Ravenswood is located in a leafy valley about a mile outside the town of Sonoma in California. It was founded in 1976 by winemaker Joel Peterson along with his fellow wine aficionado and business partner Reed Foster.
In the early days Ravenswood was very much a small-scale operation but owing to the worldwide success and demand for its zinfandels, it has grown significantly in both size and stature. The company has recently become part-owned by drinks giant Constellation Brands, although the culture here remains more boutique than corporate, and Joel has left to make his own wines once more.
Ravenswood control 14 hectares of their own vineyards and source the rest of their fruit from trusted contract growers in Sonoma with whom they have built long-standing relationships. Joel Peterson's governing philosophies and love of European-style wines were always, and still are, clearly evident however. Peterson learnt his winemaking craft with Joseph Swan, also a traditional-style producer, and on the Ravenswood website he declares, 'From Joe, I learned to pick grapes by taste and to farm for less fruit, not more. That using wild yeasts may be tricky, but makes for more interesting wines. To ferment long and warm, and age in French oak.' In shunning American oak, Peterson believed Ravenswood wines were truer to their European roots, in that the original vines were planted by Europeans and the first commercial winemakers in Sonoma were Italian.
The Society has been following Ravenswood wines for some years. The wines are always deliciously drinkable young but will continue to evolve in bottle for a few years. The top wines from vineyard-specific sites are usually fine prospects for the cellar.