We consumed a ridiculous amount of wine over the holidays. There were many, many people around to drink with us, so the wine covered lots of ground and it stayed pretty peaceful. I toyed with the idea of writing about each "wine day," but I thought better of it when I realized it would lack the requisite cast of characters who get more entertaining by the glass. The wines that we had were great, and I'd like to write about them all (well, not really, but the idea sounded good for a while), but there is one that I can't keep to myself--the Ridge Vineyards 1993 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet.
My Dad bought the wine in late 1999, and it spent the ensuing decade in a temperature-controlled cellar. It's hard to count on longevity if you don't have a good place to store your wine, but conventional wisdom has it that this particular wine would be lucky to live so long even under the best circumstances. This wine did have something extra going for it in that the '93 growing season produced grapes with higher acids than average, and this no doubt contributed to this wine's long-term prospects.
A Bit of Background
The Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello, the estate's flagship wine, is one of the icons of California wine. It waves the freak-flag of the vintage, as the wine is intended to be an unadulterated expression of the unique qualities of the growing season. It is long-lived and extraordinary wine, and at upwards of $140 a bottle, it had better be! The Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet is the Monte Bello's significantly more affordable companion wine. It is made from unused ("declassified" might be more accurate) Monte Bello fruit along with fruit from another nearby vineyard, and is crafted to be more fruit-forward, which generally involves some significant intrusion from the winemakers. I'd contend that it is a shining example of outstanding winery practices, though, because--interventionist or not--after sixteen years this wine is glorious.
I praise the winery work because there are many wines (from across California...and around the world really, but that's another discussion!) that are made to be fruit-forward (including some $100 Napa Valley wines), which also hold a promise of long-term maturation--according to the winemakers. Such wines, in my experience, rarely follow through. This gem from Ridge does! You'll find the standard drinking suggestion on the label of the Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet (which says it can be drunk immediately but will last for 10-12 years), but the wine way out-performs the prognostication: here we had an old bottle of it that was very exciting, and not even starting to decline. Now I'm going to have to lay my hands on a bottle of '93 Monte Bello! That won't be easy....
I clearly need to buy some more Ridge--probably a single-vineyard Zinfandel this time. Let me know if you have favorites, too.
So here's the low-down on the wine
It started off with some bottle sickness, but this blew-off after about five minutes, revealing fabulous black fruit aromas with both freshness and moodiness. No sign of being "old"--its age shows only in qualities that run much deeper than before...like your high school ex whom you see again after 20 years...their eyes are kinder now...oh, and they look good. Maybe you wouldn't mind getting back into some of that.... Its sensuous, robust aroma is backed-up by a voluptuous mouthfeel and excellent black fruits again, accompanied by a slightly smoky tone that leaves a bit of meaty flavor to the otherwise florally-motivated finish.
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