Joel Peterson started Ravenswood in 1976 to focus on his love of Zinfandel.
He planned to make single vineyard wines in a somewhat gothic, old world style. He wanted to make wine similar to that made in Europe but with a Californian twist; small open topped redwood fermenters, hand punch downs, extended macerations, native yeast, gentle transfer, minimal processing and small French oak aging – all done by hand. His hope was that the winery, if he was lucky, would grow to six or seven thousand cases. For a number of reasons, mostly dealing with the hard realities of cash flow and distribution and the necessity of equity partners, he found himself unable to make that vision of a small winery into a reality. Though he was able to make single vineyard wines that helped redefine the qualitative ceiling of California’s old vines, Ravenswood also started to make a wine called “Vintners Blend” that proved immensely popular. Thanks to that, starting in 1983, seven years after the first vintage, Ravenswood began to grow and over the following three decades its annual production kicked up to nearly one million cases, at one point becoming the bestselling red Zinfandel brand in the world.
Along the way, Joel have watched and participated in the growth and maturation of the California wine business. He has seen the increased sophistication of an expanding wine consumer population, and has worked with some of the best, most talented and nicest people in the wine business.
Joel went on to hold many positions within the California wine industry to President of Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers, one of the founders ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and key supporter and consultant to the Historic Vineyard Society. But one of the things Joel is most proud of is his son, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who has chosen winemaking as his career and runs the highly innovative and successful Bedrock Wine Company.
Both in the vineyard and in life, Joel have definitely learned a thing or two about vintage variation. He is enormously proud of the wines he made at Ravenswood, from those wines that sing of place - Old Hill Ranch, Dickerson, Belloni, Barricia, Teldeschi - to the more economical wines that helped turn a couple of generations of people onto the joy and deliciousness of well-wrought wine. However, after nearly 45 years in the wine business, it was time to return to his roots!
Once and Future Wine is the return to the original vision Joel had for Ravenswood so many years ago – a small project specializing in wines from unique, older vineyards, made with a sensitivity to place and in a style that he personally loves and believes in. Wines that force Joel to dust off the old redwood vats and get out a new punch down tool (his original one is in the Smithsonian), wines that dye his hands a harvest shade of black/purple and sometimes force him to take an additional Ibuprofen in the morning. In short - wines of sweat, commitment, and love.