I am not generally one for cults of personality, but in the wine world there are certain individuals who just stand head and shoulders above the crowd. In California there are several, Randy Dunn, Jim Clendenen and, paramont, Paul Draper.
I have long been a fan of Draper’s Ridge Vineyards; although I have only tasted his Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon once, I have indulged in multiple vintages of his Geyserville and Lytton Springs Zinfandels
After the success of Monday’s chicken ‘n’ roots, we invited neighbours François and Claude over for a rematch. The chicken lost, but did not die for nothing; it was a succulent, juicy four pounder, with roasted turnips, potatoes, parsnips and long shallots.
François likes to drink old, often pulling out Burgundies from his seemingly endless supply of wines from the seventies, eighties and nineties. So I too wanted to pull something with a little age, so I chose my penultimate bottle of 1995 Lytton Springs.
This wine is a phenomenon; of the twelve bottle case, not one has ever shown the slightest defect, and they seem to be age proof. At nineteen the colour is a saturated purple, with a brambly, spicy nose. There is the secondary sweet and jammy fruit that comes with age, but in no way is this turning towards compote or confit.
It’s a tasty and lively wine with fruit and potential for a little while yet. Paul Draper’s wines just age majestically, and looking at their site, I am quite surprised that they only use American oak because the wines show no cloying sweetness, just balanced and well harnassed fruit.
We followed this with a bottle of 1999 Camartina from Querciabella. Accompanying Neal’s Yard Stilton and farmhouse Cheddar fresh (at vast expense!) from Dijon’s market. At fifteen this wine remains remarkably young and full. It is a lot more forceful than the Ridge but retains a certain grace and poise. I don’t think Camartina will ever rise to the heights of a great Bordeaux, but it is a satisfying drop never the less.
As the clock strolled past midnight, we finished up with a small glass of Jacopo Poli grappa – François usually offers a most ferocious Eaux de Vie de Prune – and then it was bed at 12,30.
It’s not often that happens, but moderation in all things.