2018 Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley.
The rich, dark purple and deep fruited 2018 Ridge Pagani Ranch Zinfandel leads with a classic black raspberry, crushed flowers and brambly spiciness that comforts the palate and rinds you just how fabulous these wines are and how truly Californian they are, this wine could not be, nor want to be anything else, something it wears with pride. This vintage, which by Sonoma standards was long and cool, brings a fresh vibrancy to this powerfully concentrated field blend of 84% Zinfandel, 9% Alicante Bouschet and 7% Petite Sirah, which has a sense of blue fruit as it opens in the glass, adding plum, blueberry and some boysenberry pie filling along with an array of wild herbs, including hint of sage, fennel and dried rosemary. This is richly opulent stuff, coming in at a heady 14.9% natural alcohol, but with a nice cut of acidity from the years cool influence and the fact that Pagani sits in a cooler micro-climate within the Sonoma Valley that gives this bottling its distinctive character, with its long hang time, in this case an October pick date. This wine turns on the seductive charm with each sip, making for a sensuous experience and it feels luxurious on the full bodied palate, in a sensation that will remind you of serious Gigondas and or Chateauneuf du Pape interns of impact and quality, while never wavering from the Zinfandel profile. I usually go for the Lytton Springs and Geyserville, but this Pagani 2018 is a great bottle of Ridge, it was sublime with food too, showing a very cuisine friendly side last night with my pizza, which included garden heirloom tomatoes and sliced jalapeño peppers and fresh basil leaves.

The Pagani Ranch, originally planted by Felice Pagani in the 1890s and many of the old vines still provide the base for this wine, even though Ridge’s blocks have seen some re-planting with some young vines coming into production with the 2015 vintage, though overall most of the acreage here consists of 100 plus year old vines, which are, as you’d expect, mostly Zinfandel along with a small percentage of Alicante Bouschet, Mataro (Mourvedre) and Petite Sirah. Ridge, as the winery notes, has produced a Pagani Ranch bottling each year since 1991, adding that the foggy mornings here, on this picturesque site just off Hwy 12 near the town of Kenwood, the gravel, loam and clay soils and the old vines make for small yields and energy filled berries that makes these wines compelling with fruit density and savory complexity with moderate tannins, all of which allows these wines to be enjoyed young, but still have good aging potential. Ridge promotes sustainable and organic methods and make these Zinfandel wines with low intervention using native or indigenous yeasts and natural malos. The Ridge wines are most all aged in specially extended air dried American oak barrels, with this wine seeing mostly used wood and saw an elevage of about 12 months before bottling. This 2018 version is one of my favorites, reminding me a lot of the 2014, which I loved and wrote about here, it got even better on day two, adding a sweet cherry and subtle vanilla creaminess, while still being as vigorous and poised as when I opened it, very impressive. Ridge has added some new and exciting wines to their portfolio in recent years, from Roussanne to Falanghina as well as classic Carignane, all of which are well worth searching out, while their historic lineup of Monte Bello and Zin blends continue to be some of California’s best wines.
($35 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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