When Joel Peterson founded Ravenswood Winery in 1976, his moto was “no wimpie wines.” He built Ravenswood on California’s signature grape – Zinfandel. He did not have enough money to buy land so he began by purchasing grapes from area growers. Today, these growers are featured in Ravenswood Single Vineyard Designate Zinfandels (SVD). I recently tasted through the 2015 vintage with Ravenswood Director of Winemaking, Gary Sitton.
Gary Sitton explains to me the philosophy of the SVD Zinfandels is simple, to allow each vineyard site to shine through the wine. With this in mind, Sitton chooses a low intervention winemaking technique. Each wine is crafting using indigenous yeast, open-top fermentation, manual punch-downs, and French oak aging for 16 – 20 months. Employing these techniques allows each wine to express its unique terroir.
I recently sat down in Dallas with Gary Sitton for lunch, conversation, and wine tasting. It was a wonderful afternoon. Here is a look at the Ravenswood Single Vineyard Designation I tasted and my thoughts on each.
The Big River Vineyard is located in southern Alexander Valley. Its 500 ft elevation is above the fog line, resulting in cool afternoon breezes. The vineyard was planted in 1893.
2015 Ravenswood Big River Vineyard Zinfandel Alexander Valley USA ($39): Black and red fruit, baking spice, violets, fresh tobacco; elegant, restrained, high tannins that feel silky, balanced high acidity, full-bodied, long juicy finish. Visit Ravenswood to purchase.
The Belloni Vineyard is located in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. It is a cool, and flat, receiving morning fog. This vineyard was planted near the turn of the 20th century with Zinfandel, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet, and Petite Sirah.
2015 Ravenswood Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel Russian River Valley USA ($39): This wine is a field blend comprised of 75% Zinfandel and 25% other red grapes harvested from the vineyard; dark fruit – fresh and jammed, baking spice, dried roses, black pepper, licorice, cocoa; rich and bold yet elegant and restrained, silky high tannins, high acidity, structured, full-bodied, long finish. Visit Ravenswood to purchase.
Old Hill Vineyard is the star of the lot. The Sonoma Valley vineyard was planted around 1880. It was revitalized and is now organic. The 14 acre vineyard contains 26 different grape varieties co-mingling.
2015 Ravenswood Old Hill Vineyard Zinfandel Sonoma Valley USA ($60): This wine is a field blend comprised of 96.8% Zinfandel and 3.2% mixed black grapes; this is a complex and layered wine, notes of fresh picked field berries, baking spice, dried roses, licorice, dusty cocoa, black pepper, tobacco; it’s power is juxtaposed by its finesse; elegant, refined, brooding; bold tannins feel silky and restrained, high acidity, balanced and well-structured with a long spicy finish. Visit Ravenswood to purchase.
Barricia Vineyards is an old, low production vineyard located in Sonoma Valley. It contains 6-acres of Zinfandel planted before 1892, 4-acres of Zinfandel planted in 1995, and 2-acres of Petite Sirah planted in 1998.
2015 Ravenswood Barricia Vineyard Zinfandel Sonoma Valley USA ($39): A dark wine with notes of baked black fruit, baking spice, dried violets, dusty earth; it is brooding and intense; pronounced tannins are surprisingly silky and approachable, high acidity, well-structured, full-bodied with a long finish. Visit Ravenswood to purchase.
Teldeschi Vineyards is located in Dry Creek Valley. It is located in the northern end of the valley where it is particularly warm. The vineyards were planted between 1913 – 1919. According to Ravenswood, the Teldeschi Vineyard produces the highest quality Zinfandel they purchase from Dry Creek Valley.
2015 Ravenswood Teldeschi Vineyards Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley USA ($39): This wine is a field blend of 78.2% Zinfandel, 15.8% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane, and 1% Alicante Bouschet; a deeply brooding Zinfandel, inky black in color; notes of baked black berries and plums, baking spice, black pepper, licorice, dusty cocoa, and dried roses; full-bodied, rich and bold, pronounced tannins with a crushed silk feel that glides across the palate, high acidity, long finish. Visit Ravenswood to purchase.
Dickerson Vineyard is located is located on Zinfandel Lane, on the west side of Napa Valley, sheltered by the Mayacamas Mountains. The north end of the vineyard is lined with eucalyptus trees, bestowing an undeniable influence on the wine’s flavors. This ten acres vineyard contains vines planted in 1930, 1973, and 1985.
2015 Ravenswood Dickerson Vineyard Zinfandel Napa Valley USA ($42): This wine is crafted of 100% Zinfandel; opening with notes of red fruit – raspberry, cherry, currants, baking spice, dried savory herbs, fresh tobacco, eucalyptus; elegant and round on the palate, full-bodied, high tannins that feel silky and refined, high acidity, a restrained wine with finesse. Visit Ravenswood to purchase.
Get your own Ravenswood Single Vineyard Designation wine and let me know what you think of it.