Fritz Maytag and Paul Draper go way back. They met and befriended each other while students at Stanford University in the 1950s. In the early 1960s, they, along with another friend named Sam Armstrong, founded a non-profit organization named Pacific Development International to promote economic development in Central and South America. Eventually, by the late '60s, PDI was involved in winemaking in Chile. They gave up and ceased operations prior to the CIA-sponsored Pinochet coup in 1973 because the socialist Allende government, while interested in what PDI was trying to do, was more interested in taxing everything they made from winemaking away. Paul Draper went on to become the winemaker at Ridge. Fritz Maytag went on to buy the Anchor brewery in San Francisco and to help ignite the American craft brewing revolution. Oh, and to own some excellent vineyards, including York Creek in the Mayacamas Mountains in Napa County. Ridge has been making wine from York Creek grapes since 1971 and from York Creek Zinfandel since 1975.
The Ridge wines that I have had recently can be divided into two groups. In the first group are wines that are enjoyable but not really spectacular. The 2003 Independence School Zin, the 2006 Three Valleys Zin, and the 2005 Paso Robles Zin would all belong in this group. I don't think that they represent outstanding value, and I probably wouldn't buy them again. The second group of wines are really excellent -- balanced, concentrated, interesting, and just a joy to drink. The 2005 Geyserville and the 2005 Ponzo Vineyard Zins belong in this group, and so does the 2005 York Creek Zin. It's darker and more peppery than the other two in this grouping -- more blackberry than raspberry -- but it still is smooth and elegant and beautiful. I'd buy it again, even though it isn't exactly cheap.