Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ridge and a Surprise

Ridge is one of my favourite California wineries. One of the best Cabs I have had came from their Monte Bello vineyard in the Santa Cruz mountains. But they are perhaps better known for a whole slew of single vineyard Zinfandels. To go with these wood-grilled T-bones we opened a 2003 Pagani Ranch Zinfandel.
It is actually 90% zin with the rest petite sirah and alicante bouschet. This is a mature heavy hitter, coming in at a not shy 15.3% alcohol whose heat can be felt on tasting. Shy nose. On the palate there are prunes and dried figs, earthy but still refreshing enough when paired with the big fat smokey T-bones. Nice to see a zin that can age a little. Good wine. $30-40 in the US for a more current vintage.
What on earth is this concoction you may ask? It makes a good story - my youngest brother used to dabble at winemaking in his previous life. He made plum wine from the plum tree in his backyard and pear wine from the pear tree in our parents backyard. The plum wine actually won a medal at a country fair, but I preferred the pear one - it actually tasted of pears, with a clean palate that belayed it's rather amateur upbringing. At one point he decided to try making "port" - from fresh grape concentrate meant for winemaking. To boost sugar content he chaptalized with either maple syrup or mashed bananas (the local depanneur was throwing out a whole bunch of overripe bananas). The must was fortified with cheap Mexican brandy that we had brought home after a trip through the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan. How did it turn out? pretty darn good considering the wines humble beginnings. And the damn stuff got better with time!
On Christmas day I was making gravy for the turkey and stumbled across a bottle in my vinegar and condiment area - it was an old bottle of the "port" with about a glassful of brown liquid in it that I had forgotten about...hmmm....probably vinegar by now I thought. Smells OK though. Should I try it? Why not. A little sip revealed no horrid surprises. A mouthful revealed a treat - this stuff had turned into a fine tawny. Lusciously sweet still, with raisins, figs, treacle pudding...wow! Too bad it was all gone in a matter of minutes. Just got back from a Boxing day dinner at Joe and Lianne's. Always a wine treat - we sampled St Supery Elu, Torres Mas La Plana cab, Luca Nico Malbec, Kacaba Niagara merlot, Caymus special select cab and my favourite, the Paul Hobbs 2006 Napa cab. And then he opened a 1980 Dow and a 1985 Smith Woodhouse. WOW!! Best wine night of the year.


At 12:05 p.m. , Anonymous Ben said...

Glad you enjoyed the port. I still have a few bottles in my cellar - last one opened in 2007. It was smooth but still held a lot of punch.

I remember the brandy being of french origin received as a Christmas gift from my wine making portuguese neighbour. But I also remember copious amounts of brandy being required so maybe some Mayan brandy was also used!

There were 3 bins of port made. In one bin the sugar content was augmented with clear first draw maple syprup. The syrup came from Robbie Anderson's sugar bush (friend of the family). I subsequently learnt the hard way about fermenting complex sugars witthout using enzymes...

Always good to use locally sourced food.


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