Ravenswood Zinfandel and My Journey into Red Wine
It sounds funny now, nearly thirty years later, but there was a time when I made trips to the northern California wine country and would bring back cases of Ravenswood Vinter’s Blend Zinfandel purchased from a supermarket. This wine could be bought for about five or six bucks at local California supermarkets in the 80s and early 90s. But, why would I want to do that? Well, two reasons were that (a) it was that good, and (b) it had not yet made it into stores in Houston, Texas. I can honestly say that it was the first domestic red wine that I really enjoyed… glass after glass, bottle after bottle.
I was already traveling the Napa and Sonoma wine trails (Highways 121, 12 and 29) and Ravenswood Winery was on my path north of San Francisco. As I recall, the first stops on this trek were consistently at Cline, Ravenswood, Kenwood and then I’d continue on to points north. At Ravenswood Winery, I confess that I learned the meaning of single vineyard designated wines and how different hillsides could express subtle and even profound differences. In retrospect, this was my introduction to the meaning of the arguably nebulous term – Terroir.
At this point, I had mixed cases of single vineyard designated Zinfandels sent back to Houston – usually three or four bottles of each vineyard’s wines. These wines also had a profound impact on my wine education and knowledge of the factors that contribute to the agability of wine. Back then, each bottle of single vineyard Zin carried a list of harvest and wine parameters. It was through this trial and error method that I found the importance of the wine’s acidity on its aging characteristics. It was always true that the Ravenwood Zins that held up the best over 5 to 10 years were those with the highest acidity (lowest pH). I’ve even learned to sense acidity in wines through tastings and factor this in when I select wines (no matter what the region) to set aside in my wine cooler for a later time.
Just a week ago, I found a bottle of Ravenswood “Old Vine” Zin in my local market and brought it home with the intent to re-establish the connect I once had with the wines of Ravenwood Winery. It was divine right out of the bottle, paired well with my medium-rare New York strip and cost-effective at only $12 or thereabouts offering deep highly saturated red hue, full body, and aromas of plums, blueberries, chocolate and spice on the finish.
No sooner had I had this experience and I posted my reactions on Instagram and Twitter that I received an invitation from the Houston Chronicle’s Dale Robertson to meet in Houston with Gary Sitton, the heir to Joel Peterson’s Ravenswood Winery creation. We shared recent vintages of Ravenswood single vineyard designated Zinfandels and Zin field blends. It was an honor to meet the man, to taste and discuss these excellent wines and come face-to-face with the philosophy that will guide this winery and its wines into the future, and that made such a big impact of my red wine education.
I guess I could say that, for me, all directions point to Ravenswood right now. Perhaps, they should for you, too.