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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  1. says: Maggie

    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…

  2. 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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