90% Zinfandel, 7% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah
As in 1998, flowering took place in the first week of June, and the crop was small; we waited until the last week of October to harvest. The grapes were ripe, and flavors complex. All the mixed zinfandel blocks were fermented with the cap of skins held submerged in the juice. Only in the small amount of alicante was the cap allowed to float—for better control of tannin extraction. Natural yeast and natural malolactic bacteria carried out the primary and secondary fermentations. Half the wine aged in one-year old Appalachian white oak, the rest in three year-old Missouri white oak. Virtually the entire vineyard is now over one hundred years old, its fruit manifesting depth and dimension not found in younger vineyards. This lovely wine will be at its best over the next five to six years.
Since 1991, Ridge has made zinfandel from the old Pagani vineyard on the east-facing side of Sonoma Valley. The oldest vines were planted more than one hundred years ago, the youngest about eighty. The vineyard is mostly zinfandel, with some interplanted petite sirah, and several small blocks of alicante. Pagani Ranch is a fine example of what we look for in a zinfandel vineyard: low-yielding old vines, carefully tended by a quality conscious family who, in this case, have worked the land for four generations. The fact that this vineyard has survived so long is proof of its merit. An average site would have been abandoned during the thirteen years of Prohibition, or during the Depression. Louis Pagani, who passed away last winter at age 97, cared for these vines as if they were his children. Their quality is an impressive legacy. Pagani is situated in a cool microclimate within Sonoma Valley. While this contributes positively to the unique flavors and aromas of the final wine, it also moves back the growing season. As a consequence, this is usually the last zinfandel vineyard we harvest. All the others are picked in September or early October.
This year’s early spring—cool and wet—caused us to worry that a normal-sized crop might not ripen by harvest. Fortunately, rain at bloom reduced set, and a long, warm fall ripened the zinfandel and mixed blacks completely, while maintaining their characteristic high acid.
All the grapes were fully crushed and de-stemmed, and fermented on their natural yeast. To maximize extraction of color and tannins, the cap of skins on the zinfandel and petite sirah was kept constantly submerged in juice. Within a week, the grapes had fermented to dryness. A month after pressing, the natural malolactic finished and the wine was racked to one-, two-, and three-year-old american oak barrels.
Average Rating: 88.5
No. of Tasting Notes: 15
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