Friday, January 1, 2021

Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014

Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014 

We ordered out pizza for a quiet New Years Day watching football and I pulled from the cellar a suitable 'pizza wine' for the occasion. We always keep a selection of big robust fruit forward wines for pizza and barbecue - Zinfandels, Syrahs and Petite Syrah varietals to name a few. We typically hold a half dozen different labels from the various offerings of Ridge Vineyards.

Ridge Vineyards are a legendary producer of a broad portfolio of wines with an extensive line-up of Zinfandels, all from single vineyard designated label sites.

Ridge have been producing Lytton Spring vineyard wines since 1972 with 100 plus-year-old Zinfandel vines interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, a small amount of Mataro (Mourvèdre), and Genache. The site has produced the quintessential example of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. 

We have written recently in these pages about some classic Dry Creek Valley wines, Kinsella Dry Creek Valley Cabernet  and Quivera Dry Creek Cabernet and noted they were exceptions to the norm,  that the area is primarily known for Zinfandel. 

The Lytton Springs site lies just north of the town of Healdsburg, just west of Highway 101 in the Dry Creek Valley. The topography consists of a benchland and gently rolling hills. The climate provides foggy mornings turning to warm, sunny afternoons and breezy late evenings. Soils are varied with a predominance of gravelly clay, which aids in moisture retention, ensuring that the grapes ripen slowly. The Lytton Springs terrior with weathered, agronomically poor soils in the benchland have proven to be an ideal site for Zinfandel vines to produce classic Zinfandel varietal wines.

The Lytton Springs vineyard was part of land once owned by Captain William Litton, who during the last half of the nineteenth century developed the springs and built a hotel just east of the vineyard for San Franciscans who arrived by train to “take the waters.” 

Ridge Vineyards dates back to 1959 when three scientists from Stanford University's Research Institute (SRI) and their families formed a partnership and bought a property owned by Dr. Short up on Monte Bello Ridge high atop the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of them, David Bennion, made a half barrel of cabernet from the ten year old vines. The partners re-bonded the winery and named it Ridge Vineyards in 1962. That year they produced their first Monte Bello vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ridge produced its first Zinfandel in 1964 from 19th century vines on the Pichetti Ranch near the base of the Monte Bello Ridge. Ridge produced it's first Sonoma County Geyserville Zinfandel in 1966, from vines planted in 1882.

Paul Draper joined the partnership as winemaker in 1969. He first saw the Lytton Springs vineyard in 1972 and, based on its age with 80 years old vines, purchased grapes and produced Ridge’s first Lytton Springs bottling that year. In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of their first vintage, Ridge purchased the Lytton Springs winery and the old vines surrounding it, making it a true estate vineyard.

Paul Draper went on to become a legend with Ridge Vineyards. The Ridge brand grew to a broad portfolio of more than four dozen single vineyard designated label wines from more than two dozen different vineyards. They operate two wineries and hospitality sites, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg up in north Sonoma County and Monte Bello high in the Santz Cruz Mountains above Silicon Valley. 

Paul Draper retired in 2016 at age 80, after 47 years as winemaker. Ridge continued on expanding with additional vineyard site purchases include the purchase that year of Whitton Ranch, a 36-acre parcel in the heart of Geyserville.

Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014

This Ridge Lytton Springs Vineyard selection from Ridge’s Dry Creek Valley Estate is a blend of 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 11% Carignane and 2% Mataro (Mourvedre), aged in 20% new American oak.

This was awarded 94+ Points by Antonio Galloni, Vinous, and 91+ Points by Jeb Dunnuck, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Connoisseurs Guide.

Very dark purplish garnet colored, medium to full-bodied richness, round complex and potent depth yet elegant and smooth with nicely balanced acidity and tannins - blackberry, black cherry with notes of pomegranate accented by a layer of mint with tones of sweet spices, black tea hints of green olive and cassis. 

RM 92 points.