What to drink this week
A Californian perennial
Avoid extremes and seek the middle ground with Californian wine, advises Harry Eyres
In wine terms, California often appears to be a place of extremes. The vast Gallo winery in Modesto is said to be the world’s largest and, for many years, was reputed to produce more wine than the whole of Australia. On the other hand, cult Napa Cabernets such as Screaming Eagle are made in tiny quantities, sell for stratospheric prices and are to all intents and purposes unobtainable. However, California also has wine producers that have held steady over decades somewhere between those extremes. One of my favourites is Ridge Vineyards in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Why you should be drinking it
The Monte Bello vineyard surrounding the old Ridge winery, perched high above Silicon Valley, may have been the first planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in all of California. However, Ridge also makes great Zinfandel—in my view, the world’s finest—and superb Chardonnay. For decades, the wine maker was the thoughtful and delightful Paul Draper, who stuck to his philosophy of using air-dried American oak barrels for ageing the wines.
What to drink
Although Ridge is based in Santa Cruz, its finest Zinfandels come from Sonoma County to the north. East Bench Zinfandel 2015 (below, £26.50; www.jnwine.com) has a beautiful spicy nose and follows it with fresh cherry fruit and excellent acidity. You can compare the single vineyard Zinfandel-based blends from Geyserville (the 2014 is £15.95 per 37.5cl; www.fourwallswine.com) —lifted, fruitcakey yet fresh —and Lytton Springs (£19.50 per 37.5cl; www.jnwine.com) —even more spicy and a touch more serious. Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (£51.99; www.jnwine.com) is deep purple and quite toasty, but with a great, tight core of blue-black fruit.