Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

All other things being equal, grapes from old vines are better than grapes from young vines. As they age, vines become less capable of supporting large amounts of fruit. The fruit that they can support, however, has more concentrated flavor; and just about every winemaker prefers grapes from old vines because of this. The problem is that old vines don't last forever. Eventually, even if they are perfectly healthy, they eventually stop producing enough fruit to be worthwhile; and there are many, many diseases that can afflict grapevines. What that means is that even the most conscientious grape grower must eventually rip out old vines and plant new ones. So what is a winery to do with grapes from young wines? Specifically, what is Ridge to do with grapes from young vines on the Lytton Estate? They aren't good enough to go into Lytton Springs, but they're too good just to sell off in bulk. When faced with similar problems, many other wineries have introduced lower-priced second (or even third) wines, and so it is with Ridge. Along with a relatively small number of grapes from other vineyards in Sonoma County, the grapes from the young vines of the Lytton Estate are used to make Ridge's Three Valleys Zinfandel (not actually labeled Zinfandel, but that's what it is). It has the lowest price of any of Ridge's offerings, and it's supposed to be the most accessible. It's also designed to be drunk young.

The 2006 version of this wine isn't bad, but it doesn't really have the charm of the other Ridge bottlings that I have had. It's to jammy and winey for my taste. It also has that stewed fruit quality that I don't really like much. For this kind of money (I paid $24, but it can be had for around $20), I'd much rather have a Ravenswood Sonoma County Zin and a ham sandwich.

2006 Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel.

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