Another month, another Gourmet dinner, tonight we are hosting the Ridge Vineyards Dinner. Charlotte Cotterill from Morris and Verdun is coming to showcase some of their fantastic range of wines. Ridge have been pioneers of single vineyard bottlings in California since the early sixties. Fronted by legendary winemaker Paul Draper since 1969 Ridge have crafted exceptional red wines from small plots carefully planted to unfashionable grapes - Zinfandel, Carignane, Mataro, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Alicante as well as the more commercially viable Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay all predominantly grown in Santa Cruz.
The first Ridge wine that I ever tried was a Lytton Springs Vineyard blend, predominantly zinfandel with a touch of carignane and some petite sirah thrown in for added spice and balance. I dont recall the vintage but I was quite amazed at the intensity of the flavours, the rich opulent fruit, integrated layers of spice, oak flavours and an earthyness that I hadnt seen in a new world wine until then. From there I went on to discover several of their amazing wines, including the fabulous Bridgehead Mataro. Unfortunately the Bridgehead Mataro is no longer made as the vines succumbed to disease and had to be grubbed up. Which is a damned shame as it remains the best example of a pure mourvedre that I have ever come across, knocking the spots off even the Bonny Doon Le Telegram.
As Ridge are known for their reds, they only produce two whites - both Chardonnays, tonight we are starting off with champagne. I had originally intended to start with the Santa Cruz chardonnay, but our MD felt that there wasnt enough white in the mix. Then we thought about putting on a Californian sparkler, but they were going to work out more expensive than champagne!! For the starter we are pouring the Santa Cruz Chardonnay 03. On the nose there are aromas similar to a Mr Kiplings apple pie, green apples, a buttery pastry like aroma with a touch of vanilla and slightly caramelised edge to it. On the palate it is quite crisp, still fairly acidic with green apple flavours and a slight frangipane - almond nuttiness about it. A great length with a clean sharp finish.
For the intermediate course we are pouring Geyserville 02 from magnums. Intense fruit aromas with dark stone fruit and exotic spices, fairly obvious oaky aromas. One the palate the wine needs some serious decanting. It is a big wine, that I hope will calm down a bit after double decanting. The tannins dominate just now, with more dark cherry fruit and spicy clove, nutmeg and cinnamon flavours all hiding behind the protective cloak of the tannin. In a few hours this is going to be great.
With the main course we are pouring the 1998 Montebello Cabernet. A bordeaux blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and just 1% Cab Franc. Dark fruits with hints of espresso, dark chocolate and cassis on the nose, rounded with tobacco and the sort of smell you get after bonfire night - a touch of smoke, black powder, flint and graphite. 98 was a very low yielding year, a difficult vintage from many. This is also going to need some serious decanting to open out.
For the cheese we are serving the Stone Ranch Zinfandel Essense 2003. This is the second vintage of Stone Ranch produced. Only 13 barrels were produced, very little really. Insense black fruit on the nose it is hard to get any indication that this is carrying 10% residual sugar. On the palate it is almost like a good ripe lbv port without the alcohol burn. Dense black fruits with a touch of spice and a good dose of sweetness all merge surprisingly well. I quite like this one.
For dessert we had to throw in a ringer so we looked to Bonny Doon vineyards. The Muscat Vin de Glaciere 2003. Made from Muscat grapes that are frozen post-harvest to create Randall Grahms take on an Eiswein. It is quite rich on the nose with orange melon (Galia?) aromas and that typical muscat nose of tinned fruit cocktail - a medley of pears, peaches and sugar syrup. Its something a bit unusual and I think it will go down well.
Well thats tonights fare, its amazing to think that in about two weeks time we finish the season with the Mouton Rothschild dinner, then three weeks after that we finish the year. Where has this year gone?