Friday, December 24, 2010

2005 Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard two styles

Russian River Valley is home to many fine zinfandel wines. The slightly cooler climate, compared to that of neighboring Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley up north, results in a slower ripening process with more intense perfumes and a fresher acidity, and quite often a more elegant and lighter colored fruit flavor. The Ponzo Vineyard is situated off the Old Redwood Highway, just south of Healdsburg, and it’s owned and farmed by the Ponzo cousins, Phil and Bob. The vineyard was originally planted in 1900, and there’s still around 4.25 hectares of vines from that year. Later on it was expanded with more blocks and it survived through the prohibition thanks to the admittance of making 200 gallons of wine per year and household over the country. Later on, some vines were replanted, and new blocks were planted, almost four hectares in 1985 and five hectares in 1999 and 2000. In the older blocks, some Carignane and Petite Sirah vines are planted mixed with the Zinfandel wines.

2005 Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard from Ridge Vineyards / 90-91 p
This blend of 97 percent of old vines Zinfandel and three percent Petite Sirah comes from three distinct lots within the vineyard, the Old Vine Block, Triangle Block and Back Block. This may be one of the reasons for being so different from the Nickel & Nickel selection. Another reason is the different oak philosophy – at Ridge all wines are raised in American oak barrels. For the old time winemaker Paul Draper, it’s crucial to make the wines to be age worthy, and therefore they always show a good balance and a great structure. Compared to the previous wine, this wine offers a deeper and more concentrated body, not that it is sweeter, it just slightly more ripe and intense. Still it’s a bit closed compared to what I expected. Using American oak may often result in a sweetish and vanilla like flavor in the wine, but there are no such flavors here, which I find positive. Tannins are present but ripe, so there’s no bitterness whatsoever. To be a Ridge wine, alcohol is quite high – 14.9 percent – but it is very well integrated. As always with these wines, they need time to open up and show all their glory, and even if it’s good to drink today, I recommend just a few more years of cellaring for this particular wine.
Drink it 2012-2025.

2005 Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard from Nickel & Nickel / 89-90 p
Nickel & Nickel are more famous for their Napa Valley tier of cabernet wines from various vineyard of interesting terroir, and they are also the ones to really look after. For this wine, they lease and work since 1997 with a 4.45 hectare block of dry farmed vines planted in 1920 in the Ponzo Vineyard (this is one of only two zinfandels they make. Compared to the Ridge wine, this is a bit lighter and less concentrated, and it also shows a bit more red fruit. Ripeness is most likely more or less the same, at least both wines are dry and both have the same level of alcohol (in this wine, 15.0 percent). The main thing that separates these two wines is the tannic structure, that in the Nickel & Nickel wine is much more marked, and therefore it seems to be a bit younger. Also the acidity is slightly higher, and the oak – French in this case – is actually a bit more present, especially in the aftertaste. All these characteristics corresponds pretty much to what is expected from Nickel & Nickel – their philosophy if a bit more French in that sense. It’s a good wine, but not great, and I suspect it to be a bit more elegant in a few years from now.
Drink it 2012-2020.

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