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Ridge’s East Bench vineyard, named for its 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.
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.
“The site of an abandoned zinfandel vineyard from the 19th century, East Bench is close to Lytton Springs, at the border between the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. [VP of Vineyard Operations, David] Gates farms the vineyard as if it were one of the historic sites, the vines head trained and spur pruned. John Olney, now COO and head winemaker at Ridge, has been in charge at Lytton Springs since this project began. The vines are now hitting their stride, this wine’s grapes harvested just as the fires began in 2020, their fruit providing what may be the most beautiful East Bench Zinfandel yet. The wine feels completely ripe, a cool well of fruit surrounded by earthen depth of tannins. Over the course of several days, the wine yields flavors of blueberries, roses and savory herbs, the detail in the tannins suggesting a long life ahead.”
94 points, Joshua Greene, Wine & Spirits, June 2022
“Crimson in color. 14.8% ABV. 100% Zinfandel from Funsten Ranch. Enticing nose of red and black fruits, plums and cocoa. Medium body with tremendous acidity. Rich and savory. Strawberry, black raspberry, earth and pepper on the palate. The finish is long and supple. Super Zinfandel that is a perfect reflection of the Dry Creek Valley. Best over the next 3-5 years. $37 at at the winery and retail.”
92 points, Tom Lee, Zinfandel Chronicles, March 2022
“This big, boisterous 100% varietal wine piles fresh, grapy aromas on ripe blackberry and boysenberry flavors braced by moderate tannins and a full body. It is robust and fun, perfect for casual, meaty meals.”
90 points, Jim Gordon, Wine Enthusiast, June 2022