About this Conversation With a Winemaker
Joel Peterson of Once & Future joined John Sporing, founder of A Life Well Drunk, for a virtual tasting on September 3, 2020.
Did you miss the live tasting? No worries, watch it here:
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Meet the Maker
In 1976, Joel Peterson produced his first two single vineyard Zinfandels, completing the harvest under the watchful eyes of two large, protective, trickster ravens. Forty-plus years later, Ravenswood’s founding winemaker acknowledges the iconic stature his once humble winery has achieved. “It has been a wild ride, starting with our first vintage of 327 cases in Joseph Swan’s tiny winery to our growth into a world class winery,” says the winemaker, whose leadership with California’s historic grape has earned him the moniker “Godfather of Zin.”
Ravenswood has become known for producing the best-in-class single vineyard-designated Zinfandels since its first vintage, the taste-making County Series wines, which showcase the individual terroirs of Northern California’s beloved wine regions, and the popular Vintners Blend collection. The winery, identified by an iconic logo designed by Berkeley artist Davis Lance Goines, has even earned a place in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. “Food: Transforming the American Table 1950 to 2000,” an exhibit in the museum’s permanent collection, prominently features the winery and Joel. The Ravenswood mandala also has the distinction of being the most widely tattooed logo in the wine business.
After Constellation Brands U.S. acquired Ravenswood Winery in 2001, Joel continued as Ravenswood winemaker as well as a senior vice president and member of the senior executive team at Constellation. A current member and former president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance (SVVGA), Joel is on the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Vintners. A founding board member and former two-time president of ZAP, he is also an advisor to the Historic Vineyard Society. Joel is the lead winemaker and chairman of the Heritage Vineyard project, a joint project of ZAP and UC Davis to investigate Zinfandel clones. Joel has appeared in many Zinfandel forums and is the long-time moderator for “Flights,” ZAP’s educational lecture series on Zinfandel. Joel’s diverse early background included biomedical research, wine writing, and consulting.
Joel’s latest project is Once & Future Wine, where he focuses on making small production handcrafted single vineyard wines, resurrecting his old redwood fermenters from his pre-Constellation days, that honor the distinctive typicity of site.