Ridge 2002 Zinfandel Paso Robles

Wow. WOW. WOW!

Every once in a while, a wine is everything one expects. And, rarely, it is even more. Well, last night, Paul Draper made me a very happy man. He has been making Ridge wines for more than 40 years, and I have been drinking them for about 30 of those. He knows what he is doing, and out of the hundreds of Ridge bottles that I have opened, perhaps half a dozen were disappointing. He had a mediocre streak with some of his “Three Valleys” Zinfandels, but even those wines were drinkable. And that weird clove flavor during the 80s was sometimes disconcerting, but hell, the man is batting about .975, so cut him a little slack.

His record is unambiguous: He is one of the greatest winemakers in California and, perhaps, the world. But this wine — this beautiful, elegant, gentle, balanced wine — is one of the finest Ridge wines I have ever tasted and one of the best Zinfandels I have ever drunk.

And now I will retreat slightly — but not much — from those overly laudatory comments. This is a moderately priced wine made for immediate consumption or perhaps, a few years of aging. What shocked me was how well it aged, despite the winemaker’s intent. But it didn’t just survive eight years in the bottle; it mellowed, and became soft and round with a lovely, long finish. Yes, there was fruit, too, with a hint of tannin for structure.

Wine writers discuss “QPR” (quality/price ratio) all the time. This wine is off the charts. Unfortunately, it is probably impossible to find, and even if you were to dig up a bottle or two, I would be very suspicious. I think one of the reasons this wine was so damned good was that it sat quietly in my cellar for a very long time. What irritates me beyond all measure is the stupidity of my wine buyer (that would be me), who didn’t buy a few cases of this beauty.

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