A Very Refined Evening

13 Nov

It’s nice to be back on an actual college campus.

I am typing this from Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in Princeton Township, NJ, where I am visiting my former roommate Alex who is now making a name for himself at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.  All around me are people who are younger than me and much older than me: young students with nary a care in the world and gray-haired professor types.  They’re nursing coffees and perhaps hangovers caused from Princeton football’s drubbing at the hands of the Yale Bulldogs yesterday.  As I’m a Cal alumnus, this is a feeling I know all too well, but unlike the people keeping me company I at least am not suffering from a hangover despite sharing two excellent bottles of wine with Alex.

Those few of you who have kept up with my blog know I love Ridge Vineyards to an absurd degree.  To me Ridge represents the best of California winemaking, and its wines are never disappointing.  I might disagree with a few of them, but much more often I love them.

Ridge is well-known for its Zinfandel, but it made its mark on the wine world by making the legendary “Monte Bello” Cabernet.  Monte Bello was selected as one of the California Cabs to go head-to-head with Bordeaux in the now-legendary Judgment of Paris of 1976.  Their 1971 Monte Bello came in fifth and was the second-highest rated California Cabernet in the tasting, not bad for a wine made only nine years after the start of the winery.  More tellingly, however, a re-enactment of the tasting was conducted in 2006, and the 1971 Monte Bello came in first, beating out all other California and French wines!

Unfortunately for broke post-grads,  the Monte Bello line usually starts at $150+ when released.  Fortunately for us, Ridge makes a “second wine” (in the tradition of the great Bordeaux chateaux) from grapes grown in the same Santa Cruz vineyards as the Monte Bello.  The winemakers separate the more concentrated, tannic grapes–those with the chops for long-term cellaring–to make Monte Bello, and the rest are used to vinify the “Santa Cruz Mountains” Cabernet blend.  The 2008 vintage is the first to feature the new name of Estate for this wine.  I had the opportunity to pick up a bottle of the 2008 and an older bottle of the 2003, and I brought them up to Princeton for a comparative tasting.

the tasting notes

2008 Ridge Vineyards “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon | $35
75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc

We opened this bottle first.  The nose was promising–dusty cherry and plum sprinkled with graphite.  Very, very approachable tannin and good acidity, with nice blackberry and blueberry on the palate.  I really enjoyed this wine, though Alex was adamant that this wine did not have a skeletal backbone.  “This is a blob,” he said, though he still thought it was an enjoyable wine.  I did notice that the wine did not seem to hold up very well over time.  We opened the bottle and had a taste, then came back a few hours later to finish the bottle over the course of another few hours, and I think it was best closer to its opening.

2003 Ridge Vineyards “Santa Cruz Mountains” Cabernet Sauvignon | $32
68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc

This wine smelled old, with a musty, funky nose that was very appealing.  It still had good color, however, and the first taste was savory and tart, even.  It started with umeboshi on the palate and finished with, I thought, unmistakable notes of fresh cranberry.  This wine got better over time, as the initial tartness resolved and integrated into a pleasing whole.

At 13.5% and 13.4% respectively, these wines were easy to handle (thus explaining my lack of a hangover today).  These are California Cabs that, while offering a certain level of complexity, are just very enjoyable to drink.


the typewriter

You might notice in the background a vintage baby blue manual typewriter that Alex purchased some time ago.  It was fully refurbished and works like a charm.  We spent the evening not only drinking wine and eating stuff we picked up from D’Angelo Italian Market, but typing letters and notes to various people on the typewriter.  It’s a beautiful thing.  While I enjoy writing letters by hand, I think I enjoy typing letters even more.  What more could we ask from life than friends, a typewriter, and a nice bottle or two of wine?


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