The folks at Ripken had things figured out. First of all, there was a theme – “PS – I Love You.” PS in this case stands for Petite Sirah, Ripken’s specialty. Second, they placed tasting stations all around the facility so that visitors could progress through their wines in a specific order. Despite these specific elements, the folks pouring and staffing the event were casual and easygoing, and seemed to be enjoying themselves and their guests quite a bit.
The tasting route took us first around the right side of the building to a tasting table for the first set of wines. Next it was on to the back of the building where there were more tasting tables, guest seating and a fire pit. The concrete patio was thoroughly enscribbled with sidewalk chalk, which visitors were encouraged to use to express their own artistic impulses. We heard rumors of S’mores, but we were there late on the last day of the weekend and I think they had run out.
Winery co-owner Richard Ripken was pouring at the table in back of the building, and he explained some of the issues and decisions grape growers and winemakers must consider in order to develop fruit with the specific flavor attributes they want. Richard’s admonition was to resist the temptation to water too early.
Proceeding from the back around to the other side of the building we encountered a table full of silly wigs, hats and novelty sunglasses that Elton John would consider garish. We learned that this was not some perverse sobriety test – the props were actually for a photo booth the staff had set up. In exchange for your email address, Ripken would send you a link to a strip of four photos featuring you and your companions in crazy get-ups. I put on a wig resembling Slash’s hair (from Guns and Roses) and was told it was an improvement over the styling of my real hair.
After photo fun it was on to the inside of the building to taste dessert wines.
All the wines we tasted at Ripken were Petite Sirah except as noted.
2004 “Wedding Wine”: Fruity, jammy and warm with a taste of grape peel at the finish. Exuberant. Nikki says: I noticed a candied plum scent and a tangy plum taste. I also noticed that my adjectives seemed to have become limited to “prune,” “plum,” “candy” and “caramel” by this point in the day.
2005 “Wedding Wine”: Similar to the ’04 but with a hint of pepper and some cherry flavors. Nikki says: It seemed less harshly sour at the finish to me.
2004 “Rhonealicious”: Higher acidity made this lighter-bodied wine brighter, and the aclohol was more apparent.
2004 “Idyllwild Station”: I noted that it had a scent of raspberries, then when I reached for the glass for a second taste it was empty! I’m going to have to get Nikki to share her thoughts on this wine here. Nikki says: Ally my notebook says is “Chocolate coated plum scent.” On the bright side I’d found a fifth adjective; on the down side, I had no tasting notes.
2005 “Rhonealicious”: Definite notes of cherries and raspberries with a warm character. Nikki says: I tasted tart blackberries, like blackberries taste when they aren’t quite ripe.
2007 “Rhonealicious”: This wine is 5% Tannat and 5% Malbec. It’s jammy and fruity with berry flavors, and just enough spiciness on the finish.
2008 Petite Sirah: This double-gold winner was intense with fruit flavor, nicely balanced with the alcohol.
2008 Late Harvest Viognier Dessert Wine: A beautiful creamy mouthfeel. Grapefruit in the aroma but less so on the tongue. Rich, caramel-butter finish. Nikki says: My notes say “CANDY CANDY YUMMY CANDY! I WANT MORE!” As you may have noticed, I liked it.
2005 Port: Cherries, wood, alcohol and licorice make this a dessert wine that demands to be taken seriously.