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Walnut Creek Magazine

Ravenswood Flies Full-Circle

Aug 24, 2018 01:57PM ● By Fran Miller
BY FRAN ENDICOTT MILLER

You know the logo: three black ravens intertwined in an art-deco circle of totality and timelessness. It’s perhaps the most tattooed wine logo in the biz, and those who sport it receive free tastings for life at Sonoma’s Ravenswood Winery tasting room. Is it simply the logo’s mesmerizing and iconic design – nearly synonymous with California’s pioneering wine spirit – or a true love of Ravenswood’s dark, inky Zinfandels that leads fans to brand themselves with the ring of ravens? The answers probably depend on the subject’s date of ‘inking:’
 
Tattoos begotten in the late 70s are likely an homage to Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson, a wine industry maverick who in 1976 bet on the underdog Zinfandel varietal – and eventually won big. Educated as a clinical laboratory scientist with a degree in microbiology, the Point Richmond, California native started making wine while working full-time in cancer research. He founded Ravenswood in 1976, but didn’t retire from clinical work until 1992 when Ravenswood first turned a profit, and industry expert Robert Parker gave his blessing by pronouncing Ravenswood wines as ‘first class, bold, dramatic, and complex.’ Today, Petersen continues his work with Ravenswood as consultant to the 100+ NorCal growers who provide grapes for Ravenswood wines. 
Those who ‘inked’ the raven logo in the 80s were perhaps paying tribute to Ravenswood’s regional distinction. It was during this time that Peterson created the Ravenswood County Series – his move to make Zin not just with grapes from one vineyard, but with fruit from varied Sonoma County properties. Then, from the County Series, it was a practical jump to Vintners Blend– Ravenswood’s affordable everyday wines, which debuted in the mid ’80s and to this day are a household staple for Zin lovers.

A raven tattoo inked in the 90’s perhaps heralds the winery’s general success and its move to a place of its own on Sonoma’s outskirts. Ravenswood was a wandering winery for many years, with its longest duration – 10 years – at a one-time vegetable packing warehouse and woodworking shop. And anyone to get raven ‘tatted’ in the 21st century might be a fan of the adage ‘everything old becomes new again.’ Not many wineries can claim philosophical and winemaking consistency for more than 30 years, but Ravenswood can.

Much has changed in the wine world since 1976, but Ravenswood stands by its love of old-vine varietals and its believe in Old-World winemaking. Current director of winemaking and general manager Gary Sitton shares Peterson’s standards of continuing to create uncompromising wines that are beautifully representative of their provenance. From their Single Vineyard Designate wines, as unique as the individual vineyards they’re from and the people who farm them, to the County Series wines that capture the spirit of California’s best growing regions, and the popular Vintners Blend bottlings sourced from vineyards throughout California, Ravenswood strives to put what is picked from the fields right into the bottle. 
Raven ring tattooed or not, and Zin lover or not, visit the Ravenswood tasting room and terrace to experience the full variety of their wines which extend well beyond those made with California’s Heritage Grape:

  • Walk-In Tasting: Taste a selection of six small-lot wines at at the tasting bar: $25/pp.
  • Terrace Tasting: An al frescoseated tasting of a selection of six small-lot wines brought to your table: $25/pp, first come, first served.
  • Barrel Tasting with Winery and Vineyard Tour: A walk and talk through Ravenswood’s old-world vineyards followed by a barrel room sneak peek of “what’s to come” and a sampling straight from the barrel. 10:30am daily, $30/pp. Reservation required.
  • Library Tasting: Joel Peterson opens his personal cellar for the opportunity to taste Ravenswood wines over the decades. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m., $60/pp, $50 for wine club members. Reservations required. 
  • Blending Seminar: Create your own perfect union of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignane, then take your masterpiece home in a 375 ml bottle. Daily, 10am, $75/pp. Reservations required.
  • Private Tasting with a Senior Wine Educator: A wine educator guides you through a tasting of small lot Single Vineyard Designated Zinfandels while sharing the history of each vineyard. Sunday through Thursday, 10:30am through 3:30pm. $50/pp. Reservations required.
Ravenswood Winery: 18701 Gehricke Road, Sonoma
Make a reservation online or call (707) 933-2332.
Photos by John Curley