After Hurricane Irene blew through, New York turned calm and sunny, and our friends Tony and Roger threw a dinner party “under the fig tree” in their Brooklyn backyard. Between the arugula, tomato and mozzarella salad and the greenmarket-based lasagne, Tony pulled out a mystery decanter.
The wine was a deep, rusty red, with aromas of tar and game, thick and slightly grainy on the palate, with flavors of earth, plum and dried herbs, turning to chocolate and raisin with air. We all knew it had some age on it, most of us assuming it was a decade old at least. But as to what it was? As we happily drained our glasses under the stars, our guesses ranged from Amarone to Hermitage to Chilean Cabernet. I rated it 88 points.
Tony finally revealed the wine to be a 1990 Mataro from Ridge Vineyards. Of course, then it all made sense: The thick texture and overripe fruit spoke of California, but the earthy, leather and forest floor notes, chewy tannins and sharp acidity evoked the Old World roots of this obscure variety. As far as I can tell, Evangelo is an old field-blend vineyard in Contra Costa County, mostly planted to Mataro (the historic name for Mourvèdre), with Zinfandel and Alicante.
Ridge made a few vintages of the wine in the 1990s, but seems to have given up the bottling. A pity, since this bottle was much better than the one reviewed by Wine Spectator in 1992, when it sold for $14. Sometimes a brawny, stubborn red needs time to show its true colors. Thanks for being patient, Tony.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Ridge Mataro California Evangelo Vineyards 1990.
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Mourvèdre bottlings from California.