Lytton Springs, in Sonoma County, became part of the Ridge estate in 1991. Prior to that a quarter century’s experience with this vineyard had convinced Ridge that it was an exceptional piece of ground that should be a permanent part of the range. Today the main Ridge winery for Sonoma is at Lytton Springs and its a low-energy construction made from straw-bale that mirrors the sustainable ethos in the vineyard. Like Geyserville, the Lytton Springs vineyard is around 95% certified oragnically farmed and will be complete in 203 years.
Lytton Springs is a great wine to contrast with Geyserville. Dry Creek Valley is further inland than Alexander Valley, just a few miles, but its well protected and gets hotter during the day. Here Zinfandel always struggled to gain colour so a lot more Petite Sirah was planted to bolster it. Petite Sirah brings a dark fruit profile and a lot more tannin. The vineyard has large flat areas with deeper soils where all the Zinfandel is planted, while the swales and small hills are where all the other varieties are planted. Amongst the Zinfandel every 4th vine is a teinturier (grape with red skins and red flesh) - what they once thought was a random field blend is anything but random. Lytton is aged in American oak to brings sweetness to the tannins, sourced from high altitudes in the Appalachian mountains. The barrels themselves are an unconventional 200L.
Lytton Springs ages superbly over 12-18 years and with time becomes more Rhône like. 2018 is described as a Goldilocks vintage and one of the best for Lytton Springs in recent memory.
72% ZINFANDEL, 18% PETITE SIRAH, 8% CARIGNANE, 2% MATARO
The history of Ridge Vineyards begins in 1885, when Osea Perrone, a doctor who became a prominent member of San Francisco’s Italian community, bought 180 acres near the top of Monte Bello Ridge. He terraced the slopes and planted vineyards; using native limestone, he constructed the Monte Bello Winery, producing the first vintage under that name in 1892.
The first zinfandel was made in 1964, from a small nineteenth-century vineyard farther down the ridge. This was followed in 1966 by the first Geyserville zinfandel. The founding families reclaimed the Monte Bello terraces, increasing vineyard size from fifteen to forty-five acres. Working on weekends, they made wines of regional character and unprecedented intensity. By 1968, production had increased to just under three thousand cases per year, and in 1969, Paul Draper joined the partnership. A Stanford graduate in philosophy—recently returned from setting up a winery in Chile’s coast range—he was a practical winemaker, not an enologist. His knowledge of fine wines and traditional methods complemented the straightforward “hands off” approach pioneered at Ridge. Under his guidance the old Perrone winery (acquired the previous year) was restored, the finest vineyard lands leased or purchased, the consistent quality and international reputation of the wines established. Cabernet and Zinfandel account for most of the production; Syrah, Grenache, Carignane, and Petite Sirah constitute a small percentage. Known primarily for its red wines, Ridge has also made limited amounts of chardonnay since 1962.