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Rabbit Ridge Winery - Paso Robles - Central Coast


‘Unbelievable quality,” are the words being echoed by California winemakers about the 1997 Zinfandels.

“Phenomenal . . . dark . . . ripe . . . concentrated,” are typical comments used to describe the new releases. Wine Spectator magazine rates the 1997 Zinfandel vintage the best since 1994 and second best overall since they began keeping track in 1980.

“It’s without a doubt a huge year for Zinfandel,” says premier Zinfandel producer Erich Russell of Rabbit Ridge. Russell currently produces 10 different bottlings of Zinfandel and is considered one of the top Zin makers in the country. His multitude of bottlings come from vineyards spread throughout California, from as far south as Paso Robles and as far north as Mendocino. Quality, quantity and cost run the gamut too, depending on the palate for which he is producing the wine. From his 30,000 case production Sonoma County Zinfandel, which is a good everyday wine, to his 1,400 case Grand Reserve Zinfandel, produced for discriminating palates, each bottling has it’s own unique appeal.

Most of you have already experienced the wonderful Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel that was featured in the Gold Series a few months ago. It was a hugely popular selection that sold very quickly. Now in the Platinum Series, we take you to the pinnacle of Zinfandel quality with Rabbit’s top of the line, limited production 1997 Winemaker’s Grand Reserve Zinfandel. A perfect 3-stars (out of 3) from Connoisseur’s Guide is a rare occurrence, yet this wine achieved it. And it’s 91-point rating from Wine Spectator is an immense accolade for any wine.

Rabbit Ridge owner-and winemaker Erich Russell, was just named “Winemaker of the Year” by nationally known and respected wine columnist, Dan Berger. Summing things up, Berger says, “My winemaker of the year for 1998 makes great wine. Rabbit Ridge may not have a lot of international panache going for it, no inky Cabernet Sauvignon that causes critics to veritably sing their reviews, but it offers superb values and wonderful tastes that work beautifully with meals.”

Perhaps just as phenomenal as the quality of their wines, is the manner in which the winery has hopped into the California wine scene during the last 18 years. “We grew the operation slowly and with zero financing from outside sources,” says owner Erich Russell. He and a former partner started the winery in 1981 and literally did everything themselves. From harvesting to crushing, bottling to bookkeeping, sales to shipping. They maintained total control of every aspect, from vine to wine and out the door. Along the way they produced nothing but stellar wines year-in and year-out. But as a result, it took them twelve grueling years to reach the milestone 10,000 case production-level. Still small by most standards, incredibly, in 1993 Erich and his partner were still literally doing everything themselves, while at the same time producing over twenty different wines.

By 1996 his small winery had impressively tripled in size from 10,000 to 30,000. But then something unimaginable happened. “I thought we would max out our production at around 40,000 to 50,000 cases,” recalls Erich. “Then as an experiment, we introduced a group of “popular-priced” Rabbit Ridge wines that sell for under $10.00 retail,” he continued. Faster than rabbits can multiply, word of these good quality, low-priced wines spread like crazy. “Just like that, we were up to 170,000 cases,” Erich says with a snap of the fingers.

Today, Erich has developed three different quality tiers, differentiated by the label design, but all carrying the Rabbit Ridge name. The biggest chunk of production goes into the popular priced tier with the blue denim color label. “I took off my denim shirt and used it as the background,” he says. “These are the ‘everyday’ casual wines for under $10,” he explains. The white and gold colored label is for the mid-tier “weekend” wines ranging from $12.00 to $25.00. And finally, the upper-tier “Grand Reserve” wines use a platinum-colored label. These are special occasion wines that retail for $25.00 and up.

Rabbit Ridge wines have consistently won top medals in every major wine-industry competition for years. After more than eighteen years of practical experience, experimentation and fine tuning, Rabbit Ridge has rightfully emerged as one of California’s best premium wineries. Noted wine critic, Robert Parker Jr. recently commented, “This winery continues to impress me with its rich, pure, tasty wines that admirably express the varietal characteristics and offer considerable pleasure. It is hard to find a disappointing wine from Rabbit Ridge.” We too have become big fans of Rabbit Ridge. The winery is one of the all time favorites among Gold Medal Wine Club members. A taste of the delectable Grand Reserve Zinfandel will tell you why.



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