Tue 17 Aug 2010
I don’t mean that the Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys 2008, Sonoma County, is the kind of wine that brings you to your knees, makes you want to kiss the earth and thank your lucky stars that you’re alive. Those wines are rare. What I do mean is that this is a reasonably priced, thoughtfully crafted, quietly confident wine that dictates no extremes and tolerates no exaggeration. Its balance and integration are lovely to behold, and it happens to be delicious. It’s not an Exceptional wine in my rating scheme, but in its own way, it’s perfect.
Last night, I made Jamie Oliver’s Pasta alla Norma, about which I have written before, and opened to drink with the dish this Ridge Three Valleys 2008. The wine is a blend of 74 percent zinfandel, 11 percent petite sirah, 5 percent carignane, 4 percent mataro and 3 percent each syrah and grenache. Mataro is a little-used synonym for the mourvèdre grape. Notice the oak regimen: American oak barrels, 33 percent new and 1-year-old; 20 percent 2-years-old; 47 percent 5- or 6-years old. No taint of toasty new oak or woodiness mars the integrity of the wine’s fruit and finely-meshed tannic structure. Bouquet and flavor profile meld seamlessly in a welter of dusty plums, black and red currants and a touch of pert mulberry bolstered by hints of potpourri, sandalwood and granite-flecked minerals. Vibrant acidity whets the palate, leaving your taste buds eager for another sip, while the smooth, supple texture fills the mouth with impressive but not imposing weight. To remind us that the majority of grapes in the blend are zinfandel, the finish brings in notes of briers, brambles and black pepper. While head winemaker at Ridge is still the venerable, if not saintly, Paul Draper, the artisans of this wine were Eric Baugher, winemaker at the company’s Monte Bello facility, and John Olney, winemaker at Ridge’s Lytton Springs winery. 14.2 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2013 or ’14. Excellent. Suggested retail price is $22; I paid $25 here in Memphis.
Reading over what I wrote in this post, it occurs to me that in its wholesome clarity of purpose, its authenticity and integrity, its complete level of sensual and intellectual satisfaction, its general unfussiness and lack of ego, the Ridge Three Valleys 2008 is precisely the sort of wine that should make us thank our lucky stars.