Ridge’s East Bench vineyard, named for it’s location on the benchland that runs the far Eastern edge of Dry Creek Valley north of Healdsburg, is an ideal place to grow Zinfandel. Although the site is fairly new to the winemakers at Ridge, this vineyard has a long viticultural history. The original vines were abandoned in the early 1900’s, and over the last 30 years, more and more of these vineyard blocks have been replanted. The East Bench Zinfandel, a single-varietal single-vineyard wine, was first produced in 2006. The 2016 East Bench is produced from vines planted in 2000 and 2001.
East Bench was re-planted with specially-selected vine cuttings. These cuttings, from four pre-Prohibition era vineyards, were chosen for their quality and pedigree. Like the Zinfandel vines in the Geyserville and Lytton Springs vineyards, the vines at East Bench are head trained (no trellis) and spur-pruned. More than 40 years of experience has taught that growing Zinfandel this way creates consistently high-quality wines with unparalleled complexity and depth of flavour.
The soil in this benchland vineyard was formed approximately 80 million years ago. A blend of clay loam with ancient river rock, it is iron-rich and reddish in colour. Deep and well-weathered, it is ideal for growing wine grapes, especially Zinfandel. The soils are identical across the bench, as are the climatic conditions, giving the vines the chance to demonstrate their distinctive character as they mature fully.
To convey the uniqueness of the site itself, each parcel ferments separately using only native yeasts. After the wines undergo a natural malolactic fermentation, only the most intense, distinctive lots are included in the finished wine. By taking a hands-off approach to winemaking, the vineyard expresses its true character in the glass.
A true Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, East Bench shows the characteristic cherry fruit and dusty spice that are the hallmarks of the appellation. Deep ruby in colour with mixed red fruit on the nose, the palate is beautifully layered with subtle vanilla and oak spice, black cherry, and raspberry. Fine-grained tannins and bright tart-cherry acidity play long through the finish. You’ll be in good company when you pour East Bench Zinfandel: the 2014 was served at President Obama’s final Presidential dinner on October 18, 2016.
The 2017 vintage is a new release that has yet to be reviewed. The 2016 vintage received the following:
“This is the 11th vintage for this wine which has been made as a single-site Zinfandel since 2006. The estate owned vineyards are situated on the high bench land that overlooks the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma from the east. After two short crops the vineyard set a full crop in 2016. The production in 2016 was 6000 cases compared with 5000 cases in 2015. The wine has a deep color with a lovely berry perfume accented by an underlying floral briary note. On the palate, it has delicious boysenberry tinged fruit with a briary nuance and a tinge of spice. With very pure and distinctive fruit the wine is delicious now, but will blossom with a few years bottle age. Tasted over several days the wine opened and became more expressive. If you drink it now I would recommend decanting before serving.”
“Outstanding”, The Underground Wine Letter, May 2018
“The 2016 Zinfandel East Bench is supported by bright acids that give the wine the tension and energy that are typical of Dry Creek. Primary sweet red and purplish berry fruit notes are pushed forward in this vibrant, beautifully delineated pure Zinfandel. Readers may want to cellar the 2016 for a few years, as it is tightly wound today, but all the elements are impeccably balanced. The East Bench abuts the Syrah block at Lytton Springs. Put simply: what a wine! 2018-2026”
94 points, Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Aug 2018
“The 2016 Zinfandel East Bench offers up classic aromas of blackberry, cherry pit, warm spices and licorice. On the palate, it’s medium to full-bodied, with velvety tannins, an ample core of succulent fruit and lovely balance. Generous and structurally open-knit, this is already delicious, but it should be well worth following for the next 8 years or more.”
92 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, May 2018
“Coming from the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma and made from 100% Zinfandel, the 2016 East Bench is a classic, perfumed, elegant example of this variety. Black raspberries, blueberries, incense, peppery spice, and potpourri notes all emerge from the glass and it’s medium bodied, nicely balanced, and seamless on the palate, with a tight, elegant texture that keeps you coming back to the glass. Give bottles a year or two and it should keep for a decade.”
91 points, Jeb Dunnuck’s Rhone Report, June 2018