TN: Cal Reds – Ridge, Adrian Fog, Turnbull, Martinelli

The good, the bad and the even uglier. Served blindly, decanted a half hour to an hour ahead.

Ridge 1984 York Creek Petite Sirah: A trace of pepper and spice in the nose. Very smooth tannins though it’s dense and chewy. A trace of spice. Sort of monolithic. Mature California cab or petite sirah, I guessed. Quite pleasant but simple. 86 points. Ridge’s petite syrahs from that era could be quite lovely and could gain complexity. I’m not sure if this was a little past its prime or if it simply wasn’t a great vintage.

Adrian Fog 2006 Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: Intense cinnamon stick in the nose. Sort of artificial. Cloying candy cherry fruit and more cinnamon in the mouth. Seemed like a 10-year-old Cal pinot. Like so many Cal pinots, this seems to be just a vehicle for oak spice extracted from the wood with alcohol. Why so mature at six years? 78 points.

Turnbull 2006 Weitz Vineyard, Napa Cabernet: Sweet nose of tar and faint port scents. Ripe, almost sweet notes in the mouth. Very zin-like. Port flavor hints. Most of us guessed a ripe Cal syrah on reflection because it didn’t seem to have any zin berry notes. Very balanced, chewable, chuggable – just what I’d want in a mature zin. (The 15% alcohol did not stand out.) Surprise – another Napa cab that has lost all it varietal character to overripeness. I’d be disappointed if I bought this looking for cab flavors. Still, 87 points for me. Originally $60, now available for $30. When this was unveiled, it brought sighs from others who knew and appreciated older Johnson-Turnbull cabs. This is not your father’s cab.

Martinelli 2008 Vigneto di Evo Zinfandel, Russian River Valley: “It’s sweet,” was the first comment from most of the 10 tasters. Probably just the alcohol, but this may be the sweetest-tasting, purportedly-dry red I can ever recall sampling. Tastes like cinnamon powder, so I assumed it was a big, fat pinot. Hot finish. Surprise – it’s a zin! Yuck. Truly vile. 15.8%. Why bother making this? 65 points.

I had my first Martinelli zin a year or so ago (Giuseppi & Louisa 2006), and it was similar to your experience. A thick, heavy, chocolate-vanilla-plum concoction that had some appeal for the Rombauer-type crowd but otherwise was just not any good. That one clocked in at 16.5% alcohol.

[And I say that as someone who is normally very open minded about appreciating good wines made in most styles and who does not normally pile on about every modern/ripe style wine.]

I was served one of Martinelli Jack Ass Vineyard zins in the same group six months or so which tasted hotter but less sweet, as I recall. I’m fairly tolerant of ripeness and alcohol in zins, but these were just gross for my palate.