Pine Ridge Killer Reds

pine rSorry it’s been awhile. If you’re in the wine retail business, like I am, your life gets put on hold for a few weeks when ‘Tis The Season for the holiday shopping and drinking frenzy. Thank God that’s over…

So meanwhile back at the ranch — I finally have time to write about two killer reds I tasted during an online TasteLive session in December. Pine Ridge Vineyards, one of the Stags Leap District’s most classic wineries, sent me two of their Cabs — the Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008 and Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2008. We (a motley crew of wine bloggers) and winemakers Michael Beaulac and Jason Ledbetter connected online, and we got some great input on where these wines come from and how they’re made.

Pine Ridge owns vineyards in four Napa appellations. Michael and Jason talked about their unique characteristics, and explained what grapes from Stags Leap, Rutherford, Oakville and Howell Mountain bring to their party. It was a blast to pick out those characteristics in the wines we tasted.

We started with the Napa Valley 2008 Cabernet, which is a blend of fruit from Rutherford, Oakville and Stags Leap. Before I fill your head with lots of technical mumbo-jumbo, let me say simply that this is a kick-ass bottle of wine. Rich fruit and sweet oak make it positively hedonistic — and there’s nothing wrong with that!

But to get technical again… Beaulac explained that the 2008 growing season gave winemakers the conditions to create softer, lusher, enjoy-it-right-now kind of wines. He used 60% Rutherford fruit that gives intense, rich, palate-coating flavors; 30% Oakville grapes for bright red fruit flavors, good acidity and structured tannins; and 10% Stags Leap for chocolate and mocha notes with fine tannins.

The result — there’s blackberry jam on the nose, with vanilla and mocha sneaking in behind. The palate shows plenty of blackberry fruit, balanced by good acidity and well-integrated tannins. There’s good depth and concentration, and this oh-so-yummy “sweet” finish.

Michael and Jason shared some interesting information on this wine’s creation. Each appellation lot was fermented and aged separately, and then “assembled” to spend another year getting to know each other. They used only American oak barrels: they say Napa Cabernet needs American oak to impart volume and texture. I guess that explains all that sweet vanilla I enjoyed.

So let’s move on to number two — Pine Ridge Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. Again, to cut to the chase — lush, powerful and balanced. Michael used only Stags Leap fruit from a vineyard that stresses the vines to produce thick-skinned grapes with intense color, cocoa powder and mocha flavors, and fine-grained tannins.

Wow, does it ever. The nose knocked me out first: there was sweet blackberry and mocha that morphed into pomegranate and blueberry, and I could have sat with my nose in the glass all night. Michael called this “volatilizing aromatics,” and I’m all for that…

The palate was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t get a big fruit bomb, but instead a (relatively) light touch with power behind it. I tasted dark berries and dark chocolate, with more juicy red fruit on the end. I got well-integrated, fine tannins for a long finish that didn’t “bite.” Again, there was intensity without jamminess or “heat” — my kind of Cab. And the oak used in the Cab is all French — for this wine, Michael wanted to emphasize elegance.

The Stags Leap is 0nly 91% Cab: the balance is Merlot and Petit Verdot, also grown on the Stags Leap property. At 14.7% ABV, you might expect some heat, but Michael explained that 14 – 15% adds to the mouthfeel as long as it’s balanced by good acidity. When asked how this wine will age, Michael offered that seven years is the optimal drinking point for a Napa Cab. At that stage it should show some maturity but still retain some of that bright California fruit that we love to enjoy.

At around $75, Pine Ridge Stags Leap is a bargain compared to a lot of premium Napa Cabs. I’d go grab a bottle, if I were you… Cheers!


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2 Responses to “Pine Ridge Killer Reds”

  • Thank you for join us for our first taste live event. We had a great time and plan on doing more in the future. Cheers to a great 2012!

    From your friends at Pine Ridge Vineyards

    • Cheers to you too. Besides visiting and drinking Pine Ridge wines, we always had a soft spot for Seghesio as well. I wrote a post on them a year or so ago. I hope Seghesio grows and prospers under the Crimson umbrella.
      Deb Lapmardo

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