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Lining up some fine Ridge wines
Ridge Vineyards has a fairly substantial production — about 75,000 cases. Much of this is sold through an active direct-selling operation at the winery, which it calls the Advance Tasting Program, or ATP. Membership gives you access to some of the more esoteric bottlings, including old vine Carignane, Petite Sirah and Grenache as well as small production Zinfandels. For more information, go to www.ridgewine.com. The wines below are the ones most commonly found in the retail market. It's not unusual to find older vintages of Monte Bello as well as some of Ridge's old-vine Zins at fine wine shops. Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants in West Los Angeles, Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills, K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood and Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles are especially deep in older bottles. It's a good bet: Few wines in California are built to last like Ridge reds.
2004 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains. The only white that Ridge makes; stylistically it is always quite austere by the standards of a typical American Chardonnay. It's not overtly fruity, and its intense minerality holds the wine in check in its youth. The 2004 leads with aromas of ripe pears, butter and flint, and a faint scent of fresh green peas. It's broad and substantial on the palate. A few bottles in this vintage remain at Wally's Wine & Spirits in Los Angeles, (310) 475-0606; wallywine.com. About $50.
2004 Ridge Monte Bello. This year's estate red blend is three-quarters Cabernet, with the balance Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It is a seamless, beautifully structured red that leads with aromas of cassis, plum, and is grounded by a finely grained minerality and a dark complement of oak. Its youthful flavors fall into deep blue cassis fruit, but the wine's texture is masterful, full and powerful. Don't touch for five years, at least. About $120; available in August. The 2003 is found in half-bottles and large formats at Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants in West Los Angeles (310) 447-2020; 2020wines.com; and Wally's.
2004 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains. This year's blend is 51% Cabernet and 47% Merlot. It leads with a dark and briary scent, supporting fruit aromas of black currant and blackberry. Its flavors are fresh and immediate, with a dark, juicy currant fruit flavor giving way to an intensely vinous mouth-feel and firm, earthy tannins. At K&L Wine Merchants, Hollywood, (323) 464-9463; klwines.com; Manhattan Fine Wines in Manhattan Beach, (310) 374-3454; manhattanfinewines.com; Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits in West Hollywood, (323) 655-5557; melandrose.com. About $35.
2005 Ridge Three Valleys Zinfandel Sonoma County. The only wine in the portfolio sourced from multiple vineyards, it is typically composed of declassified, younger vine fruit from the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys. The simplest and most accessible of all Ridge wines, with juicy plum and black cherry flavors and a creamy texture. Available at Mel & Rose Wine and Spirits; Red Carpet Wine Merchants in Glendale, (800) 339-0609, (818) 247-5544; redcarpetwine.com. About $19.
2005 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel. From a Dry Creek Valley vineyard containing vines a century old, the 2005 is lush and sensuous, with a fragrance of briar and forest brush. It has a gorgeous, creamy, black cherry flavor accented by a touch of cassis and sweet oak, with a finish marked by cedar and grainy tannin. At Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463, (800) 331-3005; hitimewine.net; Wine House in West Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731; winehouse.com; Woodland Hills Wine Co. in Woodland Hills, (818) 222-1111; whwc.com. About $30.
2004 Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel. From an old vineyard in the Alexander Valley that Ridge has been drawing on for nearly 40 years, it's a formidable wine that leads with a heady mix of carob and brown sugar spice, with hints of ginger and cocoa. At Mel & Rose Wine & Spirits, Wally's and Wine House, among others. About $32.
2004 Ridge York Creek Zinfandel. A mountain wine in every way, this wine from Spring Mountain, a Napa County site, has a powerful deep dark chipped earth minerality, with aromas of caramelized sugar and caramel with fruit scents of black cherry and plum. On the palate the plum flavors persist, grounded by a black earth minerality. At Hi-Time Wine Cellars, Wally's and Wine Exchange in Orange, (714) 974-1454, (800) 769-4639; winex.com. About $30.
2005 Ridge Ponzo Vineyard Zinfandel. Perhaps the prettiest, most approachable of the Zins; from a Russian River Valley vineyard, this wine is sensuous, generous and soft, its black cherry flavors supported by a velvet cushion of generous oak and an irresistibly supple, fleshy texture. Available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, Manhattan Fine Wines and Wine House. About $25.
— Patrick Comiskey