Tasting Report: Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandels, 2007 Releases

Tasting Report: Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandels, 2007 Releases

Had the chance to sit down with Ravenswood Winery’s founding winemaker Joel Peterson this week and sample his 2007 old vines lineup. The son of a woman who worked on the atomic bomb and a trained immunologist, Joel is full of stories, but most involve his love of wine, for which he developed a taste practically as a child.

Ravenswood — now a major force for zinfandel in the wine business — sells some simple table wines, but it also markets a wide range of single vineyard designates. Only a few are actually 100% zinfandel; most are blends of a variety of grapes, with zin the predominant one. In fact, my favorite wine of the lot was the 2007 Teldeschi, which includes 22% petite sirah and 2% carignane in the blend. Some of the wines — which are grown throughout Sonoma and Napa Counties — have so many grape varietals that Peterson can’t even be sure what’s in the bottle.

It is, however, mostly zin.

Notes follow.

Tasting of (mostly) 2007 Ravenswood Zinfandels

2007 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barricia / A- / very tannic, but opens up with perfume notes

2007 Ravenswood Zinfandel Belloni / A- /more fruit, with big currant and jam, tart and acidic

2007 Ravenswood Zinfandel Big River / B+ /similar to Belloni, with an herbal finish

2007 Ravenswood Zinfandel Dickerson / B+ /a bit Cab-like, with pepper and oregano notes, lighter finish

2007 Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Hill / B /woodsy, a bit out of balance

2007 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi / A /tobacco and cedar notes, heavy petite sirah influence, my favorite of the lot

2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Pickberry / B+ /a touch bitter on the finish, quite tannic

2007 Ravenswood Icon (field blend, not a zinfandel release) / A- /has an edge, nice balance though

1997 Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Hill / A / fascinating old zin, some DNA of the 2007, but oxidized and well aged

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Trob on September 18, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I’m guessing these are not the same as the ‘Sonoma’ and ‘Napa’-designated old vine zins you find at every grocery store? I tried the 2006 bottlings of those a few weeks back and thought the tannins were way too overbearing to enjoy the wine.

  2. Christopher Null on September 18, 2009 at 11:09 am

    Correct – these are single vineyard versions — you can see how the labels look different in one of the photos.

  3. Joel Peterson on September 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing your evaluations of the wines Chris. I am grateful that you were able to join us for lunch and taste my wines. Being from the punch card computer era, I am still in awe of how quickly information finds its way from the happening to the public.

    In response to Trob-One of the most difficult decisions that a winemaker has to make when blending red wine has to do with the level of tannin in the wine. Ther are a number of factors that influence that decision. Vintage, Grape variety, intended use for the wine, other wines being made and of course, price point. In the 2006 vintage the skins were fairly thick and hence the wines propensity was toward higher tannin. There is Petit Sirah blended into the county series Zinfandels, it is fairly tannic. It is always a balancing act between greater color and center body of a wine and the textural componets. Ravenswood as you probably know, also makes Vintners Blend wines at a price point below the County series wines. These we intentionally make in a way limit and soften more agressive tannin. My assumption is that a lot of this wine gets consumed at parties and is basically quoffed. My hope for the County series wines, on the other hand, is that they will be good food wines, which in my opinion need more tannin and acidity. Think of wines like Barolo, Chateauneuf, or Chianti. All wines that have a fair amount of tannin, but love food. Also being a a slightly higher price point, and made from old vines creates different expectations than Vinters Blend. These wines actually develope nicely with some age, probably up to ten years. It is my hope that at least some of these bottles will see the decade mark and will not disappoint.

    Finally, to paraphrase Lincoln, you can’t please all the people all the time (pleasing myself is hard enough). I am sorry that the wines were not to your taste, but don’t give up on us. Next time you have a meal that features good olive oil, Garlic, tomatoes, or grilled meat with a slightly savory, slightly sweet sauce check out the wines again. Maybe the 07’s will be more in line for you, it is a softer vintage by nature..

  4. Trob on September 19, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I probably should have appended “…for at least a couple more years” to the end of my comment, as I didn’t mean to imply I thought the wine wasn’t good full stop. It’s a very pleasant surprise to get such a detailed response from the guy who actually made the wine though, so perhaps it’s better I left it as I did. Ravenswood is on my hit list for my next venture over to wine country, I’m looking forward to trying some of the single vineyard zins. Thanks for taking time to address my concern.

  5. Steve Howe on October 3, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Someone just gave me a couple of bottles of Ravenswood Zinfandel. I can’t wait to give them a try!

  6. mike on February 21, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    the 2003 vintners blend zin in 2010 tastes awful, and liter thasn tap water-what gives?

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