Classics come in many forms. One particularly intriguing combination of classics is a mainstay in the Livermore wine scene, combining classic cars, classic wine, and classic tasting experiences. That’s right, we are talking about Cuda Ridge Wines!
Our relationship with Cuda Ridge Wines dates back to the days where the tasting room boasted both a classic Barracuda car and a ridge. The passing years have seen many changes, but the wine has only gotten better and the fan base larger. Now the relocated tasting room is quite spacious, with a pair of granite-topped tasting bars, two other rooms for seated tastings, and two bounding patios complete with umbrella tables.
Owner/winemaker Larry Dino has been making great Bordeaux-style wines from Livermore grapes for a very long time. That means that the tasting room is never short of happy wine tasters, many of whom are club members. The purpose-built tasting room allows them to easily handle a Saturday afternoon surge with aplomb. We arrived to find a typical Cuda Ridge scene: Larry’s wife Margie was greeting people as they arrived, often by name, and pouring the proper wine in each glass effortlessly. We chose an open spot along one of the bars and prepared for our tasting.
We started with their 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, a great start for its pineapple flavors and clean finish. A great palate cleanser! Next up was their 2016 Semillon, which Margie mentioned was aged in Acacia barrels. Acicia wood is an up-and-coming alternative to oak for aging wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. In this case, it helped to produce a wine with aromas of apricot and flavors of sour lemon and apricot. A bracing wine, perfect for pool side sipping.
Our next taste was an immediate favorite: their 2015 Merlot. It showed a traditional Merlot nose, with flavors of Bing cherry and a minerality that was quite pleasing. This led off our Take Home list. Just when we thought we had found our favorite, Margie poured their 2016 Cabernet Franc, which she said was just released. A bouquet of flowers on the nose and a balanced progression of pitted fruit leading to a great fruity finish. More great wine for our Take Home list.
Their 2015 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon was next. The “Black Label” in the name indicates a wine that is outside the traditions of Bordeaux winemaking. The grapes were from the White Cat and Smith Ranch Vineyards and then aged in both American and French Oak. We enjoyed the faint strawberry aromas and the tannic kick on the finish. Another Black Label, their 2016 Syrah was impressive, with a cascade of blackberry, raspberry and tobacco leading to tannins and acid on the finish. We would lay this down for a few years to get the most out of it.
We next tasted an Orange County Fair Gold Medal winner: their 2015 Petit Verdot. This wine delivered sustained layers of ripe cherries and chocolate. Our tasting flight wrapped up with their amazing 2016 Malbec. A very light and drinkable Malbec with a bright nose, we fell in love with it and added it to our ever-growing Take Home list.
With a bag full of wine and hopes of just one more tasting, we thanked Margie for a wonderful experience and set off. Just one more winery for our tour!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?