What to drink this week

A Californian peren­nial

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook -

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.

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