Quiet Icons | California – Ravenswood Winery

Tell me more about Ravenswood

Ravenswood (based in Sonoma, just north of San Francisco) was an early pioneer of single vineyard zinfandel. The original Ravenswood Winery was founded by Joel Peterson in 1976 and stood shoulder to shoulder with Ridge Vineyards through the 80s and early 90s. Ridge remains a byword among collectors, but the key to establishing this reputation was the quality of their signature Bordeaux blend, Monte Bello. The single vineyard zinfandel-based blends, on the other hand, remain the insider’s pick.

For the first 20 or so years, Ravenswood was a passion project; Joel continued working as a cancer immunology researcher at the local hospital. This makes it all the more remarkable that the wines from this period are, for me at least, some of the best wines they made. Ravenswood does not have the same cult status as Ridge and I suspect that the ubiquitous presence of their affordable supermarket blends played a part here.

The direction of the estate was crystallised in 2001 when Joel sold the winery to the big guys, Constellation Brands. Although Joel continued to make single vineyard wines at Ravenswood and his son, Morgan Twain Peterson, went on to found the excellent Bedrock Wine Co. somewhat in the image of the original Ravenswood, I do think that the original legacy of Ravenswood has been obscured if not lost.    

In light of the later developments at Ravenswood post-2001, Ravenswood is arguably a far less obvious place to look for thrilling low production, handmade wines but the wines from this era stand their ground. As with Ridge, the single vineyard zinfandels from the 80s and the early 90s offer striking value. These are wines which reward and really demand ageing. I have been looking for well-stored parcels for the last ten years and I was thrilled to find these.