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Expensive wine 57: Ridge York Creek Zinfandel 2009

winereview

Dollar for dollar, the best winery in California may be Ridge Vineyards. This may seem an odd thing for the Wine Curmudgeon to write, given that none of its wines cost less than $25. But Ridge crams value in every wine, and I’ve long admired its commitment to quality and fair pricing.

How well run is Ridge? How about the York Creek ($28, purchased, 15.3%), made in a style that usually makes me hit the wine rant key on the computer. It’s Ridge’s version of a high-scoring Wine Magazine zinfandel, which means lots of alcohol, too much oak, and plenty of sweet black fruit, and in this often tastes more like port than table wine. The difference, of course, is that since it’s a Ridge product, the York Creek has structure, body, and tannins, and tastes like wine and not a novelty act. Look for some very nice herbal notes, too, something that seems almost impossible given all the alcohol.

Very nicely done, and if I didn’t like it as much as Ridge’s Lytton Springs zinfandel (which didn’t seem to be available in Dallas), that’s my preference and not a reflection on the wine. It’s well worth drinking, a prime rib wine for Christmas at about half the price of the Winestream Media’s over-the-top zinfandels.

Wine of the week: Ravenswood Old Vine Vintners Zinfandel 2009

image from 3.bp.blogspot.comOne of the things that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like about this job is how cynical it has made me about grocery store wine. So many of them have been so disappointing that I’m at the point that if the front or back label uses adjectives or descriptions like reserve, old vine, or artisan, I figure the marketing department is compensating for quality (given that federal regulations for using terms like these is vague, at best).

So I expected absolutely nothing from the Ravenswood ($10, sample); that’s why it sat in the wine closet for 13 months. Shows how much I know, other than to reiterate the No. 1 rule of wine reviewing: Don’t judge the wine until you taste it.

This red is surprising in many ways, not the least of which is that it held up for a year. There is lots of sweet berry fruit in the modern zinfandel style, but it’s not unpleasant and it’s balanced by some some traditional zinfandel character (particularly pepper). It’s a nice value for $10.

Don’t worry too much if the wine you find is the current vintage and not this one. One of the good things about grocery store wines is that they are consistent in taste and style from year to year.

Expensive wine 43: Ridge Three Valleys 2010

Ridge Three ValleysIf more California producers tended to business the way Ridge does, the Wine Curmudgeon would not have nearly as much to complain about. It has been one of the best wineries in the U.S. for almost four decades, and it’s not a coincidence that its Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon was a California entry at the Judgment of Paris.

Even during the silliness before the recession, when so many wineries chased points and dollar signs, Ridge did things pretty much the way it had always done them. It’s still doing that today, which is why it’s always on my list of the wineries that I respect the most.That’s saying something, because its least expensive wine is around $25.

That’s the Three Valleys ($22, purchased), a red blend made of mostly zinfandel. It has enough zinfandel character to appeal to those who like the post-modern style, yet it's also balanced between the jammy blackberry fruit, the oak, and what seems to be an almost herbal-like spiciness. And, somehow, it's only 14.4 percent alcohol, almost unheard of for zinfandel these days.

In this, it's an honest wine, something Ridge has always aimed for. Winemaker John Olney practices his craft the way it should be, and not how so many others do it to get high scores or critical raves.

Pair this wine with almost any red wine food, especially as the days get cooler, and it's an excellent choice for the fall holidays.

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