This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Feb. 25, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20080225.php.
Geographically, Geyserville, Calif., is hardly more than a wide spot in the road. A village in Sonoma County's wine country, it was founded two years before the Gold Rush. A century and a half later, it boasts a population of only about 2,100, most of them likely employed in the wine or tourist business.
It's hardly a metropolis. But for those who love classic old California Zinfandel, Geyserville is a resounding name. Specifically, Ridge Winery's Geyserville, made from grapes grown near the village on the western edge of Sonoma's Alexander Valley.
Ridge's 51 acres of Geyserville vineyards are planted in 40-year-old Zinfandel (12 acres), 11-year-old Zin (15 acres), and Petite Sirah, Carignane and an old-fashioned California "field blend" of mixed black grapes including Carignane, Petite Sirah, Alicante and Mourvedre, which Ridge calls Mataro (24 acres).
The exact blend in the wine varies from vintage to vintage, but even in years like 2004 when a 75 percent Zin component would permit the wine legally to be labeled varietal Zinfandel, Ridge never chooses to do that, rather labeling the wine, simply and proudly, as "Geyserville."
A California treasure since 1966, Ridge Geyserville boasts a sterling track record over more than 40 years. It inspires emotions akin to love among its fanciers.
Today, along with my tasting report on Ridge 2004 Geyserville, which is one of the offerings in this month's shipment from California Wine Club's Connoisseurs' Series, I thought it would be fun to turn over the pulpit to a few guest sermonizers. I asked participants in our WineLovers Discussion Group to tell us why they love Geyserville, and got back a number of thoughtful replies. Here are a few highlights:
"Geyserville was the first Zinfandel I truly fell in love with, and I didn't realize at the time that it was among California's greatest wines and one of its most unique, that it was a true iconoclast. In that I suppose it's like Latour or La Tache - you can plant those grapes anywhere else on the planet, but you will never duplicate or surpass what makes Geyserville Geyserville." (Jenise in the Pacific Northwest)
"Geyserville - the most balanced and ageworthy Zinfandel blend made." (David in New England)
"Ridge Geyserville has arguably been the de facto standard for what California Zinfandel can achieve since the 1970s (its major competitor for that title being Ridge Lytton Springs, Ridge's other flagship Zinfandel blend). Geyserville is typically characterized by a core of ripe (but not overripe) berry fruit balanced by enough acid and tannin to assure it of a decade or more of enjoyable drinking. Aged Geyservilles are noteworthy for their balance and secondary characteristics. The consistency of Geyserville over the years has been enviable, with good examples produced in virtually every year over the past 40 years and it is also noteworthy for maintaining a high level of quality (and a reasonable price tag) even as its production has increased above 10,000 cases in recent years." (Mark in Indiana)
"With Geyserville, it's fun to try to mentally figure out where the tastes come from - Zin, Mourvedre (which they still mark as Mataro), PS or Carignane. And if you have the chance to taste several vintages at several ages, you find that one or the other of the 'helpers' is helping quite a lot at that moment. Geyserville tastes like Really Good Zin in its first two or three years. Then it gets better. I think of it as one of the three or four wines that sort of define what the Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley are all about." (John in California)
There you have it ... a glowing sample of wine-enthusiast opinion about a much-loved wine. I can't disagree with a word of it, particularly Geyserville's ageworthiness. While you certainly can drink this stuff young, it benefits tremendously from cellar time. As a minimum, if you wish to sacrifice a bottle early, consider extended breathing time. Our 2004 gained complexity (and shed a bit of its more overt oakiness) over 24 hours in the opened bottle at room temperature.
The 2005 vintage Geyserville is now in retail distribution; the Connoisseurs' Series offering features the 2004, which is a blend of 75 percent Zinfandel, 18 percent Carignane and 7 percent Petite Sirah.
Ridge 2004 Sonoma County California Geyserville ($39 retail; $36 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
Dark reddish-purple with glints of bright ruby against the light. Fresh and juicy raspberry and blackberry aromas add a more heady overtone of Chambord raspberry liqueur. Mouth-filling and rich, ripe berry fruit, a whiff of fragrant pepper and tart acidity open up on the palate; potent but well integrated 14.9% alcohol manifests itself as body more than heat. There's a touch of oaky vanilla, a typical character in younger Geyserville that will resolve as the wine gains complexity over time. It should really wait five years or more for your enjoyment and can cellar for a decade or even much longer, but it's certainly impressive now, served with beef or even sipped thoughtfully after dinner. You haven't fully experienced California wine until you've tasted this great Zinfandel blend in the classic tradition. Winery Website: http://www.ridgewine.com (Feb. 24, 2008)
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The 2004 Geyserville is part of this month's shipment in California Wine Club's Connoisseurs' Series and is available for additional orders by Connoisseurs' Series members. Call 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more.
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