Ridge Vineyards
Pagani Ranch California Zinfandel
15.0% ABV | Price: about $35

This wine is 85% zinfandel, 10% alicante bouschet, 3% petite sirah, and 2% carignane. It’s a spectacularly well-crafted wine. Yes, it’s a hot California (mostly) Zinfandel, one we might easily dismiss. But there’s an attention to detail here that is quite evident, the difference between craftsmanship and commodity.

The nose is a little herbaceous, with anise and mint. It’s a bit smoky, too, with aromas of deep, black fruit, warm from the sun. On the palate there’s a little grip of tannin balancing the ripe fruits: black cherry, blackberry, plum. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think I can taste the petite sirah adding a bass note. It’s the tiniest bit savory. The finish is lingering, dark, and warm.

This wine is sweet and lyrical, with detail and filigree. This wine is firm and well-formed: grounded, muscular, and wildly alcoholic. It is shifting and mercurial, now one thing, now the other; a little enchantment for Hallowe’en.



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  • I’ve been thinking a lot about Zinfandel lately. Love this post–a reminder to listen to a wine, pay attention to a wine, and hush our preconceptions a little…I think there may be some beauty in California Zins that many of us have been shutting out…

  • Maggie, thanks for your comment. We recently tasted through Ridge’s ’08 Pagani Ranch, Lytton Springs, and York Creek Zins. All were quite different, each with its own emphasis. In some cases a small amount of blending grapes added distinctiveness, too.
    One caveat, though, is that wines with such high alcohol levels have a slightly numbing effect on the tongue, so must be tasted with food to keep the palate fresh. And, those foods must themselves have a lot of muscle to stand up to the wine’s assertiveness.

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