One of the World’s Great Zinfandels (for Less Than $40)

Photograph by Michael Pirrocco

The problem with iconic wines – wines that are widely recognized as among the best of the best, the finest examples of their particular grapes, regions, or styles – is that most of them are insanely expensive. Haut Brion, Salon, Giacosa, Chave – these are all now beyond the reach of oenophiles who lack either the means or incaution to drop hundreds of dollars on a bottle of wine (which is to say, most of us). But there is at least one such wine that remains very affordable: Ridge Geyserville. Made by Ridge Vineyards, California’s most celebrated winery, the Geyserville is a Zinfandel that takes its name from the Sonoma town in which the grapes are grown.

Zinfandel isn’t known for producing wines with a lot of gravitas, but the Geyserville has always been an exception – a complex, elegant wine that (unusual for a Zinfandel) improves with age (vintages from the 80s and even 70s are still drinking beautifully). It has been said that the Geyserville has the nuance and depth of a top-flight Bordeaux, and we think there’s something to the analogy. However one chooses to describe it, the Geyserville is truly one of the world’s great wines, in addition to being arguably California’s finest Zinfandel. Its sui generis quality is on abundant display in the latest vintage; the 2012 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville ($37) is a strikingly pretty wine, one that trades on finesse rather than power.

On the nose, it shows red berries, floral notes, and a winsome touch of clove. Barely full-bodied, it is a graceful, subtle red that grows more interesting with each sip (as only the best wines do). The tannins, while plenty ripe, are pretty formidable, and we are not sure that there is enough fruit here to carry the wine deep into the future. But who cares – the Geyserville drinks so beautifully now that you probably won’t be able to keep your hands off any bottles earmarked for the cellar.

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