2013 Update/Cabernet Value Recommendation
This will be a shorter post than usual, as I want to communicate a few important things, and because I need to spend the bulk of my free time over the next few weeks trying to catch up on nearly three months worth of tasting notes and restoring some of my photo library.
First, I want to explain the sudden disappearance of the bulk of the photos on this site, including virtually all photos on posts prior to September 2012. Currently, all but the ten most recent posts out of the more than 500 I have written sport big legends stating “Temporarily Unavailable” where the pictures used to be.
The reason is that Webshots.com–the site where I had stored tens of thousands of wine-related photos over the past 10 years–decided in October to cease being a picture hosting site. I have spent literally hundreds of hours over the years uploading photos to Webshots and creating links so that those photos could be seen on my blog and elsewhere. As a result, I always had a ready online library of photos to use in all kinds of stories about wine. I lost that library as of December and it’s a big blow.
It will take a huge effort over the next several months to again upload those photos and recreate photo links on my new hosting site, Flickr. I am hugely disappointed that Webshots, to which I had paid a membership fee for the past 10 years, took this precipitous action with so little warning to and consideration for its members. I think pictures are part of the stories I tell here, however, so I will be working to restore them. On the upside, the picture quality of the photo links through Flickr appears to be significantly better than through Webshots.
Secondly, the big Zinfandel event in San Francisco, ZAP, is coming up soon on Saturday, February 2. I attended for the first time last year, and had a very good time. It’s an admirably well organized event, and it celebrates California’s great heritage grape. You can find my report on last year’s event here. Last year, I discovered some very impressive producers, like Charter Oak and Limerick Lane, and I’m looking forward to this year’s event. You can join me, and get a 15% discount, by using the discount code “Jennings” when you purchase your ticket for the grand tasting here. Just select the number of tickets you want for the Public Grand Tasting, and then enter Jennings near the bottom of the page where it says “Enter promotional code.” I also encourage you to take a look at the other ZAP events offered that week, which include a morning seminar called Flights on Friday, February 1, and a food and wine pairing event called Epicuria on Thursday evening, January 31.
Thirdly, Lettie Teague was kind to include me in her Wall Street Journal Online piece today about New Year’s wine resolutions. (WSJ subscribers can read the full story here.) Lettie mentioned my resolution to taste and drink more Rioja in the coming year, a resolution she shares. My full set of wine resolutions is to spend more time with the wines I find truly nurture me–mature white Burgundies, old Barolos and Riojas, vintage Madeiras and wines from the Jura. The latter particularly put me in a mellow mood, a state I’d like to achieve a lot more in the coming year. My other resolution is to spend less time with wines that just feel like work, e.g., cookie cutter, ripe red fruited California Pinot Noirs.
Finally, I want to highlight a terrific value Cabernet Sauvignon blend from my local Santa Cruz Mountains region for which I’ve developed new appreciation in the past month. It’s Ridge’s Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, the little brother to Ridge’s famous Monte Bello Bordeaux blend.
I’ve written a few times here about Ridge and about the ageworthy, profound Monte Bello. When Snooth commissioned me to write a piece on the top 15 California Bordeaux blends for under $125, which should appear soon in their Monthly Buyer’s Guide, one of my top recommendations, and the very best value, was the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, which usually sells in the low $40 range on release. (To get the entire list of recommendations, as well as my list of top 15 value 2009 Bordeaux, go to Snooth.com and download the forthcoming January Monthly Buyer’s Guide, which is an iPad magazine app.)
The 125-acre Monte Bello Vineyard from which the grapes for both the Ridge Monte Bello and the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate wines are sourced ranges from 1300 to 2700 feet above sea level, and is planted on green stone and clay soils layered on top of decomposed limestone. At this elevation, the growing conditions are cool and slow ripening, resulting in wines that are never overripe, but that are slowly matured and full of flavor and tannins, with good acidity.
The Sunday before Christmas, Ridge’s tasting room czar and official blogger, Christopher Watkins, hosted a blindtasting up at Ridge’s Monte Bello Vineyard private tasting room that further confirmed for me the need to sit up and take notice of Ridge’s second Cabernet blend.
Christopher served us three blind flights of three wines each, and asked us to guess what distinguished and united each flight. I felt fairly vindicated at the end that I’d insisted that each flight was a Cabernet blend, and stated that a couple of flights had to include the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate, because the flights were ultimately revealed as all being Santa Cruz Mountains Estate. The first flight was the 2009 in three different formats: magnum, regular sized bottle and half bottle. The second was the 2004, 2005 and 2006 SCM Estate; and the last was three different bottles of the 2007. (I also felt vindicated that I had virtually the same descriptors and same scores for the last flight; I can’t say that was true of the first flight, from different bottle formats, however.)
At any rate, this holiday blindtasting brought home for me even further what a great value the SCM Estate is for a high quality Bordeaux blend. It is designed to be drinkable much earlier than the Monte Bello, and it is somewhat ageworthy but will not go decades like the Monte Bello. I found the 2009 to be showing its oak and tannins at this point, especially in the larger formats, but I expect it will be fairly resolved and enjoyable in about two years. The 2007 is a complete delight for drinking now and a steal at the price. The 2004-2006 showed how this wine ages, with the 2004 being quite mature at this stage and the 2006 being another star, much like the 2007. For my complete tasting notes on the wines from that day, see below.
I look forward to having a lot more stories for you in the New Year, as soon as I take care of my backlog of TNs and restore at least a portion of my online picture library.
- 2009 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Dark ruby color; appealing, lifted, ripe cassis, menthol, tart raspberry, black currant; plush, toasty oak, ripe black currant, mocha palate with firm tannins; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot) (91 points)
- 2007 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Very dark ruby color; appealing, rich, ripe berry, baking spice, loganberry, black plum, black currant nose; very appealing, tasty, rich, blackberry, ripe black currant, black fruit, black plum palate with ripe tannins and integrating oak; approachable now and should continue to age well for 5+ years; medium-plus finish 93+ points (tasted from three bottles with consistent notes) (93 points)
- 2006 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Very dark ruby color; mocha, toasty American oak nose; appealing, rich, ripe black currant, blackberry, loam palate with good acidity and balance; medium-plus finish (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot) (93 points)
- 2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Bricking dark red violet color; mocha, ripe plum, black fruit, black cherry, figgy pudding nose; rich, appealing, tart plum, ripe black currant, tart berry, cedar palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot) (92 points)
- 2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Bricking dark ruby color with floating sediment; mature, ripe plum, black currant nose; poised, maturing, black currant, cassis, tart plum palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc) (91 points)