Ridge Cali Syrah Lytton West 2005 $34.99
A warm February allowed the syrah vines an early start, but cold weather returned in March and persisted through May, setting them back five weeks. Summer's warmth was followed by an unusually foggy August and September. The fruit was fully ripe by late September, and all six parcels were harvested within six days. The grapes were destemmed but left uncrushed, and filled eight small tanks. By the third day, natural yeasts began the fermentations. For extraction of color, flavor, and tannin, a limited amount of juice was circulated twice daily over the cap of skins. Pressed at six days on average, the free run wines completed a natural malolactic fermentation and were racked to barrel. Assemblage was determined in late spring by blind tasting of the eight possible components. The oldest parcels produced wine of exceptional depth and density; the younger yielded focused fruit and soft, balanced tannins. Five lots were chosen for this fine syrah, and aged for a total of twenty-one months in air-dried american oak. Enjoyable now for its forward, spicy fruit, it will develop greater complexity over the next ten years.