Ridge Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch 2008

Ridge Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch 2008
Visitors to a winery sometimes have the opportunity to purchase wines that are not available elsewhere. These might be experimental bottling, or produced in too small quantities, or even held back especially to encourage visitors.

One of my favourite California wineries is Ridge Vineyards. I like their championing of wines with a sense of place by making single vineyard wines, their traditional winemaking methods and consistency. They were founded in 1962 by four Stanford Research Institute engineers. Winemaker Paul Draper, also a Stanford graduate, joined them in 1969. He’s still there, now as CEO and chief winemaker. And Ridge’s clear plain label hasn’t changed either. It’s a classic of design, text only and with information about each vintage and winemaking. Since 2011 Ridge’s labels also list all ingredients used in winemaking. They are very few, and all natural.

So when I had a spare half day on my drive back to San Francisco airport from the 2012 American Wine Society National Conference in Portland Oregon I visited their Lytton Winery at Healdsburg in Sonoma County. The building is constructed of straw bales and vineyard clay, and powered by solar panels that cover the roof. Surrounding it are rows of gnarled 115 year old bush vines, whose leaves, when I visited in November, were bright maroon.

At the tasting counter there is a choice of wine ranges to taste, at a fee. And there were wines exclusive to the tasting room and members of Ridge’s wine clubs.

With a very limited ability to take home wines I had to choose carefully. I selected 2010 Ridge Petite Sirah Lytton Estate, 2009 Ridge Zinfandel Lytton Estate and 2008 Ridge Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch. The last two are not available to me at home, the Buchignani Ranch is only available at the tasting room and to Ridge wine club members.

Winemaker’s notes say the wine will be enjoyable over the ‘next seven to eight years’. So seven years after the vintage I took the bottle from my cellar in the morning and stood it upright to let any sediment settle and roasted a chicken for dinner. Simply roasted chicken provides an ideal background for most wines.

Buchignani’s Zinfandel vines were between sixty and seventy-five years old when this vine was harvested. This is a serious, restrained and elegant wine, and I don’t think I would identify it as Zinfandel in a blind tasting. It’s not big and voluptuous or a ‘fruit-bomb’. It tastes quite light bodied, yet it has a hefty 15.4% alcohol by volume. Chicken turned out to be a good partner; a more flavoursome meat may have overwhelmed it. It is a delightful wine and I regret that I had only the one bottle. If you have this wine in your collection I recommend opening it soon.

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

Peter F May visited Ridge at his own expense and paid full price for all wines and tastings

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