We have made Geyserville in every vintage since 1966. The release of the 2015 marks the 50th vintage we have released from this extraordinary site. The oldest parcels in the vineyard are a classic 19th-century field blend with zinfandel and carignane predominant. Geyserville was the first California zinfandel since the late 1930s to be made as a “fine wine.” Ridge began as a producer of cabernet in 1962, and beginning in 1966, we used the same traditional, pre-industrial techniques with the Geyserville grapes as we did with Monte Bello. Both were picked within the small window of ideal ripeness, fermented on their natural yeasts, and barrel-aged. Handled as though they were cabernet, the Geyservilles of the early seventies proved that we had one of the best sites for growing zinfandel in California—or anywhere else.
In her book Vintage Timecharts, Jancis Robinson chose seventy properties worldwide as examples of great vineyards. She included both Monte Bello and Geyserville. It was the first time a zinfandel vineyard had been placed in the company of the top châteaux of Bordeaux, and Burgundy’s finest domains.
At Geyserville, “Old Patch” provides the wine’s backbone. This four-and-a-half-acre parcel imparts great depth and exotic fruit flavors. These—Geyserville’s oldest vines—were planted in 1891. They are a field blend comprised of 35% carignane, 26% zinfandel, 19% alicante bouschet, 9% mataro, 7% petite sirah, and 4% “other.” Other, in this case, can be a number of things, including cinsault, grand noir, grenache noir, black muscat, peloursin, burger, petite bouschet, aubin, syrah, bastardo, valdiguié, mortaou, criolla mediana #2, and a half-dozen or so table-grape varietals. Geyserville’s individual character is often attributed to its relatively high percentage of old-vine carignane. However, the site itself is by far the most important element defining the wine.
The vineyards lie along the hills on the western edge of the Russian River’s old riverbed. The river itself now runs a mile to the east, but thousands of years ago it left behind a unique piece of stony clay soil—a quarter-mile wide and roughly three miles long. In addition to beautifully-defined fruit, this ground imparts a distinctive mineral character to the wine. Nights are cool, which maintains firm acidity in all varietals—even the naturally acid-shy petite sirah. The long growing season brings full flavor at moderate sugars, giving the wine both balance and elegance. Geyserville exemplifies what defines any fine wine: consistently high quality, and a distinct character determined by the ground on which it is grown.