Elizabeth Riley

Senior Consultant at Deloitte

133

4

Grape Juice for Grownups

Montebello Barrel Tasting at Ridge

I know I just posted about Ridge, but as I said, one of the awesome benefits of being an Advanced Tasting Program member for Ridge is free admission to all of their special events.  This weekend Ridge hosted a barrel tasting of their 2012 Monte Bello.  This is their most expensive wine, even wine club members pay to taste the Monte Bello, so we were not about to pass up a free tasting event.  Here is the program for the event.

We started out with the only white wine on our tasting menu, the 2011 Estate Chardonnay. It was nice to start with a nice chilled light wine on a warm afternoon. This wine had a nice apple scent and a crisp texture. This chardonnay is a new world style was buttery and tasted of oak.  The winemaker describes this wine as "Tropical pineapple fruit on the nose with white flowers, apricot, and honeysuckle. A rich entry and good texture, showing ripe apple and pear fruit on the palate. Medium bodied, crisp acidity, and a long finish."

Next up is the 2010 Perrone Merlot. I'm not generally a Merlot fan, and while this wine is no exception for me, I did find it to be different from most of the other Merlots I have had before. This wine was tannic, made my mouth feel very dry as most merlots I have had tend to be. This is a pre-tasting of this merlot as it is not yet available for purchase.  We are told that this merlot is brighter and lighter than your average merlot based on the elevation that the grape is grown in.  In between table two and table three we stopped in at the charcuterie table serving up some fancy meats and cheeses. We tasted some fancy sheep cheese and some fancy type of cow cheese and a few slides meats with bread.  Apparently the cheese selection was brought to us by the author of "It's Not You, It's Brie: Unwrapping America's Unique Culture of Cheese." The gentlemean above manning the slicer also happens to be from southwest Virginia so we had a great chat with him.

On to table three where we tasted the 2010 Klein Cabernet Sauvingon which is 100% pure cabernet sauvingon grapes.  This is another young wine preview, not yet available for sale.  I do think this was my favorite wine of the afternoon (even though I know the award winning 2000 Monte Bello probably should have been my favorite). This wine was very smooth and jammy.

Then it was on to table four and the entire reason for the event, the Monte Bello which is Ridge's fancy-shmancy Cabernet.  We started with the 2000 Monte Bello special library release which actually took First Place in the 2006 Paris Tasting Challenge (go 'Merica).  This was like no other wine I have ever tasted. It smelled kinda like an old library, leathery, musty.  It tasted bold, peppery and a bit like licorice.  There was also a fair amount of sediment in this wine.  After the library release, we move to the barrel sampling of the 2012 Monte Bello which was very very different than the older Monte Bello.  The 2012 was jammy, tart, not very smooth, obviously meant to age for quite a few more years.

Last but not least we moved into the tasting room and tasted the 2011 Geyserville (a zinfandel), the 2010 Estate Merlot, and the 2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvingon.  The Geyserville was the sweetest and boldest wine we tasted. It was not the first time we tasted the Geyserville, in fact even though this is not one of the wines included in the ATP program, we already bought a bottle of this zin.  In my opinion, the Estate Merlot was better than the Perrone Merlot I tasted upstairs.  This merlot was jammier, yet also tannic.  The last wine was the Estate Cabernet which was sweet, mild, and had virtually no aftertaste.  However, I would say it was hard to pick these last 3 wines apart after tasting so many wines up in the barn.

Breaking out the Good Stuff

If you joined in on tonight's office hours, then this is the Ridge wine we were talking about.

My husband and I lucked out finding Ridge winery.  At our housewarming party, one of my husband's coworkers brought us two bottles of Ridge.  One of our neighbors at the party said "wow a Ridge, those are great."  Since we knew that the wine must be pretty fancy, we decided to keep the botttles around for a special occasion. 

Meanwhile we started exploring the area and realized that in the foothills of Cupertino, no more than 20 minutes from Mountain View, there were quite a few wineries.  So we set out to hit up a bunch one afternoon.  Ridge's winery in Cupertino is up at the tippy top of a mountain, up a windy narrow road.  When we got to Ridge they were having a member's only event and we didn't get to stop by. However this did not stop us, we went back for another round a few weekends later.

We liked almost every wine we tasted at Ridge so we decided to join their ATP wine club.  With the Advanced Tasting Program you get free tastings for you and your guests any time you come by, free admittance to their member only events which happen at least once a month, and you will get 2 bottles of each of their single-sourced, small batch wines.

So far we have only picked up our first shipment of 6 wines. Based on the suggestion to age the wines, we plan on having one bottle up front of each wine and aging the other bottle. This weekend we will head back up the mountain to get our second shipment of wine as well as attend their Montebello tasting event.  Montebello is their super fancy wine.  They sell it for $160/bottle, but if you become a member of the Montebello collector program you can purchase for $80/bottle, but you have to cellar the wine yourself before it is drinkable.  We haven't quite worked up the nerve to fork over the dough for the Montebello, but we certainly will attend their free tasting event!

I guess I should get back to the point of this post though, and talk about the wine I'm actually drinking right now.  This is a 2009 Zinfandel from the Buchignani Ranch.  The mix is 91% Zinfandel and 9% Carignane.  One really great thing about Ridge is they put SO much information about how they make their wines instead of rambling on about how delicious the wine is and what flavors you will taste in the wine.  Here is the back of the label of this bottle:

Compared to the cheaper wines I got at the 5 cent BevMo wine sale I blogged about the last two nights, this wine is much more delicious (in my opinion)!  The wine is a medium maroon (Go Hokies!) and smells fruity and sweet.  The taste is smooth, balanced, and slightly dry.  Maybe I am just very lucky to live in a great area for Zinfandel, but almost every local Zin I've had has been delicious!

Night 2

On to the second night of wine education.  Tonight I am drinking another California wine, this time from Mendocino County, north of Sonoma where last night's bottle was from.  This is a 2009 Petite Sirah from hidden cellars. 

As we are new Californians, we have primarily tried to stick with buying California wines that are local, or close to local.  I haven't made my mind up about every region of California, but a weekend in Geyserville introduced me to Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.  I previously thought of myself as more of a white wine drinker until this trip.  The Zins from Dry Creek are spicy, and different from any other wines I have tasted previously.

But, back to what we are drinking tonight. As this is a petite sirah, you can guess that this wine is much darker than last night's pinot noir.  This wine is more of a deep purply burgundy. Tonight I watched the sip and swirl lesson, but I have to say I haven't really mastered how to connect what I smell and taste to other flavors and scents. After swirling, I have to say that the first sniff was not appealing at all.  The scent is almost rancid, but when I tasted the wine, it is actually quite good, much better than it smells.  If I had to pull out one scent, it would be cranberry, but that is definitely not the primary scent, but I just can't put my finger on it.

I actually quite like the taste of this wine, the flavor is more bold and less tart than last night's wine.  I couldn't really put my finger on what this wine tasted like and why I liked it, but after a glance at the label, I do agree that it tastes a bit like cola.

For some fun, I decided to pair my California wine with another delicious California item, In-N-Out.  Compared to last night, I have to say that my double double protein style did not have much effect on the flavor of the wine.  It tasted about the same both with and without food.

The First Bottle

And so begins my formal wine education.  While last weekend I may have tasted 60 types of wine at the San Jose Wine Walk, today starts my journey to understanding what I am tasting.  So what wine have I chosen to drink during the introductory section of videos?

Tonight we are drinking a still table wine of the Pinot Noir varietal from right here in sunny California.  We bought this wine at our local BevMo during the 5 cent wine sale.  You can't really beat paying full price for one bottle and getting the 2nd bottle for 5 cents, especially when they have a guarantee.  If you don't like the wine you can bring it back for a full refund, including the open bottle.

My husband and I did a little research before buying a million bottles of wine at the 5 cent sale.  We chose this Pinot because it received 91 points from Wilfred Wong and had relatively good reviews on the BevMo site.  Now, I don't really know if Wilfred Wong scores hold any weight, but we went for it anyway.

The wine is not as bold as I generally like my wines.  This Pinot Noir was initially very tart and fruity, but when I paired it with dinner, the wine was much more to my liking. The wine was much more mellow with food and didn't make me pucker up.  Let's see how the next bottle is.

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