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1986 Ridge Petite Sirah Essence California

When you think of Ridge wine, you probably think of either their balanced and flavorful Zinfandel-based wines or their iconic Bordeaux-inspired Monte Bello red blends. Perhaps your mind goes to tasty Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Insiders will know of the “ATP” wines that include a lot of single-vineyard wines plus Carignane, Grenache and Syrah. But nobody's very first thought would be “dessert wine.” Yet, Ridge  makes a very fine dessert wines called Essence in certain years. Essence is made from either Zinfandel or Petite Sirah and ages very well. When I saw an old, label-worn half-bottle of 1986 Ridge Petite Sirah Essence sitting on a “remainders” shelf at a local wine shop for $15 I just had to grab it.

Produced only when conditions in the vineyard are right, which happened only 4 times in the 20 years preceding 1986, Ridge Petite Sirah Essence is a late-harvest wine made from York Creek Vineyards fruit. This Spring Mountain site, owned by Fritz Maytag, has Petite Sirah vines that are now 72 years old. They sit high up on the mountain with a southeast facing, peering down at the town of St. Helena. Ridge has been using grapes from that vineyard since 1971.

Normally, Ridge lets the grapes destined for Essence stay on the vine for an extended period of time, allowing the grapes to shrivel and concentrate in sugars. In 1986, Botrytis contributed to this process as well. The grapes were harvested at 32 Brix, a bit lower than the 34 to 38 degrees that Essence grapes typically reach these days. The fermentation stopped naturally at 14% alcohol with 10% residual sugar.

I spoke with Ridge's VP of Winemaking for the Monte Bello winery, Eric Baugher, about Essence. He said, "the the wines are aged only in old barrels because we don't want oak becoming a strong component in the wine and the wine is racked and cleared naturally then bottled without any filtration." This is because the combination of acidity, high sugar and fairly high alcohol makes the wine extremely inhospitable to microbes. The benefit to us is that no flavors are stripped out of the wine in an effort to cleanse it.

In my glass, the wine was totally opaque and ruby-black in color. It’s aromas and flavors were of stewed dark fruit, cherries, raisins and chocolate. The Ridge Essence has a rich mouthfeel but isn’t quite full-bodied. It is sweet, but not cloying, with silky tannins and a long finish. This wine would be a good way to close out a meal when served on its own, but could also go with light chocolate desserts that aren’t very sweet.

Although it’s from 1986, the combination of sugar, acidity and tannins have helped it age very gently. The wine could literally hold, if not improve, for decates. Obviously, this particular vintage is going to be hard to find these days. That being the case, there could be quite a range in prices. It's a very nice wine and a good conversation starter too and is probably well-priced at up to $35 for a half bottle. Drink Now. Highly Recommended.

1986-Ridge-Petite-Sirah-Essence

1986 Ridge Petite Sirah Essence
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Now
 through 2030
Retail Price: n/a

Blend: 100% Petite Sirah
Aging:
 ~ 9 months in neutral American oak barrels
Alcohol: 14%
Residual Sugar: 10%

Closure: Cork

This wine was purchased for review. It was not tasted blind.

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Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check outour comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

4153926600

2007 Quivira Petite Sirah Wine Creek Ranch Dry Creek Valley

Quivira Vineyards and Winery is located in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley.  Founded in 1981, it was purchased by the Kight family, which is now also part owner of Torbreck in Australia. With new ownership came a new winemaker, Steven Canter, adjustments to their wines and an even more intense focus on sustainable agriculture. That includes a big push toward biodynamic farming. All of their wines, except the Dry Creek Zinfandel, come from estate vineyards. The 2007 Quivira Petite Sirah comes from the Wine Creek Vineyard which is Demeter-certified biodynamic. This is their largest vineyard and it’s planted to eleven different varieties and divided into 22 blocks.

The wine is a dark, though not quite opaque, purplish ruby. Blackberry and blueberry are the primary aromas, complemented by vanilla, dark spice and cherry. On the palate, there are brambly blackberry and the vanilla, but also oak and some dark chocolate.

As with most Petite Sirah, the 2007 Quivira Petite Sirah Wine Creek Ranch Dry Creek Valley is very nearly full-bodied and has generous tannins. Some juicy acidity keeps the wine from being dark and brooding however. Even more acidity would have been welcome. The finish is of moderate length and dominated by the prominent front-of-mouth tannins plus black berry and chocolate. After my initial tasting, I allowed the wine to rest in bottle over night. The tannins relaxed quite a bit and coconut emerged on the nose.

The2007 Quivira Petite Sirais very drinkable now, but it might be more interesting in a year or two. The Quivira website lists several recipes to accompany this wine. Of them, I think that the grilled New York steak with Gorgonzola butter is the way to go. My official tasting complete, I finished the bottle with seared venison tenderloin. That worked nicely too. Drink now through 2014. Recommended.

Quivira-Petite-Sirah

Rating: Recommended
Retail Price: $26.00
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.8%
Blend: 100% Petite Sirah
Origin: Wine Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley

This wine was received as a review sample from the winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook.
Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.