Joel Peterson is Ravenswood’s Master of Zinfandel
Ravenswood Winery makes a wide array of wines from various grapes. However, without question they are best known for Zinfandel. Their Vintner’s Blend is a widely available Zin crafted from fruit throughout California. At the other end of the spectrum are their highly regarded single vineyard wines, each produced exclusively from grapes sourced at one highly regarded site. Most of these small vineyards feature old vines with many decades on them, and often Ravenswood has been making wine from them for quite a few years. Right in the middle of those two categories is the County Series of Zinfandels. These are wines made from grapes sourced in a specific region. I’ll take a look at that trio today. It’s one that provides immense value year after year for Zinfandel lovers. At the heart of the winery is founder Joel Peterson, who has an incredible passion for Zinfandel.
First up is the Ravenswood 2009 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel. This wine is made from fruit sourced in namesake Lodi (97 percent) with a splash of fruit from the North Coast (3 percent). This offering is largely Zinfandel (77 percent) with a significant amount of Petite Sirah (23 percent) blended in. Fermentation took place with native yeasts, and aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 30 percent of the barrels were new. This wine is readily available all over the country and has a suggested retail price of $12.99. Dark plum and blueberry aromas lead the deep and pleasing nose of this 2009 Zinfandel. Loads of black raspberry and continued plum characteristics are apparent throughout the palate; they are also joined by lots of spice. Rhubarb and black cherry flavors emerge on the finish along with black peppercorn. This is a substantial Zinfandel that will pair well with grilled foods.
Next up is the Ravenswood 2010 Napa County Old Vine Zinfandel. The fruit for this wine came from several sections of Napa Valley -- Oakville and St. Helena to name a couple. In addition to Zinfandel (76 percent), this wine also has Petite Sirah (23 percent) and Carignane (1 percent) blended in as well. After fermentation with native yeasts, barrel aging occurred over 14 months in French oak, and 30 percent of the barrels utilized were new. This wine is widely available and has a suggested retail price of $15.99. Red and black fruit aromas such as cherry, raspberry and plum fill the nose of this 2010 Zinfandel. Black cherry flavors dominate the palate, which is layered and elegant. Hints of blackberry, cocoa, spice, black tea, rhubarb and espresso emerge on the finish which has excellent length for the category. This is a food lovers Zinfandel, and of the three wines described here, it will pair well with the widest array of foods. Whether you pair it with cheeses, pasta or even hero sandwiches, you’ll find out how versatile this wine is.
Finally we have the Ravenswood 2009 Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel. The fruit for this wine came from vines with an average age of 50 to 80 years. In addition to Zinfandel, this wine also has small amounts of Petite Sirah, Syrah and Carignane blended in. After native yeast fermentation, barrel aging was accomplished in French oak over a period of 18 months; 30 percent of the barrels were new. This widely available wine has a suggested retail price of $15.99. Bits of herbs underscore a boatload of black plum aromas on the nose of this 2009 Sonoma County Zinfandel. The juicy and welcoming palate is simply studded with succulent and appealing fruit flavors such as cherry, plum, and blueberry. Loads of peppery character emerges on the finish, alongside chicory and tobacco. This wine has a sold finish marked by good structure. This Zinfandel is a classic example of Sonoma County fruit; it’s a hearty wine meant to pair with equally hearty foods.
Lots of grapes are made in a variety of styles, but not all of them flourish in more than one. Zinfandel is one of those varietals that can be a star both as a fruit-forward and powerful wine, and also in a more classic Claret style -- as well as pretty much everywhere in between. Assuming, of course, that the grapes were grown and treated with proper care. Ravenswood makes wines in just about every style and designation imaginable. They truly do have a wine to suit every taste, and each is well made. If you’re not that familiar with the Ravenswood Wines, the County Series of Zins is a good place to start for both variety and value. It’s hard for me to pick one favorite from among these three. I find that their charm and appeal lies in how distinct they are. So for me it would depend on my mood and what I planned to eat. In any case, they’re all delicious and budget friendly.