Ridge Vineyards Carmichael Zinfandel 2005

For the first time in several months, I experienced a brief shiver of pleasure just smelling this wine. That doesn’t happen often, and the list of wines that have had that sort of visceral effect on me is still fairly short (even after a decade’s worth of sporadically heavy drinking).Ahem. Where was I? It smells like… baked goods? Tarte tatin? Some sort of flower, not rose, but heavier? And would you believe it, finally a wine that actually smells like delicious freshly cooked bacon? I swear I’ve had dozens of French syrahs and Aussie shirazes that claimed to smell like bacon, but none have… until now. Wow. It’s like Farmer John pitched in at the winery. Whoa. On the next sniff, it’s gone again, and this time it smells like Zwetschgenkuchen – freshly baked German plum tart. Oh man. This is amazing. It moves on again, this time to Czech morello cherries fresh from the jar (!), or maybe even baker’s chocolate – the kind you only eat once as a child before discovering it tastes nothing like it smells. It just keeps going and going, changing every few minutes.And I haven’t even tasted this stuff yet.It’s not as heavy as I would have suspected – in the mouth it’s almost more like velvety, silky soft raspberry cordial, hugely surprising. There are no rough edges… but the finish hangs in there for quite a while before resolving itself in an almost woody note of cloves and burnt sugar. There’s almost a coconut shaving note there as well… definitely American oak in play here, no doubt about it. (I cheated before writing that down: yes, there is.) Coming back to it again, the next time it’s almost like cinnamon-specked candy I remember from faux pioneer mercantiles in the Gold Rush country of California: sugar with what would taste like imperfections in modern candy, but subtly delicious in a historic context. Blackstrap molasses, nutmeg, cherries, sweetness, and gentle acidity weaving around it all. There are tannins here as well, but you wouldn’t notice them unless you paid careful attention; they’re beautifully integrated and lend a fascinating sense of traditionality to what, I suppose, is hardly a traditional wine… unless you’re a Californian like myself, in which case you wish you could hand deliver a bottle of this to any European who pooh-poohs the very idea of California wine – or to anyone who thinks that a great Zinfandel can’t hold its own with the traditional great wines of the world.Amazing stuff. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like in five years, but I’m going to try and hold on to my other bottle in hopes of finding out for myself.

Price: US $30
Closure: Cork
Date tasted: January 2008

1 thought on “Ridge Vineyards Carmichael Zinfandel 2005

  1. Totally jealous. Ridge wines really are the bomb, are they not? The memory of the Monte Bello we shared is still fresh, so broodingly deep was that wine.

    You can get a few here in Australia, but I’m still trying to work on ignoring the markup.

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