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Ridge and the 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate

April 1, 2010

Ok, so a few posts ago I was saying that I don’t often get excited about California Cabernet. Well I do invariably get excited about Ridge’s Cab blends (who doesn’t). About four years ago I went to one of my very first wine industry events. I wish I had taken some notes because it was a Ridge portfolio tasting and there were a few Montebellos going back into the 90’s. I remember saying to the guy pouring that the oldest one smelled like steak and peppers slathered in blueberry jam. I also remember him giving me a weird look when I said that they all smelled like green peppers. I didn’t find the wines offensive and I also found lots of fruity flavors but these days I tend to think twice before telling someone that a Cab smells of green peppers. In tasting more of Ridge’s wines I’ve come to notice that the savory flavors in their wines are very well integrated among the fruit and creamy oak flavors. The wines are among the best the United States has to offer because of their commitment to a house style that emphasizes terroir. The terroir of their Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards is particularly notable for its confluence of characteristics that are conspicuous in many famous vineyards: cool climate, altitudinous situation, limestone and plenty of sun. There is only one wine I’ve had from Ridge that I did not like, a distinctly memorable 70’s Geyserville that had some character but absolutely no fruit.

2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate from 375ml. Dark color. Tons of blackcurrants with hints of vanilla, wood smoke and white flowers.  Dense and layered. The tannin is medium plus and the acidity is medium. The finish is tannic but the blackcurrant flavor lasts and lasts. This wine is very approachable now but could easily last 5 or more years. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 13.7% alcohol.

Ridge’s packaging gets mentioned all the time but I just have to put my two cents in. The quintessentially modern typeface and arrangement of the labels makes use of an adroitly reassuring aesthetic not often found on wine labels. I love it. The labels are also unusually informative. You always get the exact cepage, alcohol content is never rounded to the nearest half percent and inclusion of all the pertinent details and salient dates of the growing season is de rigeur. These technical details may be of little interest to some but are supremely satisfying to me. I always appreciate the use of a short capsule which allows one to easily judge ullage. They are also one of the few producers who use good packing tape on their boxes. All in all there seems to be no shortage of attention to detail at Ridge and it happens to show not only (and most importantly) in the bottle but also just outside of it.

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