Ridge East Bench Zinfandel 2014
Wine: Ridge Vineyards 'East Bench'
Region: Dry Creek Valley, California
It wasn't planned, but seems fitting that last week's zinfandel conversation continues into Memorial Day, as zin has long been considered the quintessential American grape. It's not actually an American native - more on that in a few days - but it has been unofficially dubbed our national vinifera. Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards has been making Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma reds since 1962 with zinfandel a primary focus. He's well known among industry professionals for being especially transparent with his grape growing and winemaking. That, plus an unwavering focus on restrained and elegant wines, has made him a bit of a hero among the new movement cool kids, though he's not quite a natural winemaker. Still, the many single vineyard bottlings represent a honed appreciation for site selection over blend. By blend, I mean of parcels, not necessarily grapes. The East Bench zin here is only one of two 100% single varietal wines that he makes.
Grown in seven parcels in the East Bench vineyard, planted in 2000 and 2001, this is still a young wine. Ridge's winemaking notes state that 2014 has been the first vintage that all seven parcels were developed enough to include in the final wine. The grapes are organically grown, though he does add some water, I would imagine, to drop and balance the alcohol, and a bit of tartaric acid. These two items - water and tartaric acid - are listed right on the label, a rare site on any wine bottles throughout the world. It speaks to the argument over what exactly IS in our wines. On the Ridge website, they also state the amount of sulfur used at crush and during aging.
What I find most fascinating about this zin and Clay Mauritson's, which I wrote about last week, is that the vineyards are so near each other, farmed differently - Clay's are trellised and Ridge's head trained - and handled slightly differently in the winery. They're also from two different vintages - 2013 and 2014. Curiouser and curiouser, the nuances of winemaking - a beautiful marriage of art and science - never cease to amaze and reward.
The Ridge East Bench Zinfandel 2014 is a bold, rich wine with wild raspberry and blueberry flavors on the nose and palate. Great acidity and beautifully balanced with silky tannins and long, lush finish. I paired this with a pork tenderloin roast seasoned with ground cumin, sage, course black pepper and salt. Was a great match.
Learn more about zinfandel from Clay Mauritson in our conversation shared last week, and check back here on Wednesday for a history and science of the grape itself.