Opus 1,600 – an unexpected perversion

This post is the 1,600th published on the excellent, exquisite Elitistreview, and to celebrate Opus 1,600 I am going to indulge in a little perversion of mine. I only know two other people who like doing this, one of whom came to join us and indulge.

Before we get to that, let me give you an overview of what has happened on Elitistreview since the first post on 1st August 2005. The most impressive figure is that, not including this post, I have written almost exactly 750,000 words on this site.

Over the whole lifetime of Elitistreview this means I have written an average of 120 words a day. This may not sound like much. However, when you consider I am one of the very few most psychotic people in the country, I think that is a pretty good work rate.

I publish, on average, 1.8 posts per week, at 470 words per article. Again I consider this a satisfying work rate when one considers the huge gaps there have been from time-to-time when my mental health issues have been too challenging for me to write.

Sometimes, however, my commitment to Elitistreview has been impressive. On several occasions I have been in the psychiatric ward and they have let me out, heavily sedated, to go home to prepare me for release. On some of these occasions I have drank a bottle of wine with The Editor and written it up on here before returning to the nut house at the appointed time. Such fortitude (and love of wine)!

One of the good things about my writing is that I can communicate aesthetic experiences with skill and style. I am also pleased that I have occasionally been furthering the broad understanding of those of us who suffer severe mental illness by sharing my own experiences, although, one time, it is quite possible I went much too far.

Anyway, that is the first 1,599 posts, what is my dirty little secret I am going to reveal all about? It is not that dirty, to be honest, it is simply that I like aged Ridge Zinfandels.

I bet you were not expecting that!

There was a period in the 90s when Zinfandel was in, and Ridge seemed to be particularly in. They were in every wine merchant and on decent restaurant wine lists.

This was fine with me! Ridge made wines that were actually good. Compared to, say, Ravenswood, the wines had structure, balance, acidity, complexity. They were not just soupy splats of sweet fruit, sickly sweet American oak and sizzlingly sweet alcohol.

Then one day in the mid-90s my university friend Jeremy Seysses (of Domaine Dujac fame) produced a Ridge Geyserville from the early 80s to have with dinner. It was brilliant! All that Zin bramble fruit but soft, mature and more complex. I was hooked!

The Ridge Zinfandel fad passed and now they are not so easy to find. I still buy them if I see them, especially magnums and with great excitement if they have some age.

Therefore, when I had the opportunity to get a Ridge Lytton Springs 2011, I leapt at it! I thought I would share it with my great friend Leon as he is the only other person (apart from Jeremy) who has shown keenness for aged Ridge Zinfandel.

I arranged for him to visit after work for a quick festival of booze with the Lytton Springs 2011, a Geyserville 2010 I had (that he had given me some time ago) and a Ridge Zin that he would bring. Since we were going to get completely newscasted anyway, I added a Sadie Columella 2008 to the list for us to drink with dinner before moving onto the Zins.

Due to the lateness of the hour, quassing, projectile vomiting, being unable to see (not those last two:) and so on my notes will not be the usual thousand word epics.

Thus, the booze-up commenced…

Eben Sadie Columella 2008Columella 2008, Eben Sadie

I would like to start off by thanking Alex Lake for providing this for less than the current, quite frightening, asking price.

Wow, what a nose! Booze-charged, certainly, but beautiful poise with cherry fruit, pepper, herbal aromas and a slight seasoning of oak. Despite its prodigious scale, that some people are gernative about, this was a balanced nose of considerable style and complexity.

The palate is warm but utterly lovely. Cherry and plum fruit washes across your palate enlivened by great acidity and an intense grind of pepper.

There is a set of leather-like aromas from the Mourvèdre, but it is not the slightest bit dirty or sweaty. It is detailed, compelling and extremely fine.

What a finish! Fruit, spice and herbal flavours linger in intricate patterns across your palate with asteristic scintillations of pepper and acidity keeping the whole experience lively and perky.

What else? I would be failing if I did not comment that, along with all the extremely fine, complex and engaging characteristics of this wine, it gave an enormous impression of being extremely delicious. It was just such a joy to drink, engaging both the mind and the palate in a manner that expanded and redefined the boundaries of pleasure. Unabashed loveliness.

This is one of the world’s great wines, as its asking price, complexity, style, class and unadulterated joy-factor suggest. We should have drank this after the Zins but, by arse, I’m glad we drank it!

Zinfandel Buchignani Ranch ‘Advanced Tasting Program’ 2015, Ridge

Explosive nose with the power and excitement value of what I suspect to be quite old vines. In addition to intense bramble fruit, I found candied orange and lemon aromas, leather and Christmas pudding spice.

This wine carries its booze factor very neatly, as it does with its American oak treatment. Neither seem excessive or emetic. It is big and powerful, oh yes, but that comes from characterful grapes, the alcohol and secondary* aromas step to one side.

The palate has spicy, warm and rich bramble fruit that is intense, but not overwhelming – it is not a fruit bomb. Good acidity levels help with this balanced and restrained expression of scale.

There is a lovely spicy character on the palate as well. Christmas pudding with plenty of candied peel added. The spice gives a sense of warm richness rather than the alcohol.

This is still young, but another pleasing wine with plenty to enjoy about it. Drink it now or keep it ten years, either way I think you will be laughing!

The Editor with Ridge Zinfandel

Lytton Springs 2011, Ridge

Lytton Springs 2011 shows tertiary development of the fruit, it adds plummy depth to the softened blackberry and cherry aromas. This gives it good complexity.

Whereas the Buchignani Ranch had strident fruit, this seems more mellow and polished. Age has done this wine a lot of favours. I have, on occasion, suggested Lytton Springs does not mature gracefully; this 2011 shows I have been talking bollocks.

There are shades of leather and tar to it, the leather is not sweaty, dirty or a sign of overripeness.

Lytton Springs 2011 is developed and voluptuous – a wine to envelope your senses with and revel in its hedonism. Again, I think this carries its alcohol level very well, but I get more of an impression of sweet American oak here.

I do not mind that oak at all, it adds a sweet spice to the broad and complex fruit aromas, the secondary characteristics merging seamlessly with the tertiary fruit development.

This Ridge Zinfandel still has good, rigorous tannins and a lovely streak of balancing acidity. Indeed, balance and harmony seem to be the prominent impressions I get from this wine. That makes Lytton Springs 2011 very enjoyable indeed, it is a great drink that slips down a treat.

Quite delicious, and whilst it shows development there is certainly no rush to drink it. Come back in ten years and it will probably be even more of a luscious treat. Just delicious!

Leon with Geyserville 2010 and invisible breasts

Leon with Geyserville 2010 and invisible breasts

Geyserville 2010, Ridge

OK, I admit it, I am now rather drunk. All the wines we have had so far may have carried their alcohol levels lightly – they were still infused with a load of the stuff. I am now content to drink fine wine in the company of lovely people.

Enjoying this wine is now a happy, gregarious experience, not so analytical, not suitable for detailed notes. As luck would have it, it is not so long since I reviewed a Ridge Geyserville 2010, head down to Boxing Day on that post.

I note that on that occasion the Geyserville 2010 also charmed me to such a degree that I just wallowed in the experience of drinking it rather than being too analytical.

What struck me then, as it does as I’m drinking this, is that the wine still has enough fruit and a solid structure to keep ageing for a very long time indeed. Geyserville 2010 is only at the start of its tertiary development, there is a lot more to come. Just great.

With that bottle polished off – although I note Leon the lightweight has moved onto water – it is time to get the guest to assemble his electric bicycle and point him in the direction of the station; the last train is but minutes from leaving!


*I use the Burgundian method of classifying aroma types. Primary aromas come from the vineyard. Secondary aromas are those imbued by the winemaking and tertiary aromas are those from bottle age.