October 2008                               


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

Mr Ravenswood – Joel Peterson

After closely following and admiring the wines of Ravenswood for a number of years, I had the pleasure of meeting Joel Peterson at a small media luncheon in Washington, DC. As chief winemaker/master of operations, he has made a variety of top-notch wines there since co-founding the Sonoma-based winery in 1976, but it's his single-vineyard Zinfandels that are most famous and have become legendary among fans of the grape. Ravenswood went public in 1999 and sold to Constellation Brands in 2001, making Joel a rich man. Not typical for someone in this position, and to our good fortune, he stayed on as master of operations and became a Constellation senior V.P. in the process.
With the motto “No Wimpy Wines”, you can guess that none of their wines are light and delicate, yet they still possess plenty of attractive fruit and are well balanced. There are three quality levels in the Ravenswood line up, with those labeled Vintner’s Blend being the least expensive, the regional line (labeled Sonoma County, Napa Valley, etc.) being next in line and their single vineyard wines being their best and most expensive. All possess high quality for the price.
Ravenswood's climb to big-time production and big-business ownership has resulted in a loss of their 1980s chic-boutique winery image. At the same time, Ravenswood has become more of a household name among more casual wine drinkers. There is certainly a long laundry list of famous California wineries that sold-out on quality somewhere along the way for profit, but I'm happy to say that Ravenswood is not one of them.
Some of their most easily found selections are listed below. For a more detailed description of Ravenswood’s wines and my meeting with Joel, please refer to the in-depth article.

Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County $18 *
Merlot Sonoma County $18 *
Zinfandel Lodi $15 *
Zinfandel Napa Valley $15 *
Zinfandel Sonoma County $15 *

Vintner’s Blend (Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel) $10 *

* available in Montgomery County