence of the Pacific is what delays the growing season and helps maintain a firm acidity in the grapes. Once fully matured, fermented by native yeasts, aged in new, seven-year-air-dried American oak barrels and blended to include a varying percentage of merlot, petit verdot and franc, those grapes create Monte Bello. The first vintage of Monte Bello was made in 1892 by Osea Perrone, but the contemporary Ridge Monte Bello got its start in the late 1950s, when a group of Stanford Research Institute fellows bought the old Perrone property and began making cabernet from its vines. Their initial success led them to bond the winery in 1962, then to seek out old vines from other sources in California to make great cabernet. Instead, the best old vines they could find were field blends of zinfandel. They discovered their first old-vine zin right down the ridge, at Picchetti. Then came Geyserville, a vineyard at the northern reaches of the Alexander Valley, where vines planted on a slope of river stones laid up against the foothills were a mere 85 years old when Ridge picked the ‘67 vintage. Paul Draper came on as winemaker two years later. He expanded the search for ancient vines, landing Lytton Springs for the first time in 1972. This vineyard lies one mile south and one mile west of Geyserville, in the hills and benches that divide the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. Draper doesn’t know if it’s the slightly cooler aspect at Geyserville, the river stones or the varietal blend, but he finds that Lytton Springs tends to be a little more muscular, more angular when young, while Geyserville is a little more elegant. In a tribute to these old vineyards, these three top-flight bottlings from Ridge are named for the place, rather than the variety. Ridge also produces what Draper calls “winemaker wines,” like the Sonoma Station Zinfandel. These come from lots of Geyserville, Lytton Springs, Pagani and others, “wines that are not intense enough,” Draper explains, “or don’t taste like Geyserville or Lytton Springs. By blending them, we can bring them up to a quality, to a wine that reflects the winemaking team.” That team starts with David Gates, vineyard manager for sixteen years, and includes production managers Eric Baugher at Monte Bello and John Olney at Lytton Springs. If the team takes full credit for their winemaker wines, they can also be pleased with the latest vineyard expressions. The ‘96 Monte Bello harnesses the strength of a mountain-grown cabernet in the tautness of its generous fruit; it draws on its limestone soils to build elegance and complexity. For a more immediate read on those soils, pour a glass of the ‘98 Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay and you can imagine the scent of crushed oyster shells, an arresting mineral character that balances the fresh apple flavors of the wine. Ridge’s top performance this year goes to Lytton Springs, a vineyard the firm purchased in ‘91 (the 45 acres at Lytton East) and ‘95 (the 242 acres at Lytton West). This is a must-buy vintage of Lytton Springs, honored in our New World Wine Awards for Zinfandel W&S 10/01. The field blend of zinfandel (70 percent) with petite sirah (17), carignane (10) and mataro (3) provides a deep scent of currants, a succulence to the fruit a refined beauty set against the evocation of the soil in the wine’s tight grip. This is the one vintage out of four when Lytton Springs is more elegant than Geyserville the latter a riper wine in ‘99, with high tones of honey and toffee. But given air the sweetness of Geyserville’s fruit turns to a more savory, lasting complexity. Draper recommends drinking a vintage like this within the first ten years, or waiting for twenty. He finds that from ten to twenty Geyserville and Lytton Springs are less interesting, having lost their initial fruit and not yet gamed the distinctions of age. Anyone who’s had the pleasure and good fortune to taste Geyserville from ‘73 or Lytton Springs from ‘74 will have a sense of what those distinctions are. This is the fourth year in a row Ridge has been at the very top of our Multi-Source Winery of the Year list, due largely to the preservation work Draper and his team have conducted on old vines. And what is a great wine, after all, but a preservation? -J.G.

Read more of this article ...



1999 LYTTON SPRINGS


Steven Spurrier, Decanter - 2002/1/1


Spurrier's Picks


BEST NEW WORLD RED RIDGE VINEYARDS, LYTTON SPRINGS, ZINFANDEL 1999 A “traditional vineyard blend” of very old vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignan, this has a very deep colour with a fine, natural plummy, even pruney, fruit and a long dry finish, quite different in style to the rich blackberry Zinfandels that are difficult to match with food. Paul Draper likens the 1999 vintage to the great 1974. f15; M&V

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2000/6/26


California's 1998 Zinfandels


Another Ridge classic, the deep ruby/purple-colored 1998 Lytton Springs (14.3% alcohol; 77% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, 4% Mataro, 2% Carignan, and 1% Alicante) boasts a sweet nose of briary fruit intermixed with red and black currants, minerals, pepper, and smoke. Medium to full-bodied, with dried Provencal herb characteristics that emerge with airing, this fleshy, beautifully pure, and stunningly proportioned Zinfandel can be drunk now as well as over the next 5-6 years.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2001/2/28


California's Rhones on the Rise


The outlook for Syrah - and other Rhone-style varietals - is definitely improving in California. And as we see more wines from the stellar 1999 vintage, things should only get better as the year goes on. The quality of Petite Sirah, too, a Rhone-like grape with deeper historical roots in California, is on the upswing, and there’s also the recent development of California Shiraz. In Australia, Syrah is called Shiraz, and that nomenclature has been transplanted to California by Australian winemakers working in the state. California Shiraz did not make much of an impression this year, but give it time. I think that winemakers will eventually get the upper hand and produce exciting wines with the grape.

Regardless of whether the label reads Syrah or Shiraz, these varieties and their Rhone cohorts, such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, along with California’s “unofficial” Rhone, Petite Sirah, are adding a fascinating diversity to the California wine scene. The timing couldn’t be better, as more wine lovers move beyond their security-blanket varietals, willing to explore different tastes and styles. Also, as prices for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot soar, Syrah and Petite Sirah look much more attractive.

Those who still think of California wines mostly in terms of Cabernet and Chardonnay are missing a much bigger and exciting picture. The Rhone-style reds, with their distinctive beef, leather, earthy berry, mineral and tar flavors, are making an impact and creating a strong presence. Plantings of Syrah, for instance, have increased from 413 acres in 1991 to 10,298 in 1999. And while its acreage trails the big three - Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot, in that order - Syrah is now nearly as widely planted as Pinot Noir and Grenache.

This report focuses on wines we’ve tasted in the past six months. Overall, 163 wines were tasted, and 24 scored an outstanding.

For Syrah, the 1999 vintage should be an eye-opener and a crowd-pleaser, even for those with a passion for this wine. Winemakers have made steady progress with this variety throughout the past decade and the wines simply taste better, even in a challenging year such as 1998, than they did in previous vintages. Winemakers agree that 1999 is a superior year in terms of grape growing and overall quality, even with a small crop.

“It’s been a bumpy road with Syrah,” admits Craig Williams of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley. But you wouldn’t know it by tasting their rich, complex and flavorful Napa Valley 1997. Another terrific Syrah is Lewis Napa County 1998, a lush, juicy, toasted-oak style wine. In the Paso Robles area, former Bordeaux winemaker Stephan Asseo’s Stephan Vineyards has an outstanding Syrah-Cabernet blend from 1998, his first vintage.

Even though Syrah gets the lion’s share of attention among Rhone-inspired reds, the revival of interest in Petite Sirah - by both winemakers and consumers - is a compelling story. A small explanation first, however: Petite Sirah is not technically a modern Rhone varietal because it isn’t one of the primary grapes planted in France’s Rhone Valley. Yet because it shares the flavor profile of the true Rhones, it is included in this report

.In 1985, Inglenook, then a prominent winery in Napa Valley, made 15,000 cases of Petite Sirah. But they shipped 11,000 of those cases to England, recalls Dennis Fife, then Inglenook’s general manager. “Basically the [American] public didn’t know what was going on [with Sirah], but of course the English did.” The surge in popularity of Syrah in the 1990s has definitely helped open doors for Petite Sirah. “The market is as good as it’s ever been [for Sirah],” says Fife. “If you want to make good Sirah, you need to get good prices, which allows you to be choosy about your grapes and have tighter yields.”

Most of the Petite Sirahs now in the market are a result of fine-tuning, as marginal vineyards and wines have been weeded out. Also, winemakers have become better equipped to pick and choose the best vineyards for the variety, and they are more adept at battling things like chewy tannins and bitterness, the latter often an issue with Petite Sirah.

For the most part, the Petite Sirah market is in vintage transition, from 1998 to 1999, but we found some delightful 1997s from Mendocino. Lolonis Redwood Valley Orpheus Private Reserve is lush, with pepper and wild berry flavors, and Edmeades Mendocino is smooth and polished, too. Two other top-rated Petite Sirah producers are Rockland, a tiny vineyard in Napa Valley, with a fine 1998 that’s dark and complex, and Ridge Vineyards, with its Napa County Dynamite Hill 1997.

One of the more pleasant surprises was the quality of two Grenaches (though if you look at their producers, you’d be less startled). Ridge Dry Creek Valley Lytton 1998 is a decidedly elegant and richly flavored wine, while Alban Edna Valley Alban Estate Vineyard 1998 is brimming with lively flavors. These wines make it seem like it’s only a matter of time before more Grenache grapevines go into the ground and more jazzy wines emerge.

Then there’s Mourvedre, a grape championed by Cline in a pair of winners from Contra Costa County vineyards. There’s the Ancient Vines 1998, a thoroughly delicious tar and berry flavored wine and, close behind in quality, the Small Berry Vineyards 1998. The best Shiraz we tried was the 1997 Voss from Napa Valley, though it tastes more like a California Syrah than it does most of the best from Down Under. Fascination with Rhone-style wines doesn’t stop with reds. The whites, led by Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, and blends thereof, are improving as well.

The future seems bright, especially for the Rhone-style reds. Thousands of new vines are coming on line and as the best sites emerge, the wines will steadily improve.

1998 Ridge Grenache Dry Creek Valley Lytton A real mouthful, firm, rich and peppery, with solid, chunky plum and wild berry, gaining richness, depth and complexity. Enormous concentration. Drink now through 2008. 703 cases made.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2001/2/28


California's Rhones on the Rise


The outlook for Syrah - and other Rhone-style varietals - is definitely improving in California. And as we see more wines from the stellar 1999 vintage, things should only get better as the year goes on. The quality of Petite Sirah, too, a Rhone-like grape with deeper historical roots in California, is on the upswing, and there’s also the recent development of California Shiraz. In Australia, Syrah is called Shiraz, and that nomenclature has been transplanted to California by Australian winemakers working in the state. California Shiraz did not make much of an impression this year, but give it time. I think that winemakers will eventually get the upper hand and produce exciting wines with the grape.

Regardless of whether the label reads Syrah or Shiraz, these varieties and their Rhone cohorts, such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, along with California’s “unofficial” Rhone, Petite Sirah, are adding a fascinating diversity to the California wine scene. The timing couldn’t be better, as more wine lovers move beyond their security-blanket varietals, willing to explore different tastes and styles. Also, as prices for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot soar, Syrah and Petite Sirah look much more attractive.

Those who still think of California wines mostly in terms of Cabernet and Chardonnay are missing a much bigger and exciting picture. The Rhone-style reds, with their distinctive beef, leather, earthy berry, mineral and tar flavors, are making an impact and creating a strong presence. Plantings of Syrah, for instance, have increased from 413 acres in 1991 to 10,298 in 1999. And while its acreage trails the big three - Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot, in that order - Syrah is now nearly as widely planted as Pinot Noir and Grenache.

This report focuses on wines we’ve tasted in the past six months. Overall, 163 wines were tasted, and 24 scored an outstanding.

For Syrah, the 1999 vintage should be an eye-opener and a crowd-pleaser, even for those with a passion for this wine. Winemakers have made steady progress with this variety throughout the past decade and the wines simply taste better, even in a challenging year such as 1998, than they did in previous vintages. Winemakers agree that 1999 is a superior year in terms of grape growing and overall quality, even with a small crop.

“It’s been a bumpy road with Syrah,” admits Craig Williams of Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa Valley. But you wouldn’t know it by tasting their rich, complex and flavorful Napa Valley 1997. Another terrific Syrah is Lewis Napa County 1998, a lush, juicy, toasted-oak style wine. In the Paso Robles area, former Bordeaux winemaker Stephan Asseo’s Stephan Vineyards has an outstanding Syrah-Cabernet blend from 1998, his first vintage.

Even though Syrah gets the lion’s share of attention among Rhone-inspired reds, the revival of interest in Petite Sirah - by both winemakers and consumers - is a compelling story. A small explanation first, however: Petite Sirah is not technically a modern Rhone varietal because it isn’t one of the primary grapes planted in France’s Rhone Valley. Yet because it shares the flavor profile of the true Rhones, it is included in this report

.In 1985, Inglenook, then a prominent winery in Napa Valley, made 15,000 cases of Petite Sirah. But they shipped 11,000 of those cases to England, recalls Dennis Fife, then Inglenook’s general manager. “Basically the [American] public didn’t know what was going on [with Sirah], but of course the English did.” The surge in popularity of Syrah in the 1990s has definitely helped open doors for Petite Sirah. “The market is as good as it’s ever been [for Sirah],” says Fife. “If you want to make good Sirah, you need to get good prices, which allows you to be choosy about your grapes and have tighter yields.”

Most of the Petite Sirahs now in the market are a result of fine-tuning, as marginal vineyards and wines have been weeded out. Also, winemakers have become better equipped to pick and choose the best vineyards for the variety, and they are more adept at battling things like chewy tannins and bitterness, the latter often an issue with Petite Sirah.

For the most part, the Petite Sirah market is in vintage transition, from 1998 to 1999, but we found some delightful 1997s from Mendocino. Lolonis Redwood Valley Orpheus Private Reserve is lush, with pepper and wild berry flavors, and Edmeades Mendocino is smooth and polished, too. Two other top-rated Petite Sirah producers are Rockland, a tiny vineyard in Napa Valley, with a fine 1998 that’s dark and complex, and Ridge Vineyards, with its Napa County Dynamite Hill 1997.

One of the more pleasant surprises was the quality of two Grenaches (though if you look at their producers, you’d be less startled). Ridge Dry Creek Valley Lytton 1998 is a decidedly elegant and richly flavored wine, while Alban Edna Valley Alban Estate Vineyard 1998 is brimming with lively flavors. These wines make it seem like it’s only a matter of time before more Grenache grapevines go into the ground and more jazzy wines emerge.

Then there’s Mourvedre, a grape championed by Cline in a pair of winners from Contra Costa County vineyards. There’s the Ancient Vines 1998, a thoroughly delicious tar and berry flavored wine and, close behind in quality, the Small Berry Vineyards 1998. The best Shiraz we tried was the 1997 Voss from Napa Valley, though it tastes more like a California Syrah than it does most of the best from Down Under. Fascination with Rhone-style wines doesn’t stop with reds. The whites, led by Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, and blends thereof, are improving as well.

The future seems bright, especially for the Rhone-style reds. Thousands of new vines are coming on line and as the best sites emerge, the wines will steadily improve.

1998 Ridge Syrah Dry Creek Valley LyttonDark, rich, with peppery berry, meaty currant, floral, spice, wild berry. Detailed finish, with firm but rounded tannins.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


Randy Sheahan, Quarterly Review Of Wines - 2000/9/1


Shoppers Guide to California Zinfandel


1998 RIDGE VINEYARDS LYTTON SPRINGS (DRY CREEK VALLEY). 77 percent Zinfandel, 27 percent Carignane, four-percent Mataro (Mourvedre) and one percent Alicante Bouschet. Medium garnet-ruby color; big, earthy, black-fruit nose; big, earthy, black-fruit flavors; rich nutty underlay; long, forthright finish.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


Aaron Moore and Patrick Henry, Underground Wine Journal - 2000/9/1


Zinfandel Tasting Notes


The 1998 Lytton Springs, Dry Creek, is also delicious. Bold, yet approachable with soft red fruit and berry flavors pairing with the spice and pepper background. Well structured, but drinking is best over the next few years.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2000/5/31



Ridge Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 1998 $28 A touch earthy, with a mushroomy edge to dry berry and pepper notes. Turns dry and tannic. Drink now through 2005. 8,363 cases made.-J.L.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar - 2000/5/1


Focus on California


1998 Zinfandel Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley (14.3% alcohol; with 16% petite sirah, 4% mataro, 2% carignane and 1% alicante bouschet): Bright ruby-red. Complex, deeply pitched aromas of sappy blackberry, dark chocolate, game, leather and earth. Very full and ripe in the mouth, but with a captivating sappy quality. Flavors of dark berries, violet and spice are lifted by a peppery nuance. In a distinctly sweeter style, and more harmonious than usual at this stage of its evolution. Big, deep and impressively structured; finishes with substantial but ripe tannins. A superb showing.

Read more of this article ...



1998 LYTTON SPRINGS


Nick Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2000/4/1


Zinfandel


Medium ruby; pleasant, floral, spicy, earthy, herbal, toasty, cherry fruit aroma with hints of tobacco and leather; medium-full body; forward, rich, slightly sweet and jammy, cherry and berry fruit flavors; medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. 14.3% alcohol; 9,233 cases; blended with 16% PS, 4% Mataro, 2% Carignane, and 1% Alicante Bouschet; released April 2000.

Read more of this article ...



1997 LYTTON SPRINGS


ARG, PRE, SAM, WHS, D&D, Tastings - 1999/12/1


California Reviews


Saturated purple hue. Exotic aromas of licorice, blackberry cordial, truffle. Explosively fruity upfront, with a full-bodied palate exhibiting masses of textured tannins and glycerous mouth feel. A blockbuster. This is exciting and very hedonistic now, though it has the weight and balance to keep longer. Drink now or later.

Read more of this article ...



1997 LYTTON SPRINGS


Patrick Henry and Aaron Moore, Underground Wine Journal - 1999/9/1


181 Good Reasons to like California Zinfandel


The 1997 Lytton Springs, Sonoma County is concentrated and full without being clumsy and oafish. Both the nose and palate present themselves brashly, increasing in concentration as your nose approaches the glass. The palate is full-bodied and forward with layers of sweet, rich fruit balanced against a firm structure and long peppery finish.

Read more of this article ...



1997 LYTTON SPRINGS


Claude Kolm, Fine Wine Review - 1999/9/1


Red Wines/California


...the Lytton Springs Zinfandel shows deep, syrupy fruit with great concentration, balance and length underscoring the exuberant fruit.

Read more of this article ...



1997 LYTTON SPRINGS


Dan Berger, California Grapevine - 1999/6/1


1997 Zinfandels


3. 1997 Ridge, “Lytton Springs,” California -Medium-dark ruby: attractive, intense, briary, plummy, jammy, spicy, sweet berry fruit aroma; full body; big, rich, jammy, high-extract flavors with a lot of charred oak; medium-full to full tannin; dry finish; lingering aftertaste 14.9% alcohol; 11,400 cases; blended with 1.5% PS, 2% Mataro 2% Carignane, and 1% Grenache; released April 1999.

Read more of this article ...



1997 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 1999/6/21


California's 1997 Zinfandels


Made from a blend of 80% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignan, 2% Mataro, and 1% Grenache, the 1997 Lytton Springs Proprietary Red Wine (14.9% alcohol) exhibits a saturated purple color in addition to sumptuous aromas of truffles, licorice, loamy soil, blackberry liqueur, and cherries. There are layers of concentration, sweet glycerin in the mid-palate and a blockbuster, concentrated, opulently textured finish. It should drink well for six years.

Read more of this article ...



1997 LYTTON SPRINGS


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 1998/12/23


Ridge Vineyards


Lastly, the 1997 Zinfandel Lytton Springs is an effusively fruity, full-bodied wine emphasizing Zinfandel’s black cherry/raspberry character. With loads of glycerin, high alcohol, and outstanding purity and finish, this will be a hedonistic, luscious wine to enjoy during its first 5-6 years of life. Interestingly, Paul Draper told me the alcohol levels for all these 1997 Zinfandels were well above 15%.

Read more of this article ...