Ridge Lytton Springs 2018
Standing at Ridge Lytton Springs you face a piece of history. For it is here that Zinfandel first found a home in California, and it is here that Lytton’s century old vines continue to make great Zinfandel.
Lytton is named for sea captain William Lytton who purchased the property in the 1870s. Originally the property was much larger – from the lanai of the tasting room all that surrounds you was Lytton’s.
Directly off the lanai is perhaps one of the first and oldest blocks of Zinfandel planted in California. The vines are now crusted and cankerous with old age: many are cracking due to their own weight, revealing an inner heart-wood that will eventually be scabbed over, leaving very little nutrients to flow through to the grapes – hence, their concentration. Others suffer from “die-back”, one arm eerily stubby and stout, the other sinewy from made up production.
This first block is the heart of Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel – but it’s not all Zinfandel. It’s planted on a 6 x 6 vine formation, with every sixth vine being Carignane. Imagine rolling “6” on a die. The top corner dot is the Carignane plant. And in the vineyard this pattern is repeated over and over again. Why? Whomever loved this Carignane is now dead for over a 100 years – and he (or she) took their secret with them.
Looking left, or towards the highway, is a small rise. This is Lytton’s Petite Sirah. These vines, like all of the old vines at Lytton, are ugly. But the fruit is beautiful. Sadly, in all of Lytton the Petite’s life has been the hardest. The soil is poor and the slope is steep. If the first block of Lytton’s Zinfandel looks like a healthy, hearty centenarian then the Petite looks ready to be boarded up in a casket and laid to rest. Yet someone, many years ago, changed the entire pattern of Zinfandel plantings across Lytton (and maybe California) by making this hill all Petite Sirah. Why? Vines don’t speak but the wines they make do.
And here is what the 2018 Lytton Springs said to Antonio Galloni of Vinous:
“The 2018 Lytton Springs is magnificent. Elegant, layered and so complete, the 2018 has a lot to offer, but it needs time to fully come together. Sweet red cherry, red plum, blood orange, spice, mint and rose petal open up in the glass. Bright acids and beams of tannin give the wine its vibrant energy. Readers should plan on cellaring the 2018 for at least a few years. Wow! 96 points. ”
Maybe I am too romantic but Lytton often speaks to me, about the richness of flavor and historical marvel that is bound within its bottle, uniting hedonistic and intellectual pleasure into one. Don’t miss this wine.