American wine - I love it and for the next week, I'm going to be waving the flag of the stars and stripes, and tasting a bundle of wines that come from this former colony, and I'm starting off with a company that is as old as I am.
Pine Ridge Vineyards was established by Gary Andrus in 1978, who thought that Napa could produce wines of a level equal to Bordeaux. Not really an original thought as a couple of years previously the Judgement of Paris proved that Napa was comparable to the French region, so maybe it was a bit more that he realised the commercial opportunity of capitalising on the USA's success in that tasting. So he planted various Bordeaux varietals, and now has 200 acres five Napa appellations. I tried a trio of his wines, starting with a pair of whites.
The 2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier (£16) is pretty nice. Bright, lemon fruit with some melon aromas coming out as well followed by the slightest nuance of lemon Fairy Liquid. The palate is nice, peachy with a slight oily texture, and a white pepper flavour coming in the mid palate. Some sweetness on the finish, with a clean, long lasting finish. 90pts
"...you are smacked in the face with a garden shed..."
The next wine, the 2009 Pine Ridge Dijon Clones Chardonnay (£30) started with a touch of pineapple skin and pear. Then you are smacked in the face with a garden shed. I didn't know it was possible to have so many wood flavours in one mouthful of wine - butter, pine resin, stale cream, charcoal... it kept on coming and none of it nice. When fruit did emerge, it was being bashed back down with a massive wooden mallet. A very very clumsy wine. 78pts.
Fortunately, Pine Ridge's 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon managed to readdress the balance somewhat. The nose was dark, treacley and concentrated with dark berries and leather. The palate was big, brooding and introverted with sweet tannic fruit and a massive polish flavour. Jam and bitter coffee on the finish with some dark chocolate. This wine defines what the stereotypical Napa Cabernet is - a big, over extracted, dark wine with lots of oak and little finesse. Having said that, if you like that style (and on occasion, I do) it delivers what you want and does so well. Most of the time however, I would prefer an American Cabernet with more elegance. 87pts
Who would have thought that a (relatively) cheap Chenin Viognier would be the best out of the three!