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Ravenswood Winery: Independence and Zinfandel

How many wine producers can say that their first wines they produced came in #1 and #2 at a prestigious San Francisco tasting? Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson maybe one of the only people who can honestly make this claim on behalf of his label. The first wines to bear his ring of ravens were a pair of single-vineyard Sonoma County Zinfandels and they made quite a splash at their introduction in 1979.

Even with such a strong critical start and the financial backing that came with it, Peterson still did not have the funding necessary to purchase the high-dollar real estate required to buy his own vineyards. He had to come up with an innovative solution for his fledgling winery to continue crafting wine.

Peterson did what any wine maker would do – he began to look for more grapes. As he did, he forged relationships with growers that, over time, became strong bonds. Ravenswood now produces wines from the grapes of many different growers. At last count, more than 60 independent contributing growers help make Ravenswood wines.

Peterson even shares space on the label of his Single Vineyard Designate wines. Each one proudly displays the name of the vineyard where the contributing fruit grew. These vintages have very limited production. They are only available to taste at Ravenswood’s own visitor’s center. This is one very good reason to put Ravenswood on your touring itinerary.

The winery grew and the vintages produce were well-received. However, the location kept changing. Ravenswood moved five times in its first five years. The “wandering winery” even settled down for a decade or so in a tin-roofed shelter that was once a vegetable packing warehouse and woodworking shop whose specialty was wooden toilet seats. Finally, in 1991, Ravenswood was able to make a permanent home in the outskirts of Sonoma. It is this location that has become one of the favored stops on Sonoma Valley tours.

Ravenswood sticks to old school techniques when it comes to making wine. Starting out, Peterson admired the European wines that were made without much technological interference in the relatively privative methodology. He wanted to use the Old World techniques, but realized he would have to be vigilant to produce consistent quality.

These time-honored techniques can still be seen in use at Ravenswood. The wines are fermented in small, open-topped tanks. Temperatures are allowed to get quite warm to extract as much flavor as possible. Native yeasts are used instead of commercial cultures for a broader range of aroma and flavor. The wines are aged in small, French casks. These and other techniques contribute to the bold and distinctive “non-wimpy” taste unique to this label.

Visit Ravenswood to see these Old World techniques in action. The onsite wine educator will guide you through the vineyard, the barrel room and perhaps even a hand-on lesson in blending. You may even want to return the next day to continue your studies.

Don’t miss out, click here to book your trip to Ravenswood Winery today! or call us at 1-800-820-2059