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Ridge, Bonny Doon, Qupé and Au Bon Climat

by Tom Cannavan, 02/99

This was a tasting of a selection from small producers in California. All of these are considered to be highly individual and high quality wineries. The wines were presented by Morris & Verdin Wines, and the tasting took place in Lux, a Glasgow restaurant. The wines (and food) were very good as a group. I found few knock-your-socks-off stars, and one or two seemed pricy for what was in the bottle, but all were very good of their type, one or two particularly so.
The tasting was not blind. Retail prices are in pounds sterling (approx. £10=$17).

Bonny Doon Malvasia Bianca 1997 - £8.40
Medium gold, glossy colour. Beautifully fragrant nose with rose-petal, talcum powder, peach skins and musky, grapey aromas. Quite weighty on the palate, off-dry to medium-sweet, flooded with ripe melon fruit before apple and pear acidity. Good balance and very good length. Excellent.

Qupé Marsanne Ibarra Young Vineyard 1997 - £11.50
Nice golden yellow colour. Alcoholic nose, with apricot fruit. Medium to full-bodied with more peach and apricot fruit, a nice walnutty note and a creamy texture. Sweet, buttery oak in the finish along with firm acidity. Dominant vanillin oak in the long finish. Good wine, but doesn't do enough to stand apart from some Vin de Pays and Australian examples at half the price.

Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara Chardonnay 1997 - £15.00
Glossy yellow/green. Toasted, charred, oaky nose with lovely pear fruit. Very clean on the plate, with limpid flavours of pear and melon, and top-notes of tropical fruit. Really beuatifully balanced, with a long, spice-enriched finish. A lovely, complete chardonnay, though lacking a little complexity at the price for now. Needs some time.

Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley 1997 - £15.00
Zingy cherry-red colour. Lovely sweet, bright, fragrant nose of cherries, charred-oak and coffee. Quite firm on the palate and avoids being jammy with fine acidity and creamy, chewy oak. Very good.

Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Cruz Mountains 1995 - £17.50
Very deep crimson/black. Attractive nose - a great depth of blackcurrant fruit with darker plum and cedar-wood notes. Smoke too. Palate has more of the same with drying tannins, but integrated and providing a framework for full, rich, concentrated fruit and interesting licquorice and bitter-cherry notes. Very good.

Qupé Syrah Central Coast 1996 - £11.50
Unfortunately corked and no further samples available.

Frog's Leap Zinfandel 1996 - £14.00
Rich ruby red. An intensely pepper and spice nose suffused with ripe blackberry and crunchy berry fruits. Earthy too, with a cedary component and some charry oak. Creamy texture on the palate but quite sharply acidic. Faintly medicinal flavours but a nice roughness to the fruit. Dense and chewy with good length. Really rather nice overall.

Bonny Doon Moscato Bianco Fior d'Arancio 1997 - £8.00 (37.5cl)
Medium-dark golden colour. Very unctuous nose. Honeyed and at the same time herbal with lots of orangy marmalade aromas and higher, flowery nuances. Medium weight with some sharp acidity and obvious alcohol. Rich and sweet fruit, but for me a little unbalanced.