Saturday, December 8, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

Ponzo Vineyard is located in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. Cousins Bob and Phil Ponzo have both sold grapes to Ridge over the years, but all the grapes from the 2005 Ponzo Vineyard Zin all come from Bob Ponzo's vineyard. Like all the Ridge wines that I have ever seen, this wine was fermented with natural yeasts, which is unusual, especially in California. That white haze that you see on the skin of grapes is yeast, and it is what fermented crushed grapes for thousands of years. The problem with doing it that way is that it is not entirely predictable. Sometimes, fermentation will not start. Sometimes, some of the yeasts will not be the ones that a winemaker would want and the resulting wine will have off flavors and aromas. The oenology school at the University of California at Davis, which trains a high percentage of the working winemakers in California and heavily influences many of the rest, teaches winemakers to inoculate the must with yeast. This introduces predictability. Paul Draper and the others at Ridge believe that this predictability comes at the cost of complexity and interest.

The winemakers' notes say that this Zinfandel "is a beautifully balanced, sensuous wine." I see the word "balanced" used to describe alcoholic beverages frequently, and I confess that I don't really know what is meant by it. I assume that it has a specific meaning, just as it does when it is used to refer to tailored garments, but hell if I know what that meaning is. I do know what sensuous means, though, and I agree that this wine is sensuous. It's silky and smooth and fruity and just plain good. I like this better than any Ridge wine that I have had since the '05 Geyserville that I had on Thanksgiving. It's not over-the-top with fruit and alcohol (even though it is 14.9% alcohol). It's just plain good.

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