88% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Petite Sirah
Pagani Ranch is our one vineyard where virtually all the vines are over a hundred years old. Age limits yield, which in turn allows the vineyard’s distinctive character to show. In addition, the older the vines, the wider and deeper the root systems, enabling a great site to express its character still more clearly. For a third consecutive year set at Pagani came up short; late season water stress cut yields even further. The small crop—harvested in the last days of September, earlier than usual—was very ripe, with highly concentrated acidity. After a natural (uninoculated) primary fermentation, the natural secondary (malolactic) took a full two months to finish. The wine aged in air dried american oak barrels, a quarter of which were new and three quarters three years old. Rich, ripe fruit, combined with the spice and earthy complexity of the old vines, has produced a fine Pagani. A year or two of bottle age will make this lovely zinfandel still more enjoyable; it will be at its most intense over the next five years.
Since 1991, Ridge has made zinfandel from the old Pagani vineyard on the east-facing side of Sonoma Valley. Almost all the vines here were planted more than one hundred years ago. The majority are zinfandel, with some interplanted petite sirah and alicante. Pagani Ranch is a fine example of what we look for in a vineyard: low yielding old vines, carefully tended by a quality-conscious family who, in this case, have worked the land for four generations. The vineyard’s long survival 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 in 2000 at age 97, cared for these vines as if they were his children. Their quality is an impressive legacy. The vineyard 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, Pagani is usually the last zinfandel we harvest, though this did not hold true in 2000.
This year’s growing season began auspiciously, but during flowering the vines experienced a heat spike, bracketed by two very cold weather systems. Set was reduced dramatically; most vines had only a few small clusters. The mixed plantings yielded less than one-half ton per acre, the zinfandel about one ton—far below normal. (An encouraging note on farming’s cyclical nature: Having rested in 2000, the vines set a larger crop in 2001.)
The short crop allowed the fruit to ripen relatively early; harvest was complete by September 28. All the grapes were fully crushed. Half were fermented by the floating cap method, half by submerged cap, and we pressed after eight days. At the conclusion of a two-month natural malolactic, the wine was racked to small, air-dried barrels made of oak from the Ozark and Appalachian mountains.
Average Rating: 89.3
No. of Tasting Notes: 17
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