Ridge 2012 Geyserville

Ridge 2012 Geyserville®

Varietal Information
71% Zinfandel
19% Carignane
7% Petite Sirah
2% Mataro (Mourvedre)
1% Alicante Bouschet
14.4% alcohol by volume


93 points, Stephen Tanzer
93 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Click below to watch winemaker Eric Baugher describe this wine

History

Ridge has made the Geyserville as a single-site zinfandel in every year since 1966. The grapes are grown in three adjoining vineyards on a defined stretch of gravelly soil approximately one-and-a-quarter miles long and a half-mile wide.

Vintage

Harvest Dates: 17 September - 17 October
Grapes: Average brix 24.5˚ degrees
Fermentation: Natural primary and secondary; 6 of the 27 tanks were fitted with submerged cap grids, both those and the tanks with a floating cap were given full pumpovers; pressed at 9 days.
Barrels: 100% air-dried american oak barrels (24% new, 25% one and two years old, 51% three and four years old.)
Aging: Thirteen 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, hand harvested grapes. Destemmed and crushed. Fermented on the native yeasts, followed by full malolactic on the naturally-occurring bacteria. Six fresh egg whites per barrel to moderate the firm texture of tannins; minimum effective sulfur for this wine (30 ppm at crush; 164 ppm over the course of aging); oak from barrel aging; pad filtered at bottling. In keeping with our philosophy of minimal intervention, this is the sum of our actions.

Winemaker Tasting Notes

Aromas of bramble fruit, wintergreen, licorice, and sweet toasted oak. Rich black cherry fruit on entry with elegant chalky tannins, gravel/rock, and ginger root. A layered, sensuous finish.

Tasting Notes and Reviews


2008 GEYSERVILLE


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2010/2/27


2008 Ridge Geyserville Proprietary Red Wine


Rating: (90-92) The 2008 Geyserville Proprietary Red (72% Zinfandel, 20% Carignan, and the rest Petite Sirah, Mataro, and Mourvedre; 14.8% alcohol) exhibits a dense ruby/purple color along with lots of glycerin, blue and black fruits, pepper, and incense. This rich, fleshy 2008 may turn out to be more juicy and succulent than the 2007. It should last for 7-8 years. (Not yet released)

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2008 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2010/4/1


ZINFANDEL New Releases


2008 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County ($35) Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, briary, black cherry and blueberry fruit aroma with hints of vanilla, black pepper, and tobacco; full body; big, forward, rich, chocolatey, brambly, black raspberry fruit flavors with a plush mouthfeel; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Deserves several more years of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.8% alcohol; 12,500 cases; a blend of 72% Zinfandel, 20% Carignane, 6% PS, and 2% Mataro; released April 2010. (Group Score: 16.0,1/3/2; My Score: 17 [90/100], fifth place)

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2007 GEYSERVILLE


Tim Fish, Wine Spectator - 2009/10/15


California Zinfandel and Blends


Ripe, exotic, and loaded with personality. Aromas of ripe blackberry, underbrush and licorice lead to concentrated huckleberry and cracked-pepper beef flavors that finish with lively tannins. Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah and Mataro. Best from 2010 through 2015. 11,000 cases made. Rated: 91

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2007 GEYSERVILLE


Jon Bonne, San Francisco Chronicle - 2009/11/15


Good wines for Thanksgiving


As part of my inclusive Thanksgiving approach, it seemed right to find diverse examples rather than drill down into one particular thing. So here's a grab bag. Consider it more a road map than a carved-tablet approach. For more wine suggestions, go to sfgate.com/thanksgiving . 2007 Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County A classic Geyserville that shows off why Ridge's style has endured. Sweet and eloquent, with charred branch, balsam, plump blackberry and a smoky edge. The balance is impeccable. Predominantly Zinfandel, with Carignane, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre.

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2007 GEYSERVILLE


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2010/2/27


2007 Ridge Geyserville Proprietary Red Wine


Rating: 91 The dark ruby/purple-colored 2007 Geyserville Proprietary Red (58% Zinfandel, 22% Carignan, 18% Petite Sirah, and the rest Mourvedre with 14.4% alcohol) offers up attractive aromas of boysenberries, black cherries, earth, pepper, and spice. Medium to full-bodied, elegant, and pure, this classy wine should drink well for 7-8 years.

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2007 GEYSERVILLE


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2009/5/1


Zinfandel


RIDGE VINEYARDS Geyserville Sonoma County 2007 SCORE: 91 ** 58% Zinfandel; 22% Carignane; 18% Petite Sirah; 2% Mataro. An intriguing note of cranberry-like fruit sets this offering off on a track of its own while complexing elements of sweet oak, anise, dark chocolate and tar contribute further distinction. Somewhat tighter than most past Geyserville bottlings, it is a solidly structured effort whose ample richness is met by lots of vitality, and, if a bit angular at this point, it promises to blossom with a few years of age and reward those with patience.

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2007 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2009/6/1


ZINFANDEL - More New Releases


2007 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County ($35) Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, intense, briary, spicy, dark currant and loganberry aroma; medium-full to full body; tight, herbal, spicy, dark berry fruit flavors with a layer of vanilla; medium-full to full tannin; some harshness on the drying finish; lingering aftertaste. A claret-style Zinfandel blend that should reward a few more years of bottle aging. Highly recommended. 14.4% alcohol; 11,000 cases; a blend of 58% Zinfandel, 22% Carignane, 18% PS, and 2% Mataro; released April 2009. (Group Score: 15.4,0/1/2; My Score: 16.5 [89/100], seventh place)

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2006 GEYSERVILLE


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


Zinfandel year's best


SCORE: 92 2006 Sonoma County Geyserville Zinfandel A plump, juicy zinfandel, this manages to be vibrant and savory at once. The ancient vines at Geyserville yield spicy berries, their tannins as black as bittersweet chocolate. The impression from the alcohol is generous, while the finish remains clean and cool. Best with at least ten years of cellar time.

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2006 GEYSERVILLE


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2008/5/1


Zinfandel


2006 RIDGE VINEYARDS Geyserville Sonoma County SCORE: 90 * 70% Zinfandel; 18% Carignane; 10% Petite Sirah; 2% Mataro. It is usual for Ridge's Geyserville bottling to vie for top Zinfandel honors in every vintage, and, the 2006 version exhibits the depth and density and solid structure that we have come to expect. It hints at chocolate and a bit of raisiny fruit, and picks up an edge of tannin and heat at the end. It is, however, not fully in focus just yet, but given the ageworthy nature of its predecessors, it is likely to improve over time and comes with a recommendation for a several years of cellaring.

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2006 GEYSERVILLE


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


California's Central Coast


2006 Geyserville Sonoma County (70% zinfandel, 18% carignane, 10% petite sirah and 2% mataro): Ruby-red. Black raspberry. blueberry, smoked meat and dried violet on the fresh nose. Juicy, sharply focused red and dark berry flavors are dusted with suave minerals and firmed by supple tannins, with an exotic floral pastille note emerging on the back. Finishes sappy, sweet and long, with a deeper cherry note. Already quite complex. SCORE: 91

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2006 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2008/8/1


ZINFANDEL - More New Releases


2006 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County - Medium dark ruby with purplish tinges; attractive, intense, briary, complex, dark berry fruit aroma with hints of dill, green olive and saddle leather; full body; forward, rich, spicy, tarrish, dark berry fruit flavors; medium to full tannin; slightly harsh and a bit hard on the finish; lingering aftertaste. A claret style Zinfandel based wine and deserving of a few more years of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.6% alcohol; 12,000 cases; a blend of 70% Zinfandel, 18% Carignane, 10% PS, and 2% Mataro; released April 2008. (Group Score: 16.0, 2/0/0; My Score: 17 [91/100], first place)

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2005 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2007/8/1


ZINFANDEL - More New Releases


2005 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County - Medium to medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, spicy, jammy, red berry fruit aroma that developed with airing in the glass; full body; big, forward, rich, plummy, red berry fruit flavors with a note of vanilla; well balanced; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Should continue to improve with another year or two of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.6% alcohol; 10,000 cases; blended with 17% Carignane and 6% PS; released September 2007. (Group Score: 16.1, 2/2/1; My Score: 17 [91/100], second place)

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2005 GEYSERVILLE


Stephen Brook, Decanter - 1901/1/1


5 STARS


Ripe blackberry nose, coffee and woodsmoke. Spicy and vigorous, sweet but lively, with invigorating freshness and persistence.

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2005 GEYSERVILLE


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2008/1/1


Zinfandel


2005 RIDGE VINEYARDS Geyserville Sonoma County SCORE: 95 *** 77% Zinfandel; 17% Carignane; 6% Petite Sirah. Some years back Ridge removed the varietal identifier from its Geyserville red wine made substantially from Zinfandel but a field-blend in reality. But whatever they call it, it has been and continues to be a terrific Zinfandel by any standard. Its deep but still developing aromas of berries, brownies and sweet oak give way to more open and accessible ripe-berry flavors, and, contrary to the latter-day norm, the wine is free of excessive ripeness or evident heat. It has the depth to enjoy now, but given Geyserville's track record for longevity and the wine's nascent character, it is wise to cellar away a few bottles.

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2004 GEYSERVILLE


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


ZAP


The 2004 Geyserville, Alexander Valley, $33, is a blend of 75% zinfandel, 18% carignane, and 7% petite sirah. It was aged in American oak, 27% new, for 18 months and has a smoky, currant, blackberry, black cherry nose with accents of briar. Smooth, round, mouth-filling flavors of the same plus pepper, red cherry, and a hint of oak finish medium-broad and medium-long with sharp pepper at the sides. Well balanced, structured, and integrated. Very Good.

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2004 GEYSERVILLE


Charles E. Olken, Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine - 2007/1/2


Zinfandel


RIDGE VINEYARDS Zinfandel Geyserville Sonoma County 2004 SCORE: ** 94 18% Carignane; 7% Petite Sirah. Of all the Zinfandels produced by this greatly respected winery, none has stood out more than Geyserville over the years. Perhaps it is the very high percentages of other grapes that are planted in the vineyard and have found their ways into the wine. Indeed, in many years, Geyserville has not reached the required 75% Zinfandel content needed to bear the varietal name. That this edition does cross that barrier is not to suggest that its character has changed much over the years. The wine is still full in body, slightly fleshy in feel, noticeably deep in fruit and perceptibly tight in its youth. It also screams to be put in the cellar for three to six years. About Ridge Vineyards The honors for bringing Zinfandel into the limelight belong to many people and none more than the folks at Ridge who discovered four decades ago that old vine Zinfandel produced absolutely magical wine. And while the winery boasts a well-deserved reputation for its Monte Bello Cabernet, it is Zinfandel that has made Ridge into a household name. Indeed, in the very first issue of the Guide, Ridge earned three stars for one of its Zins and multiple stars for its Geyserville bottling. In this issue, the honors are repeated with the Pagani Ranch wine earning three stars and the Geyserville just a point behind. Clearly, Ridge stands at the pinnacle of the Zin sweepstakes.

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2004 GEYSERVILLE


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


Lining up some fine Ridge wines


2004 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel. From an old vineyard in the Alexander Valley that Ridge has been drawing on for nearly 40 years, it's a formidable wine that leads with a heady mix of carob and brown sugar spice, with hints of ginger and cocoa.

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2004 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2006/10/1


Zinfandel - New Releases


2004 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma Valley ($33) -- Medium ruby; attractive, spicy, intense, somewhat jammy, ripe raspberry fruit aroma with notes of black pepper and vanilla; full body; fleshy, jammy, concentrated, spicy, ripe raspberry fruit flavors with bright acidity; nicely balanced; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Appealing to drink now and should reward several more years of bottle aging. Highly recommended. 14.9% alcohol; 8,500 cases; a proprietary blend of 75% Zinfandel, 18% Carignane, and 7% PS; released September 2006. Group Score: 16.1, 2/1/3; My Score: 16.5 [89/100], fifth place)

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2003 GEYSERVILLE


W. Blake Gray, San Francisco Chronicle - 2005/7/28


Golden Oldies


2003 Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County ($30) -- Elegant and easy to drink. Aromas of raspberry, blackberry, menthol, black pepper, black currant, licorice and earth. Flavors of blackberry and raspberry with hints of mint, licorice, earth and vanilla. Short-medium finish. The oldest vines are 120, and the average age is about 45. There's more than just fruit in old-vine Zinfandel -- its earthy flavors are history in a bottle. "Old vine" on a Zinfandel label can mean the same as "Reserve" on a bottle of Chardonnay -- maybe nothing at all. But "old vine" can mean something special. The wine might come from gnarled vines planted in the 19th century that struggle to concentrate their fading life force into a few tiny clusters of grapes. When it's good, old-vine Zinfandel is the best possible way to taste the history and land of California in a glass. However, there is no legal definition, and no industry standard, either. In the hands of a marketing department, "old vine" might mean the vines are older than their neighbors'. Paul Draper, winemaker and CEO of Ridge Vineyards, says he'd like to see 50 years as a standard, but many winemakers prefer 35, and nobody wants a new law. "All of us agree you don't want more regulation. But you also don't want somebody passing off a 15-year-old block as old vines," Draper says. "The vine has been mature since it was 15 years old. But it is somewhat different at 50, and somewhat different at 100." Often the label should say "old clones," because many wineries use the term to refer to young vines with grafted plant material from an older vineyard. "We've never put 'old vines' on our label," says Doug Beckett, founder and owner of Peachy Canyon Winery in Paso Robles. "To me, it's like saying this is a reserve wine. What's a reserve wine? A lot of people will do things for marketing purposes." There's a good reason marketers want to purloin the term: Truly old-vine Zinfandel is often a thought-provoking, complex wine. Unlike the straightforward fruit of youth, old-vine Zin delivers secondary characteristics like graphite, licorice and slate, and is often very spicy and earthy. There's a reason for this complexity. Rooted deeply in California soil, old Zinfandel vines have weathered a lot since arriving here from the East Coast in the 1850s. "It's almost an accident that we have Zinfandel at all," says Ravenswood Winery winemaker and president Joel Peterson. The grape is not unique to California. UC Davis professor Carole Meredith used DNA testing in 2001 to show Zinfandel is genetically the same as Crljenak (tzerl-YEN-ak) Kastelanski (CK), a wild Croatian grape. CK's route here included a stop in England, where it was usually called Black St. Peters. In the 1820s, a nursery on Long Island was the first in the United States to import it, according to "Zinfandel: A History of the Grape and Its Wine" by Charles Sullivan (University of California Press, 2003). Its hardy nature made it popular as an ornamental and table grape in New England in the 1830s. Where exactly it picked up the name Zinfandel is a mystery to Sullivan, who spent years researching its history. The Gold Rush brought thirsty fortune-seekers to California starting in 1848; many brought grapevines, including this new vine so popular back east. Zin survived winter frosts in Sonoma County and the summer heat of Amador County. California's booming economy of the 1880s led to a huge boost in wine demand, and Zinfandel was planted everywhere. Some of those 1880s vineyards still produce grapes today. There was so much Zin in the 1880s that George West started making a pink wine -- the first "white" Zinfandel. Viticultural commissioner Charles Wetmore liked white Zin so much that he recommended Zinfandel be classified as a white grape in San Joaquin County, a prescient thought. Today, San Joaquin County has almost 20,000 of the 50,000 total acres of Zinfandel in the state, according to the California Agricultural Statistics Service. But most old-vine Zin prized today is grown elsewhere. Sonoma County has many 19th century vineyards with a particularly large pocket near Wood Road in the Russian River Valley. Amador County also has 100- plus-year-old vineyards all over, and lays claim to the oldest vineyard in the state, the Original Grandpere Vineyard, shown by a grant deed in county records to have existed in 1869. Contra Costa, Napa and San Luis Obispo counties, among others, also have old-vine Zin plantings. Though some old vineyards around Lodi produce sought-after fruit, much of the San Joaquin crop goes into White Zinfandel, which is still the third-most popular U.S. varietal by sales volume. White Zin is the main reason Zinfandel is the state's fourth-most-planted wine grape, behind Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. None of the top three were common in California in the 1800s. If you like California old-vine fruit, Zin is the king. Wine snobs like to rag on sweet, pink White Zinfandel. Don't. If you're an old-vine Zin fan and you're in St. Helena, consider visiting Sutter Home Winery -- which reinvented White Zinfandel in 1972 and was selling 1.5 million cases per year of it by 1984 -- and kissing the ground to thank the winery for saving some of the state's most historic vineyards from being ripped out and replanted. "God bless those people who made White Zinfandel," says Jeff Cohn, winemaker for Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda. "Otherwise, we would have nothing. Without Sutter Home, we would've had nothing." The reason California's most distinctive grape needed Sutter Home to save it, by buying all the Zin it could get, dates to the 1890s. Some of the places Zinfandel was planted in the 1880s were winners that endure to this day, but many more were not. Because Zinfandel back then was overplanted and overcropped -- meaning farmers went for big yields at the expense of quality -- Zinfandel's reputation began to tarnish in the 1890s. Unlike Petite Sirah, which lingered anonymously in the same vineyards as Zinfandel for generations, Zin had its reputation on the line every year through a quirk of naming. Until the 1970s, most California wines were called "Burgundy," "Chablis" or similar names based on places in France. Varietal labeling was unusual, but Zinfandel was the exception, perhaps because it was considered California's native variety. That meant in a bad year, people blamed the Zinfandel grape, rather than the vintners, for poor quality. Prohibition could have killed the wine industry in California, but grape growers survived by putting their fruit on trains and shipping it back east, where home winemaking -- which was legal -- became one of America's favorite pastimes overnight. California grapes were the most desirable, and Zinfandel gained a reputation for fruit flavors that endured the stress of shipping. However, when Prohibition ended in 1933, wineries that had managed to survive by selling sacramental wine had lots of old, low-quality, oxidized Zinfandel on hand that was quickly shipped to market. Any reputation boost the grape had gained during Prohibition was lost almost overnight, and wouldn't recover for almost 60 years. In 1973, for example, a Trader Joe's newsletter read: "Tell us the mocking bird's song and we will tell you the Zinfandel's taste. After our blind tasting our panel could form no general conclusion as to what Zinfandel ought to taste like." That's harsh and unfair. One of the charms of old-vine Zin is how it transmits the taste of the terroir -- soil and climate -- where it has spent so many decades. In broad terms, old-vine Zins of Amador County tend to be earthy and spicy, with red-fruit flavors. From Sonoma County, you may get more black- fruit and black-pepper character. Contra Costa County old-vine Zins may have more floral notes. Yet there's tremendous variation; a hillside location or different fog patterns will give one vineyard's wines a consistently different flavor from those of its neighbors. "Old-vine Zinfandel gives us more complex, more terroir-driven, more earthy, more individual flavors," says Draper of Ridge. But older is not necessarily better. If you like brighter fruit -- nothing wrong with that -- old-vine Zin isn't for you. Old-vine Zinfandel is also more challenging to pair with food. I found that I enjoyed drinking my favorites on their own, to better appreciate the way they change as they interact with air (see tasting notes at left). Though it's squeezed from vines struggling every year to survive, old-vine Zin tastes very much alive. Jesse Rodriguez, head sommelier at the French Laundry in Yountville, says he likes to pair old-vine Zins with meats that have sweetness in the sauce, such as braised short-ribs with a brown sugar and shallot sauce, or chicken mole. "You don't want it to be too spicy," says Rodriguez. "Barbecue pork ribs with a dry rub on them -- how great is that? One of our sommeliers likes to put smoky flavors with old-vine Zins, like simple grilled quail." The idea is to accentuate the secondary taste characteristics of old-vine Zin. However, even single-vineyard wines usually have fruit from some newer vines, because vines don't live forever. "You get nuances from the old vines. You get more pure, intense fruit from younger vines," says Draper. "We have young vines on all our old plots for that reason. We don't have a wine that is 100 percent old vines." Moreover, if you're buying a single-vineyard, old-vine wine, it's probably not 100 percent Zinfandel. A true field blend probably includes some Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet and/or Carignane. "Most of these vineyards were planted before modern winemaking techniques of adding acid or whatever," says Ravenswood's Peterson. "You had to plant something to make up for whatever you thought was the deficiency of the grape in that place. If you planted in a place with low color, you planted more Alicante. If the Zinfandel was soft, you planted more Petite Sirah." Peterson and Draper both played roles in the foundation of ZAP -- Zinfandel Advocates & Producers -- in 1991. At first it was a few vintners pouring wines for a few aficionados. Today, the annual ZAP tasting at San Francisco's Fort Mason is the largest public wine tasting in the world -- and it's all Zinfandel. With 275 producers pouring Zinfandel for 10,000 devotees at the ZAP tasting in January, there's a land rush now to find old vineyards. But Rosenblum's Cohn says age alone isn't enough to make an old-vine Zinfandel special. "There has to be the right kind of soil -- rocky soil," says Cohn, who also has his own label, JC Cellars. "You want the vines to work hard. It gives you more intense fruit." Carol Shelton says she is fortunate to make wine from Lopez Vineyard in Cucamonga Valley, between Los Angeles and Palm Springs. The vineyard has freeways on two sides, not unusual in a fast-growing area that once had 40,000 acres of grapes and now has about 600, according to Shelton. "The guy that owns the vineyard isn't making any money," says Shelton, who says the vines -- planted in 1918 for the Prohibition-era home winemaking market -- produced a minuscule quarter ton per acre in 2002. "He's a very wealthy Singapore man. I think he missed his chance to build a shopping center. He's got a lot of investments and so he's just leaving this one alone. That suits me fine." It's amazing that a wine with such a back story, such low yields and such good flavors can be had for just $24 a bottle. In fact, Zinfandel is the greatest bargain among all U.S. wines, according to Gunter Schamel of Humboldt University in Berlin. Schamel compared quality scores with prices for wines reviewed in Wine Spectator magazine and discovered Zinfandel was the most underpriced varietal relative to its quality. (Pinot Noir was the most overpriced.) "We're getting better prices for the top Zinfandels, but it's going to take a long time," says Peterson. "It's almost too familiar to people in California and too unfamiliar to people outside California." So take advantage, Californians, of the opportunity. Those graphite, slate, licorice and violet flavors have been stored in gnarly, brittle, vulnerable vines since before radio was invented. Before highways. Before airplanes. It's your history, Californians. Savor it.

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2003 GEYSERVILLE


Beverley Blanning, Wine International - 2005/5/16


Beverley Blanning’s tips for top Zinfandel


Closed nose, but supple, full and voluptuous on the palate. Drink 2010-2018. Rated: 90

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2003 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2005/10/1


Zinfandel - New Releases


2003 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County ($30) Medium to medium-dark ruby with purplish tinges; attractive, forward, briary, jammy, cedary, ripe black cherry and black- berry fruit aroma with notes of chocolate and black pepper; medium-full to full body; forward, supple, brambly, ripe 1 blackberry fruit flavors; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Shows some elegance and should continue to improve with bottle aging. Highly recommended. 14.6% alcohol; 11,000 cases; blended with 18% Carignane and 6% PS; released September 2005. (Group Score: 15.9,0/2/3; My Score: 16.5 [89/100], sixth place)

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2003 GEYSERVILLE


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


Zinfandel


RIDGE Geyserville Sonoma County 2003 **SCORE: 91 76% Zinfandel; 18% Carignane; 6% Petite Sirah. Geyserville bottlings typically have an uncanny knack for being very ripe, very deep and quite friendly at one and the same time, and this rich, fully extracted effort is all of the above. It brings together loads of brambly, blackberry fruit, creamy oak and subtle notes of dark chocolate, and it sports just enough tannin to give spine to its essentially supple style. Its accessible richness is bound to tempt early drinking, but, as experience has repeatedly taught with this property, the wine will develop famously for a good many years yet.

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2003 GEYSERVILLE


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


Philosopher/winemaker Paul Draper runs Ridge Vineyards with...


2003 Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County ($30) An elegant, easy-to-drink wine. Aromas of raspberry, blackberry, menthol, black pepper, black currant, licorice and earth. Flavors of blackberry and raspberry with hints of mint, licorice, earth and vanilla. Gentle, like a great Merlot. Short-medium finish. Blend of 76 percent Zinfandel, 18 percent Carignane and 6 percent Petite Sirah

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2002 GEYSERVILLE


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 GEYSERVILLE PROPRIETARY RED --- ALEXANDER VALLEY ...Another reference point effort from Ridge, the 2002 Geyserville Proprietary Red (84% Zinfandel, 12% Carignan, and 4% Petite Sirah) boasts a rich, sumptuous bouquet of blackberries, kirsch liqueur, damp earth, and licorice. Full-bodied and powerful, with good acidity as well as surprising elegance, this ruby/purple- colored, heady 2002 can be drunk over the next 7-8 years. ($30.00) Score: 92

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2001 GEYSERVILLE


Nicholas Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2003/11/1


Zinfandel - New Releases


2001 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County ($30) Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, intense, jammy, very ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit aroma with notes of anise and chocolate; full body; big, dense, highly extracted, concentrated, slightly jammy, ripe blackberry fruit flavors; firmly structured; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Delicious to drink now though should continue to develop with some bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.4% alcohol; 10,500 cases; a blend of74% Zinfandel, 18% Carignane, and 8% PS; released September 2003. (Group Score: 16.2, 1/1/2; My Score: 17 [90/100], fourth place)

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2001 GEYSERVILLE


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


Zinfandel


Score 90 ~ 1 Star * RIDGE Geyserville Sonoma County 2001 18% Carignane; 8% Petite Sirah. Long the Zinfandel-based wine most associated with the storied Ridge winery, "Geyserville", in this current incarnation is a ripe, direct wine filled with notions of blackberry and plum jams along with a faint hint of raisin. Not quite as bold and fleshy as it can be in some years, this version is )till an accomplished bottle of wine with a firming spine of age-demanding tannins. $30.00

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2001 GEYSERVILLE


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2003/10/31


California Zinfandels – A Very Good Vintage


2001 Geyserville Proprietary Red -- SCORE: 91 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. The 2001 Geyserville Proprietary Red, a blend of 74% Zinfandel, 18% Carignan, and 8% Petite Sirah, is a beautiful effort. Its deep ruby/purple color is followed by a tight but promising nose of raspberry and briery fruit intermingled with notions of oak, pepper, and resin. This dense, full-bodied, textured, voluptuous offering is both exuberant and dramatic on the palate. Although the aromatics have not caught up with the flavors, this appears to be an exceptional example of this renowned cuvee. Its 14.4% alcohol is well-disguised beneath some serious concentration. It will drink well for 5-6 years.

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2001 GEYSERVILLE


Stephen Brook, Decanter - 2005/9/1


Stephen Brook's Top Zins


Five Stars ***** Rich, smoky aromas and palate, tannic and spicy, but also has a long, elegant finish.

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2000 GEYSERVILLE


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


Focus on California


2000 Geyserville California (66% zinfandel, 17% carignan and 17% petite sirah): Ruby-red. Roasted fruit notes complicated by hints of gingerbread, lead pencil and loam on the nose; slight suggestion of old wood. Sweeter and denser than the Mazzoni bottling, with an impression of lower acidity. Fuller in the mouth but perhaps not quite as fresh. But thick and rich, with very good texture and material. 89.

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2000 GEYSERVILLE


Nick Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2002/10/1



2000 Ridge, "Geyserville," Sonoma County ($30) Medium-dark purplish ruby; attractive, intense, spicy, briary, ripe berry fruit aroma; medium-full body; jammy, slightly sweet, briary, very ripe berry fruit flavors with good depth and concentration; well balanced and structured; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Deserves another year or two of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.9% alcohol; 10,000 cases; a blend of 66% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, and 17% Petite Sirah (PS); released September 2002. (Group Score: 16.3, 3/3/2; My Score: 17 [90/100], second place)

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2000 GEYSERVILLE


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2002/6/15


New Releases, California Zinfandel & Blends


Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County 2000; Score: 88; $30 Ripe and full-bodied, with zesty wild berry, raspberry and blackberry fruit flavors that stay pure and focused if a bit raw and hot on the finish. Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah. Drink now through 2008. 10,039 cases made. -J.L.

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1999 GEYSERVILLE


Nick Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2001/11/1



1999 Ridge, Geyserville, Sonoma County ($30) -Medium- dark ruby with purplish tinges; attractive, spicy, peppery, blackberry and raspberry fruit aroma; full body; big, rich, intense, spicy, peppery, cherry and red berry fruit flavors; well balanced and structured; medium-full to full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Should continue to reward several more years of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.8% alcohol; 8,396 cases; a blend of 68% Zinfandel, 16% Carignane and 16% PS; released September 2001. (Group Score: 16.1, 0/1/2: My Score: 17 [90/100], fourth place)

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1999 GEYSERVILLE


Laurie Daniel, Monterey County Herald - 2001/2/7


Things get downright zany at zinfandel tasting


Zinfandel fans pursue their passion with a zeal that often approaches obsession. Witness the remarkable success of the annual tasting held in San Francisco by Zinfandel Advocates and Producers.

‘This years tasting, held in late January, attracted an astonishing 9,200 people, up 50 percent from 2000's tasting. The event, held at Fort Mason, expanded this year into two buildings, making room for more producers (255 this year) and tasters.

Still, it was pretty much a mob scene, as tasters elbowed their way to the tables where their favorite wines were being poured. And it was a far cry from ZAP's first tasting, in 1992, when about 100 people and 22 wineries attended.

Zinfandel - the REAL zinfandel, which is the red kind – has exploded in popularity since then. At its best, zin can be incredibly hedonistic, with lots of rich, ripe fruit and undertones of pepper and spice.‘

But winemakers must tread a very fine line, because zinfandel can easily get overripe and quite high in alcohol. I think many of the wines in the highly praised 1997 vintage, for example, tended to be raisiny and ‘alcoholic.

The ZAP tasting offered a sneak peak at the 1999 vintage (although many wineries also poured 1997 and 1998 wines). Based on the wines I tasted and winemakers I talked to, 1999 appears to have been almost ideal for zin. The wines are big and ripe, to be sure, but the best ones are balanced too. (Disclaimer: I managed to taste only a tiny fraction of the wines that were being poured, and I skipped the tables of producers whose wines I don’t usually like. Nevertheless, I came away with purple teeth and some recommendations.)

The relatively cool 1999 vintage “was almost the quintessential great growing season for zinfandel,” says Joel Peterson, winemaker at Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma. The long growing season gave the grapes extra "hang time” on the vine, resulting in fully developed flavors, he adds. The wines, Peterson thinks, have intensity and power “without being over the top.”

Zinfandel has a tendency to ripen unevenly. When some grapes in a cluster are perfectly ripe, others are hard and green or overripe and raisiny. But Peterson, who makes 14 zins, says that at harvest time, the grapes "were picture perfect".

“If I'd rubbed my magic lamp, this is what I would have gotten.”

Paul Draper, winemaker at Ridge Vineyards in the hills above Cupertino, concurs that 1999 “is one of the really fine zinfandel years.” “Grapes were fully ripe, without being overripe, with firm tannins and good acidity", says Draper, who produces a variety of zinfandels.

“There’s a lot of pleasure” in the 1999 zinfandels, adds Van Williamson, winemaker at Edmeades in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. "They're easy to like.”

Although I agree with Williamson that many of the 99 zins are easy to like, there’s one aspect to some of the wines that's a little hard to swallow - the prices.

Zin was once a less expensive alternative to cabernet sauvignon, but there were few wines at the ZAP tasting for less than $20, and wines selling for more than $30 were not at all unusual. I tasted one wine from a new producer that was pleasant enough, but the suggested retail price was $60 - considerably more expensive than the quality justifies.

Here are my tasting notes for some recommended 1999 zinfandels. Many will be released later this year. Not all wineries had set their prices.

1999 Ridge Vineyards, Geyserville

Lush berry and cherry flavors, with good acidity. Big, but very well balanced.

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1999 GEYSERVILLE


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 1901/1/1


New Releases, California Zins and Blends


Ridge Geyservilie Sonoma County 1999 $30 A ripe, rich, earthy style, with waxy wild berry, black cherry blackberry, herb and minty notes. Turns a bit rustic on the finish, but the finish rings true with lively flavors Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah. Drink now through 2008. 8,335 cases made. J.L.

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1999 GEYSERVILLE


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


Zinfandel


Ridge $30 1999 Sonoma County Geyserville - The ancient vines at Ridge’s Geyserville vineyard grew super-ripe in ‘99, carrying a honeyed buzz into the fermentor and out into the wine. The harvest at Geyserville was two weeks later than normal, and yields were down 40 percent after June rams, both factors leading to the ripeness and concentration of this ‘99. The ripeness comes across as blackberries in honey, as toffee or the scent of halvah, bringing dessert wine to mind. Then the depths of the wine begin to show as it takes on air, growing more savory, the density of the fruit and tannins creating a complex, lasting flavor. Air sublimates the sweetness to a tremendous elegance. A great vintage of Geyserville, best enjoyed two or three years from now. Ridge Vineyards, Cupertino CA

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2001/9/1


Zinfandel & Alternative Reds


Sometimes you get the greatest value for your money by going right to the source. With wine, that would be Bordeaux when you’re drinking cabernet sauvignon, Australia when you’re drinking shiraz. And California when it comes to zin. An inheritance from the Italian families who settled northern California’s wine communities, many of the zinfandel vines planted in the 19th century are still producing today - though many others were grubbed up to make room for more fashionable varieties. It’s only recently that wine drinkers have come to fully appreciate the asset these centenarian vines represent, their meager yields (compared to the abundance offered by a young zinfandel vine) making their farming more a labor of love or a commitment to historic preservation than a profit-driven business decision. The most expressive and delicious zinfandels command nothing close to the prices of the top-flight cabernets - even though there is cabernet to be had in virtually every important wine-growing country of the world. And perhaps that’s what makes the market for cabernet, its omnipresence. The market for old-vine zinfandel is made instead by its scarcity, its tie to one country, one wine-growing region, and its remarkable ability to express that region unlike anything else. The Ridge Geyserville has that talent, a zinfandel in all its Californeity. You can taste the sun streaming out of the glass. Paul Draper at Ridge has been making wine from the Geyserville vineyard since 1966, where pockets of vines date back to 1883. The blend in 1998 includes 74 percent zinfandel blended with petite sirah (15 percent), carignane (10) and mataro (1), grapes associated with the vineyards of southern France. A number of factors these old vines provide have made the Geyserville a benchmark zinfandel: the detail expressed in the tannin, as if you’re tasting the earth in which the vines were grown; the ripeness of the berry fruit, as if you’re standing in the vineyard and bees are circling the ripe grapes, carrying the buzz of honey along into the air; the lusciousness of the texture that carries all the wine’s alcohol without showing any heat. That balance of elements, especially the balance of the alcohol, is key to the greatness of Geyserville, an attribute that many old-vine zinfandel makers choose to ignore in favor of power and intensity. Geyserville is intense, but it’s also elegant. At $30, it may be the best value in any benchmark you can find.

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


Nick Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 2000/8/1


Zinfandel


Medium ruby color; attractive, forward, rich, intense, complex, plummy, jammy, toasty, ripe black cherry fruit aroma with overtones of vanilla; medium-full to full body; big, rich, youthful, textured, cedary, toasty, ripe black cherry and redcurrant flavors with good depth and concentration; medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Deserves another year or two of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.1% alcohol; 11,500 cases; blended with 15% Petite Sirah (PS), 10% Carignane, and 1% Mataro; released September 2000.

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


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


Zinfandel Tasting Notes


...the 1998 Geyserville, Alexander Valley, is rich, full and very broad of palate, this field blend of mostly Zin, delivers a complex layering of raspberry, blueberry, baking spice and herbs. Moderate tannins integrate with the fruit providing the balance for a few years of cellaring.

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits - 2000/10/1


Zinfandel


Ridge 1998 Sonoma County Geyserville Zinfandel

The glow in the color reflects the generous, sunny disposition of this Geyserville vintage, far and away the best Ridge Zinfandel of ‘98. It’s dark, savory and grand, with deeply flavorful ripe fruit toward the blackberry end of the spectrum. Complexity comes across in meaty, smoky tones in the finish, and in a green peppercorn spice. This is an easy zin to enjoy now with bistro foods, and one with a proven record to age-though this vintage will likely mature sooner than the ‘97.

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2000/6/15


Slim Pickings


You may have heard of a “California harvest” in Bordeaux, when the weather is hot and dry and the grapes ripen easily. Now picture heat-loving Zinfandel growing in Bordeaux during a wet, cool year, and you have the right image of the 1998 vintage of California Zin. After a long run - from 1990 to 1997 - of truly exciting vintages, offering wines brimming with juicy fruit flavors, ‘98 turned out to be something of a dud for Zinfandel. A few winemakers are touting the '98 bottlings for their high acidity and drinkability and for not being overly ripe. But for most winemakers, '98 proved to be the most challenging vintage since 1989 (another rain-plagued year), and it shows in the generally disappointing quality of the wines.

Too many of the '98s fail to offer the zesty raspberry, blackberry and cherry flavors that make Zinfandel so distinctive and appealing. At the same time, many have mature colors accompanied by unripe flavors and by the crisp, green, tea like tannins you get from underripe grapes. In many ways, '98 was even more maddening than '89 because temperamental weather hindered the grapevines at every stage of their development, from start to finish.

In my tastings, the sheer scarcity of outstanding wines tells the story. Since my last report, a year ago, I’ve tasted 285 Zinfandels, including nine 1996s, 188 1997s and 87 1998s. Only two '98s, both from Russian River Valley, rated 90 points or higher on Wine SpectatorÌs l00-point scale: Martinelli Giuseppe & Louisa (91 points, $36), whose 600-case production was over-seen by Helen Turley, and Hartford Court Fanucchi Vineyard (90, $32), of which 344 cases were made. If you do the math, it’s scary - only 944 cases of outstanding Zinfandel have come from '98 so far. Ouch.

If you’re a die-hard Zinfandel drinker, '98 will be dicey. Even the good to very good wines aren’t terribly inspiring, nor do they offer much in the way of value. I found a few treats, such as the Zoom Paso Robles 1998 (89, $24), Bayliss & Fortune Mendocino (87, $13) and Madrona El Dorado (87, $12). But many of the big-name Zin makers, including Ridge, Rosenblum and De Loach, made good but rather ordinary wines that scored in the low 80s.

The situation might improve with some of the later releases, but don’t bank on it. You may want to scope out the market for any leftover wines from ‘96 or ‘97-both excellent years-or wait for the 1999 vintage, which should be solid, much more in sync with the other vintages of the '90s.

Winemakers knew early on that they would face problems in '98, which was plagued by the fickle El Nino weather pattern. A soggy, wet winter was followed by an equally rainy and cool spring that extended into June, usually a hot and dry month in California’s Zinfandel-growing regions. Bud break and grape set (when the grape flowers turn into berries) were unusually late and uneven, meaning that some grape clusters began to develop weeks before others - even within a single vineyard.

On top of that, many vineyards suffered from spring grape shatter (meaning that flowers failed to turn into fruit), leaving grape clusters looking scraggly. When the weather warmed in September and October, the uneven ripening pattern showed in the grape clusters. Some were nearing desired ripeness levels, while others were still two to three weeks behind.

Many winemakers removed immature clusters from their vines, and they thinned leaves to expose the remaining crop to more sun. But even that didn’t ensure the needed ripeness. In fact, too much dampness led to mold.

“Rot was a problem,” admits Pete Seghesio of Seghesio Winery in Sonoma County. “We dropped, on average, one out of every 10 clusters due to botrytis infection.” Seghesio also notes that many remaining clusters didn’t fully ripen until well into the growing season. Still, by his calculations, the grapes hung on the vines long enough for a successful vintage, and at Seghesio, they rate it as one of the top two vintages of the decade.

Some winemakers tried to put a positive spin on the vintage by pointing out that the wines are balanced and not pruny, which Zinfandel can be when it’s picked too ripe. Others, such as Barry Collier of Collier Falls, described the '98s as leaner than the '97s. “Our house style tends to be more elegant, less big and bold,”he says. Still others downplayed the significance of rain and inclement weather.

No one interviewed for this story thinks that the ‘98 Zinfandels are riper or more concentrated than the '97s or '99s. The latter vintage in particular has many vintners excited-though they clearly have a motive to be upbeat, as they have wines to sell.

“The 1998s are great food wines, and we think these wines are going to age better than in more overripe years,” says Jeff Cohn, enologist for both Rosenblum and JC Cellars, his own label. But he admits that the '98s are only “nice wines, with good structure,” and “not as seductive as in '97 or '99.”

“98 was definitely a strange growing season,” recalls Ehren Jordan, winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars in Napa Valley. “The quality was really variable. Cooler sites fared poorly; sites that are traditionally hot did really well. Grapes that were picked before the rain [on Sept. 26 and 27] were extraordinary, but after the rain, the quality of the grapes really suffered.

For Zinfandel drinkers, the stretch of superior vintages in the '90s puts things in perspective. When you follow a vintage like 1997, says Jordan, it's difficult for people to recalibrate their palates to a ‘normal’ vintage.”

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


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


Focus on California


1998 Geyserville Sonoma Coast (14%): Bright red-ruby. Roasted aromas of blackberry, bitter chocolate and roast coffee; distinct hints of torrefaction. Dense and sappy in the mouth, with very intense dark berry and pepper flavors. Quite powerfully structured to age, but not overly muscular. Dusty, fine tannins coat the palate. Draper “opened” the vines, dropping crop several times during the season, thereby avoiding rot after the rain in August.

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2000/6/15


Slim Pickings


You may have heard of a “California harvest” in Bordeaux, when the weather is hot and dry and the grapes ripen easily. Now picture heat-loving Zinfandel growing in Bordeaux during a wet, cool year, and you have the right image of the 1998 vintage of California Zin. After a long run - from 1990 to 1997 - of truly exciting vintages, offering wines brimming with juicy fruit flavors, ‘98 turned out to be something of a dud for Zinfandel. A few winemakers are touting the '98 bottlings for their high acidity and drinkability and for not being overly ripe. But for most winemakers, '98 proved to be the most challenging vintage since 1989 (another rain-plagued year), and it shows in the generally disappointing quality of the wines.

Too many of the '98s fail to offer the zesty raspberry, blackberry and cherry flavors that make Zinfandel so distinctive and appealing. At the same time, many have mature colors accompanied by unripe flavors and by the crisp, green, tea like tannins you get from underripe grapes. In many ways, '98 was even more maddening than '89 because temperamental weather hindered the grapevines at every stage of their development, from start to finish.

In my tastings, the sheer scarcity of outstanding wines tells the story. Since my last report, a year ago, I’ve tasted 285 Zinfandels, including nine 1996s, 188 1997s and 87 1998s. Only two '98s, both from Russian River Valley, rated 90 points or higher on Wine SpectatorÌs l00-point scale: Martinelli Giuseppe & Louisa (91 points, $36), whose 600-case production was over-seen by Helen Turley, and Hartford Court Fanucchi Vineyard (90, $32), of which 344 cases were made. If you do the math, it’s scary - only 944 cases of outstanding Zinfandel have come from '98 so far. Ouch.

If you’re a die-hard Zinfandel drinker, '98 will be dicey. Even the good to very good wines aren’t terribly inspiring, nor do they offer much in the way of value. I found a few treats, such as the Zoom Paso Robles 1998 (89, $24), Bayliss & Fortune Mendocino (87, $13) and Madrona El Dorado (87, $12). But many of the big-name Zin makers, including Ridge, Rosenblum and De Loach, made good but rather ordinary wines that scored in the low 80s.

The situation might improve with some of the later releases, but don’t bank on it. You may want to scope out the market for any leftover wines from ‘96 or ‘97-both excellent years-or wait for the 1999 vintage, which should be solid, much more in sync with the other vintages of the '90s.

Winemakers knew early on that they would face problems in '98, which was plagued by the fickle El Nino weather pattern. A soggy, wet winter was followed by an equally rainy and cool spring that extended into June, usually a hot and dry month in California’s Zinfandel-growing regions. Bud break and grape set (when the grape flowers turn into berries) were unusually late and uneven, meaning that some grape clusters began to develop weeks before others - even within a single vineyard.

On top of that, many vineyards suffered from spring grape shatter (meaning that flowers failed to turn into fruit), leaving grape clusters looking scraggly. When the weather warmed in September and October, the uneven ripening pattern showed in the grape clusters. Some were nearing desired ripeness levels, while others were still two to three weeks behind.

Many winemakers removed immature clusters from their vines, and they thinned leaves to expose the remaining crop to more sun. But even that didn’t ensure the needed ripeness. In fact, too much dampness led to mold.

“Rot was a problem,” admits Pete Seghesio of Seghesio Winery in Sonoma County. “We dropped, on average, one out of every 10 clusters due to botrytis infection.” Seghesio also notes that many remaining clusters didn’t fully ripen until well into the growing season. Still, by his calculations, the grapes hung on the vines long enough for a successful vintage, and at Seghesio, they rate it as one of the top two vintages of the decade.

Some winemakers tried to put a positive spin on the vintage by pointing out that the wines are balanced and not pruny, which Zinfandel can be when it’s picked too ripe. Others, such as Barry Collier of Collier Falls, described the '98s as leaner than the '97s. “Our house style tends to be more elegant, less big and bold,”he says. Still others downplayed the significance of rain and inclement weather.

No one interviewed for this story thinks that the ‘98 Zinfandels are riper or more concentrated than the '97s or '99s. The latter vintage in particular has many vintners excited-though they clearly have a motive to be upbeat, as they have wines to sell.

“The 1998s are great food wines, and we think these wines are going to age better than in more overripe years,” says Jeff Cohn, enologist for both Rosenblum and JC Cellars, his own label. But he admits that the '98s are only “nice wines, with good structure,” and “not as seductive as in '97 or '99.”

“98 was definitely a strange growing season,” recalls Ehren Jordan, winemaker at Turley Wine Cellars in Napa Valley. “The quality was really variable. Cooler sites fared poorly; sites that are traditionally hot did really well. Grapes that were picked before the rain [on Sept. 26 and 27] were extraordinary, but after the rain, the quality of the grapes really suffered.

For Zinfandel drinkers, the stretch of superior vintages in the '90s puts things in perspective. When you follow a vintage like 1997, says Jordan, it's difficult for people to recalibrate their palates to a ‘normal’ vintage.”

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


James Laube, Wine Spectator - 2000/5/31



Ridge Geyserville Sonoma County 1998 $28 Simple but pleasant, with cherry, berry and raspberry flavor that keeps its fruity profile. Drink now. 9,863 cases made.

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1998 GEYSERVILLE


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 2000/6/26


California's 1998 Zinfandels


One of Ridge’s classic efforts, the 1998 Geyserville (74% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 10% Carignan, and 1% Mataro) possesses Bordeaux-like complexity and elegance. The alcohol is listed as 14.1%. The wine was reticent on the day I tasted it, but as it sat in the glass, sweet aromas of minerals, smoky wood, red/black currants, and dried herbs emerged. This classy, elegant, restrained, yet authoritatively rich Zinfandel should be consumed over the next 5-6 years.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


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


Red Wines/California


The Geyserville shows mineral aromas and plum fruit in a rich round body with fine balance.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 1999/6/21


California's 1997 Zinfandels


The 1997 Geyserville Proprietary Red Wine (74% Zinfandel, 15% Carignan, 10% Petite Sirah, and 1% Mourvedre, with 14.9% alcohol) offers explosive aromas of jammy, berry fruit, and flavors redolent with notes of plums, cherries, raspberries, and smoky wood. Open-knit and expansive, with low acidity, this evolved, forward, hedonistic wine will drink well for 4-5 years.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Robert Parker, Wine Advocate - 1998/12/23


Ridge Vineyards


The 1997 Geyserville Proprietary Red Wine (primarily Zinfandel) is a riveting example of this popular wine. The color is dark ruby/purple, and the wine is crammed with blackberries and cherry fruit intermixed with pepper, spice, and smoky oak. Full-bodied and dense, it should drink well for 7-8 years.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


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


181 Reasons to Like California Zinfandel


The 1997 Geyserville, Sonoma County is not labeled as a Zinfandel since it contains a mixture of Petite Sirah and Carignane that comprise roughly 36% of this field blend. The inclusion of these varietals adds sweet, floral/vanilla tones to the black pepper and cherry character of both the nose and palate. The rich full-bodied palate is alive with bright cherry, dusty raspberry and sharp pepper flavors that fade slowly and end on a light vanilla finish.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Nick Ponomareff, California Grapevine - 1999/8/1


1997 Zinfandel


Medium to medium-dark ruby; attractive, rich, peppery, spicy, jammy, plummy, toasty, slightly briary, sweet black cherry fruit aroma with notes of vanilla, pepper, and clove; full body; big, rich, textured, concentrated, high-extract, jammy, ripe blackberry fruit flavors with overtones of creamy oak; medium-full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Superior quality. A big, forward, very ripe style of Zinfandel. Should reward another year or two of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 14.9% alcohol; 10,600 cases; blended with 1.5% Carignane, 10% PS, and 1% Mataro; to be released September 1999.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Lettie Teague, Food & Wine - 2000/10/1


American Wine Awards


BEST ZINFANDEL OVER $15 1997 RIDGE GEYSERVILLE

Few wineries can rival Ridge’s record of successes, and few wines are more consistently great than this one. Ridge, whose winemaker is the legendary Paul Draper, has turned out a consistently high-quality, well-structured Zinfandel from the Geyserville vineyard in Sonoma for nearly 35 years, although the 1990 vintage was the last that Ridge labeled Zinfandel; thereafter the name became simply Geyserville. The change reflects Draper’s emphasis on vineyard terroir over varietal identification. The grape blend remains largely unchanged.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Charles Metcalfe, Wine Magazine - 2000/10/1


Masters of the Millenium


That the Zinfandel Trophy went to one of Paul Draper’s wines was no real shock. This time it was the succulent, smooth, blackberry-fruited Ridge Geyserville 1997.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


MaryAnn Worobiec, Wine Spectator - 2000/12/31


Six Zinfandels Put Their Winemakers to the Test


With a blind flight of their own 1997 Zinfandels placed in front of them, six top California Zinfandel winemakers took a taste test in a panel moderated by Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews. Each winemaker was asked to speak about a wine they were tasting blind, hypothesize about the appellation, and in some cases, venture a guess as to whether or not the wine was their own. The audience followed along, sipping the wines and trying to figure out their identities as well.

Paul Draper, CEO and winemaker for Ridge Vineyards, was obviously uncomfortable with being the first to venture a guess. “I think this is the price I have to pay for the honor Wine Spectator is giving me,” Draper joked, referring to the Distinguished Service Award that he received at this year’s Wine Experience. After a bit of stalling, he guessed that the first wine was from Napa Valley.

Next on the hot seat was Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery. He described wine No. 2 as well-made and jammy, guessing that it was probably the Ridge Geyserville California 1997.

Marketta Fourmeaux, owner of Chateau Potelle, explained how she approaches tasting a wine for the first time. “Is this wine enjoyable? Yes. Wine No. 3 is enjoyable. Next, is this a food wine or a Jacuzzi wine? I think this is a food wine, with nice balance and medium body.” Fourmeaux guessed that the third wine was from Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County.

Don Hartford, president of Hartford Court, commented on how he enjoyed the upfront fruity aroma, raisiny flavors and low acidity of wine No. 4. He then guessed that this wine too, was from the Russian River Valley.

Niebaum-Coppola winemaker Scott McLeod said wine No. 5 was very distinctive, with floral qualities as well as notes of spicy, dried fruit-characteristics that he attributed to Amador County.

Last to guess was Robert Smerling of Renwood Winery. Matthews reminded Smerling that he had earlier bragged, “I’ll be dumbfounded if I can’t spot my own Zin,” and Matthews asked him to defend his claim. Smerling guessed that wine No. 5 was his, and that wine No. 6 was from Napa Valley. (He proved correct as to which was his own wine.)

At this point, the audience was instructed to open the sealed envelopes placed in front of them, which contained cards bearing the names of each of the six wines. Those who didn’t know what to expect groaned when they realized that it was now their turn to guess. Everyone shuffled the cards around on the tops of their wine glasses, weighing the guesses of the panelists against their own opinions. The correct order was: l. Hartford Court Zinfandel Russian River Valley Hartford Vineyard 1997 2.Ridge Geyserville California 1997 3. Niebaum-Coppola Zinfandel Napa Valley Edizione Pennino 1997 4.Chateau Potelle Zinfandel Mount Veeder V.G.S. 1997 5.Renwood Zinfandel Amador County Grandpere 1997 6. Eberle Zinfandel Paso Robles Sauret Vineyard 1997

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Katrina Alloway, Wine Magazine - 2000/11/1


A Meeting of Equals


Succulent fruits of the forest, with rich tar and spice to bring us a complex and far-reaching Blue Mountain coffee finish.

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1997 GEYSERVILLE


Andrew Jefford, Evening Standard - 1999/9/1


California Dreaming


My job gets me down sometimes. Not in the usual way, though. This is more after-hours than during them. I've spent the past 10 years trying to do my bit for vino-diversity (the wine-drinker’s equivalent of biodiversity). And all the signs are that I'm not only swimming against the tide, but it’s washing me and my kind out to sea.

Whenever I meet acquaintances under the age of 40, they seem to drink nothing but Australian wine. I drop round for a social glass with them, and they uncork bottle after bottle of Jacob’s Creek, Rawson’s Retreat, Nottage Hill and Oxford Landing as if they were cans of lager. Indeed, these wines are becoming the equivalent of cans of lager: standardised, consistent, reliable, risk-free, challenge-free, universally acceptable. They enjoy them; they consider they offer the best value and reliability at that price. Everybody sells them, so buying them is easy and convenient.

The Californian producer Gallo sold almost no wine at all here 20 years ago. “Last year the Gallo brand grew at over 22 percent and we moved more than two million cases as a wholesaler, establishing it as the leading UK brand,” says Pat Prendergast. He was talking to the UK wine trade journal Harper’s, which described him as the man “charged with orchestrating an interactive sense of marketing strategy” for the Californian leviathan. This miracle is due in large part to Gallo’s saturation advertising in Britain over the past decade. And the ads have, though their folksy, “Julio's Story" and "Gina's Story" image is many miles removed from the reality of industrial grape growing and wine-making which fills almost all of their bottles.

Then, just when I'm thinking it's time to drink myself to death with any remaining bottles of small-grower Marcillac or Entraygues I can get hold of, someone like Paul Draper comes strolling into town. Draper has made wines for Ridge Vineyards, sited high in the Santa Cruz Mountains, for 30 years. It’s actually hard to think of any Californian winemaker who has enjoyed a more consistent reputation for excellence than Ridge. Does he talk about “expanding the consumer franchise” for Ridge? Does he talk about "complementary brand development"? Does he stress the importance of “core solid pyramid brand building”?

Somehow I get the feeling he'd flush any “core brand values” changes down the lavatory if he found them. “What interests me.” he says, “is the character of a piece of ground. Draper himself managed to avoid the training in “industrial winemaking” which he claims Davis University gives to its oenology graduates; he studied philosophy instead, and learned his winemaking pragmatically.

New techniques? “If you couldn’t have done it in 1850, I don’t do it.” Low yields, ripe fruit, wild yeasts - and, above all, solicitous study of each of the relatively widely scattered vineyards from which Draper takes in fruit. Unlike those large companies, which Draper says use the notion of terroir, of site-expression or "placeness" merely as a marketing tool, for Ridge it is the guiding principle of everything the company does. The result is that when you taste a series of Paul Draper's wines, you taste huge differences, splendid variety and, vintage to vintage, unpredictable changes too. These wines express a place and a season with the precision which only wine, among agricultural products, can achieve. This is why wine is special; this is why people devote lifetimes and fortunes to its study. Ridge has been influential among the thoughtful minority of California wine growers, and Draper’s restrained, avowedly primitive winemaking, and his determination to reveal the potential of morsels of earth with his wines, are no longer uncommon there. As a result, California’s greatest bottles unquestionably rival the best of France and Italy.

Yet I’m still depressed. Ridge’s wines are expensive. In the future, wines made with this philosophy - the philosophy which once guided almost all winemaking - will disappear into that deluxe ghetto. Wines under L7 will become increasingly industrial, increasingly branded, increasingly reliable and increasingly monotonous. Unless, that is, consumers decide that they really don’t want wine to go the way of lager and cola, refuse to buy big brands, and support the dwindling supply of inexpensive wines still made by small growers around the world.

Will it happen? Will it heck.

Ridge's most celebrated and most expensive wine is the Cabernet-dominated Monte Bello, grown at great height (between 1,400 and 2,600 ft up) in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco Bay. The height means cool temperatures, and Monte Bello is, in general, relatively brisk, thrusting and vivid by California standards, with piercing intensity of black currant fruit (though it also has deep, fine-grained tannins too). It's a long-term wine, acquiring cedar, resin and incense-like notes as it ages. The 1995 Monte Bello (which includes 18 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot) is on sale at present and is almost rapier-like in its intensity and vigour

The 1997 Geyserville has drifts of pure blackberry backed by a supple milk-chocolate richness. Easy flavours, yet there's complexity in this wine, too. There's even more old-vine Zinfandel in the Lytton Springs vineyard sited in the Dry Creek zone of Sonoma; the 1997 Lytton Springs is one of the most intense and deftly structured wines made from this variety I've tasted. It's got warm, almost coffee-like scents and a flood tide of bright bramble, backed with evident tannins and sustained acidity.

York Creek is in Napa, and it's from there that Ridge's fat-boy varietal Petite Sirah is sourced. The 1996 York Creek Petite Sirah shows its American oak in its scent, overlying ripe, dark fruit; it's a richly tannic mouthful, with the plums meshed gratifyingly into the tannins.

Finally, the Bridgehead vineyard in Contra Costa County is where, from centenarian vines, Ridge produces its Mataro (mourvedre). The 1997 Bridgehead Mataro is slightly lighter in colour than the York Creek, with vivid summer-pudding scents encased in a typically leathery Mourvedre frame. In the mouth, it's light-textured yet intense (a hallmark of Ridge's generally low-yield wines) with more of that summer-pudding brightness settling down towards a smooth, chocolaty conclusion.

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