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Fueled initially by the inspiration and wine-making skills of Joel Peterson, aided and abetted by his business partner, Reed Foster, Ravenswood Winery has been totally dedicated to top quality, hand-crafted wines since the first crush in 1976. That first year’s crush produced enough juice to make 327 cases of Zinfandel. Released three years later, this big, stylish wine set a standard that succeeding vintages have followed.
Since 1976, every Ravenswood wine possesses a unique vintage and vineyard identity in addition to the intense, powerful (gothic) character with which the Ravenswood Winery has come to be associated. These attributes arise from what can be called our stubborn and impractical Old World oenological practices. Ravenswood Winery remains uncompromising in the care and selection of grapes and the vineyards that grow them.
Let’s face it, no one will ever mistake winemakers for practical, easy-going folks. Then again, no one will ever mistake our wine for anything but fine quality, handcrafted wine that speaks for itself.
We at Ravenswood Winery produce our wines with confidence, based on time-tested methods and an intimate knowledge of our product. Ravenswood Winery takes the business of producing wines very seriously, but like to think that we offer our customers an approachable attitude toward wine consumption. Let’s get wine off its pedestal and onto the dinner table!
Recognizing the natural synergies between Ravenswood and Franciscan Estates Fine Wine Division, Constellation Brands purchased Ravenswood Winery in July 2001. Franciscan’s emphasis on terroir and commitment to produce the highest quality wines with a strong relationship between quality, value and price fit well with Ravenswood’s model.
While the Vintners Blend Series (Zinfandel, Merlot and Chardonnay) stresses early accessibility, Ravenswood's other hand-crafted releases, such as our Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, and Gewurztraminer to name a few, possess a unique vintage and vineyard identity in addition to an intense, powerful character with which the winery has come to be associated. Our wines ferment in open top wooden and stainless steel tanks and rely upon wild, natural yeasts. Grape stems are frequently added for structure, and the cap of skins is punched mechanically or by hand three to five times per day. We age our wine in small French oak barrels, fine it gently with egg whites, and eschew filters and centrifuges as much as possible because we believe they tend to diminish flavor.
Known to many simply as the "gold country", the Sierra Foothills region of California - east of the city of Sacramento - has also been home to some serious Zinfandel grapes for over a century. Sourced from older vineyards near Fiddletown and averaging 3-3.5 tons per acre within the sub-region of Amador County, this bright, lively Zinfandel displays juicy flavors of ripe red cherries, wild berries, cracked pepper and aromatic spices. 12 months aging in French oak has rounded and deepened the fruit components, while contributing subtle elements of vanilla and toast. Lively acidity and moderate tannins allow for early drinkability, but the structure for additional bottle age is apparent as well. Well balanced and structured for an additional 7+ years of bottle age, this wine is, nonetheless, an attractive dinner companion even in its relative youth.
This rich, round, full-flavored Zinfandel is drawn from two distinct vineyards in the Lodi appellation. The 100 year old Kettleman Road Vineyard provides roughly 75% of the blend. Well drained sandy soils and mature vines contribute to the low (2.5 tons per acre) yield, resulting in thick, rich, concentrated blueberry fruit and soft spice. The remainder of the fruit is grown on the 35 year old Perrin Vineyard, which provides bright, lively berry flavors hinting at raspberry. 12 months maturation in a combination of new and used French oak barrels has rounded and fattened the wine while contributing notes of vanillin and subtle spice. Deliciously drinkable young for its precocious, soft, spicy berry fruit and lush texture, this classic Lodi Zin will continue to evolve over the next 5-6 years
From the county of Mendocino, just north of Sonoma County, comes this new addition to the Ravenswood family of Zinfandels. 100% Zinfandel, drawn from two distinct vineyards - Bartolomei and Lalanne - this youthfully delicious wine sports alluring aromas of dark fruit and smokey oak. Bright and lively at this early stage of life, the texture is round and full and the opening flavors of wild berries, black cherries, plum, pomegranate and dark chocolate are accented with hints of baking spice, black pepper and creamy oak. While the pleasure of drinking this wine in its youth is obvious, the advantage of choosing to age this wine an additional 4-6 years would be the evolution of the more subtle complex flavors of the mature wine.
The Napa Valley Zinfandel is roughly in the same category as our Sonoma County Zinfandel. Ravenswood has had the good fortune to find some exciting Napa Zinfandel growers. Mature grapes from mature vineyards throughout Napa Valley are used in this wine. The wine has high aromatic scents of raspberries, cherries, plum and spice — aromas which integrate nicely with the vanilla tones of the French oak. Good acidity keeps the wine bright and lively on the palate, while the concentrated fruit flavors add a richness to the flavor that lingers long in the finish of the wine. This Zinfandel should maintain its lovely high tone fruit over the next four to five years and then begin the transformation to a more complex, spicy wine with evolving bottle bouquet.
The epitome of mature vine, regional Zinfandel our Sonoma County Zinfandel "Old Vine" has become recognized by most as our flagship product. Many even opine that dollar for dollar it's the best wine we offer. Sonoma County Zinfandel tastes the way great Zinfandel is supposed to taste; full, spicy and richly berry-like, but balanced with firm astringency. Our blend, from several vineyards in the northern part of the County, also has the black cherry and mint characteristics that we've come to expect from that region. Most of the grapes are from 60- to 80-year-old vines on the Dry Creek benchland west of Healdsburg - a location that many wine enthusiasts (including, presumably, the intuitive Italians who originally chose to plant in this area) consider ideal for Zinfandel. Another large portion comes from a vineyard near Cloverdale which produces small-berried, compact bunches, hence, exceedingly pungent flavors. The full, aromatic Cloverdale character combined with the rich Dry Creek fruit produces a wine that is simultaneously powerful and elegant.
Subjected to long skin contact, aged 16 months in French oak, and fined lightly with fresh egg whites, this wine carries the rich, opulent and full-flavored character that has become the Ravenswood trademark. We expect the Sonoma County Zinfandel to soften and develop an excellent interplay between bottle age and youthful fruit in about five years. It will, however, continue to grow and offer pleasurable drinking for many years to come.
We believe that Sonoma County’s climate and growing conditions are ideal for Merlot, and we’re privileged to use some of the best of these grapes from numerous vineyards, mostly in Sonoma Valley. The Sangiacomo vineyard, in the Carneros region of lower Sonoma Valley, possesses soft, round, classically plum-like Merlot varietal character. Another star, Los Chamizal Vineyard, right up Gehricke Road from us, adds a deep, rich, spicy, cedar berry-like flavor as well as a good deal of color and astringency. Adding a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for perfume and structure make this wine a real winner. Rich, full-bodied and with scents of cedar and cherries, this Merlot will age well and be an admirable dinner companion. Given an outstanding combination of grapes, it isn’t surprising that Ravenswood’s Sonoma County Merlot has generated a tremendous amount of interest and excitement.
From the neighboring Napa Valley region - primarily the vineyards of Perez, Czapleski and a smattering of Dickerson - we harvest fruit for our Napa Valley Merlot. This wine is structured on a somewhat leaner, racier frame than it's Sonoma County stablemate. Aromas of bright red fruit and herb introduce juicy flavors of tart cherry, plum and a touch of cranberry, complemented by tar, spice and caramel accents. While twenty months in new and used French Oak has rounded and fattened the wine, it's lively acidity makes for an ideal food partner. To age an additional 5 or 6 years in bottle would allow for the development of further subtleties of flavor and aroma.
Ravenswood Cabernet Sauvignon is made to be aged. The wine is fermented for three to four weeks on the skins, allowing them to macerate even after the cap has sunk — a treatment that produces a lean, intense, well-structured, wine. The somewhat austere Cabernet is softened with Merlot and brightened with Cabernet Franc; up to two years in French oak adds a smoky, vanilla character. The resulting blend, which in some years is rather slow to develop, is always flavorful and complex, with an aromatic, spicy, brambly, mint quality and a slightly astringent finish. It will develop elegant bottle bouquet and aroma with eight to ten years of aging. It offers an incredible value for a top flight Cabernet.
If you are a French wine drinker, Cabernet Franc translates to St. Emilion in Bordeaux or Chinon in the Loire Valley. Until recently, in California it has meant almost nothing. There were only very small plantings, and those were usually blended with Cabernet or Merlot to add an attractive, spicy component to the wines. There is now more Cabernet Franc planted and, as a consequence, we are beginning to see the first varietal Cabernet Francs coming into the market.
Sonoma Valley hillside plantings, the source for this wine, are in well-drained soils that tend to limit the natural strong vigor of the Cabernet Franc vine, keep the tonnage low and the berries small and intense. The result is striking. The wine tends toward very concentrated with perfumes and considerable aromatics. Spice, leather, blackberries and smoky scents are all found in the aroma. The wine is rich and lively on the palate with a long, complex finish, punctuated with noticeable soft tannins.
Petite Sirah, like Zinfandel, is a grape variety that people who are supposed to know these things have no idea about. The experts used to say it was the same as the southern French grape Duriff, but new genetic studies say no. What we at Ravenswood say is, no matter what the origin or the name, Petite Sirah makes darn good wine. Thick skinned, deeply colored and peppery, these grapes produce intense wine. It is the variety planted in the old California field blends to give the wine color and tannin. Ravenswood’s Petite Sirah comes from hillside vineyards in Sonoma Valley and Dry Creek Valley. Both produce about three tons per acre, and both have enormous potential for wonderful wine. Our Petite Sirah is fermented in small open-top vats, using natural yeast and warm fermentation, then aged in small French oak cooperage for 16 months.
The wine is very dark in color and quite fragrant. When the nose develops, Blackberries, coffee, black pepper and other rich aromas are bountiful. This is always a big, ripe, rich, round, thick, moderately tannic wine that will delight fans of the Petite Sirah grape.