2006 Old Hill Zinfandel
Zinfandel •Old Hill Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Valley
What We Say
WINE SPIES WORLD EXCLUSIVE:
The Wine Spies bring you another exclusive wine today! We are the only merchant to be featuring this winery-only wine from our friends at Ravenswood.
At today’s special price, this 95 Point wine rockets to the top of the Q portion of the Quality to Price Ratio scale. Don’t miss out, because you will never see this vintage at this price – ever again.
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Mission Codename: The Original Zin
Operative: Agent Petite Verdot
Objective: Send new Wine Spies Operative, Agent Petite Verdot, to Ravenswood Winery to procure a worldwide exclusive Zinfandel
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ravenswood Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Old Hill Zinfandel
Winemaker: Joel Peterson
Backgrounder: Today’s single vineyard Zinfandel is a Wine Spies World exclusive. Available only at the winery – and here today – this single vineyard Zinfandel is a rare treat for lover’s of exceptional Zinfandel. Grown on Sonoma County’s first Zinfandel vineyard to achieve fame, today’s Old Hill Sonoma Valley Zin is a complex, rare and delicious treat that is certain to please even the choosiest Zin-loving Operative. Planted in 1862, today’s wine is made from some of the oldest Zinfandel vines on record in the United States.
Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Sonoma Valley Old Vine Zinfandels, which are characterized by their refinement and balance, are extraordinarily popular with our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Simply Beautiful! Rich plumb hues in the center of the wine, softening to a sugar & brandy cherry color out toward the edges. A swirl reveals clues about the feel of the wine, where I anticipated a full-bodied experience
Smell – This zin has tons to offer on the nose. Lots of vibrant fruit and mulling spice intertwine with blackberry and anise, which come out after the wine opens up. I recommend at least 20 minutes of decanting to get the most out of this wine. When it does open up, rich woods of balsa and sandalwood appear, along with some obvious french oak. Pepper and coffee bean round out the yummy nose
Feel – On the initial attack, this wine feels lighter than you might expect from the nose. Then, quickly, it becomes full-bodied, dry and hearty with velvety bold tannins and a bright acidity
Taste – Intense dark berries, rich cola and bold pepper, with hints of Nutmeg and bright cherry. These are soon joined by soft blueberry, black licorice, chicory, a touch of red currant and fresh whole leaf mint that parade across the palate
Finish – Vibrant tannins, black fruit, spice and hints of coffee linger for a very long time
Conclusion – Delicious and incredibly dry! Decant this wine to bring out its true complexity, but enjoy the journey! Taste as you go in 5 min increments to experience a stunning example of a wine that changes as it breaths. The complex fruit and layers make it evident that this wine has been crafted with great care. I imagine this Zin with a braised lamb shank & portobello mushroom risotto. Savory foods will cut the acidity and repeal the dry composition. Eggplant Parmesan would also be a wonderful pairing. If you love exclusive, delicious and unique Zinfandel, this is a great choice that won’t disappoint.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: JOEL PETERSON
DATE OF BIRTH: APRIL 1947
PLACE OF BIRTH: Born in Oakland, California. Fifth generation Californian.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: ZINFANDEL
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Style, history, quality, character – California wine has it all.”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Joel. We are thrilled to be showing your very exclusive Chauvet Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JOEL: Happy to answer questions, particularly when they are about my favorite subject, wine. I am also thrilled that you are showing my wine today. Direct experience is one of the best ways that we have of developing fans for Ravenswood wines.
RED: I’m sure that our Operatives will respond well to today’s offer. Your Chauvet Zinfandel is excellent! Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JOEL: My father taught me to taste when I was fairly young. Many young men play baseball or hunt with their fathers (we did those things as well), but what was unusual was that I learned to taste wine and as a result got an olfactory training that is fairly rare. The single wine that change my vision of wine was a 1957 Chateau Fortia. I was about 20 years old and had developed incredibly interesting and complex perfume and flavors making is one of the most memorable wines that I had tasted up to that date.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
JOEL: I spent the years from 1973 until 1977 with Joseph Swan learning the nuts and bolts of winemaking. Joe was good friends with Andre Tchelistcheff and used him as a consultant, so I was able to learn in a very hands on way from the best in the business.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
JOEL: Wines should reflect the flavors of the places that they were grown. Wine should taste like fruit, not oak. Wine should be balanced, rich and complex and interesting. The best wines are the ones that develop well with age. To that end we attempt to let each vineyard express it’s optimal character by using winemaking techniques and careful attention to detail that dwells on each vineyards particular strengths. Our mantra is “no wimpy wines”, meaning that we want each wine we have to exhibit strength of character, not merely power.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JOEL: There are a whole series of wines that have influenced my winemaking style. Most of them have been European form places like Bordeaux, the Rhone and northern Italy. These memorable wines have a certain balance of fruit, density, acid and tannin that I find desirable in a wine.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
JOEL: 35 years
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JOEL: I make the wine that best expresses the vineyard, the vintage is balanced and tastes good. As a result ,it is fair to say that, Ravenswood makes wine for me, wine reviewers and wine lovers everywhere.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Sonoma Valley so special?
JOEL: The Sonoma Valley is, from a historical perspective, one of the first important grape growing regions in California. It was chosen because it has all the elements that create excellent wines. The soils, for the most part, are volcanic. In the case of Old Hill, they are called Tuscan Red Hill soils. These soils are ideal for dry farming vineyards. The other primary characteristic is that it has a maritime influence which creates a significant diurnal variation; that is warm days and cool nights. This allows for longer maturation resulting in more intense and fresher fruit flavors in the wine.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
JOEL: Learn your craft well, be patient and love what you do. It is not “just a job”.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JOEL: The usual things, but I spend a lot of time these day sharing the joy of wine and the special aspects Ravenswood with as many people as I can.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
JOEL: The 2006 Ravenswood Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel is a wonderful wine. It received 95 points from Wine and Spirits Magazine and was their highest rated Zinfandel of the year. The vineyard is one of California’s most historic and interesting vineyard plantings. It is located in Sonoma Valley and was originally planted in 1861 by William McPhearson Hill. The vines that go into the wine that we are featuring were planted in 1889. This is a unique vineyard because it is a mixed field blend planting from the old school of California viticulture. As planted, it includes zinfandel which is about 51% of the field blend, and as many as 14 other grape varieties. Many of these varieties are Rhone varieties like Syrah and Grenache and Mourvedre. This contributes a rather interesting Rhone-like character to the wine, which is rich, complex and age worthy as one might expect of a vineyard with this kind of low production and vine age. The vineyard is certified organic and is farmed with great attention and care. The winemaking is very simple, designed to bring out the best flavors of the grapes. Open top fermenters, punched down by hand, native yeast fermentations and approximately 30% new French oak contribute to the complexity, harmony, and nuance found in this wine.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOEL: This wine would work well with anything that had its origins in the Mediterranean or Northern Italy. One of my favorite pairings with this wine is osso bucco or, alternately, a lamb daube.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
JOEL: I delivered my son, Morgan, at home.
RED: Both of my mini-agents were, as well! Tell me, what is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
JOEL: Sherman and Hookers Shebang. A one liter jug wine from California. Beyond that, I taste so much, my answer should be whatever wine is in front of me.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
JOEL: With a sense of exploration, joy and with food and company.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
JOEL: I would never make such a choice. Wine is about diversity and complexity. One wine would be boring. This is not a monotheistic endeavor.
RED: Excellent answer! What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
JOEL: Do you have the best, most interesting, most diverse, most challenging, most satisfying job in the universe? YES
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
JOEL: Every winery needs fans. Without them there is only a singular void. So, thank you to you and all those who make wine part of their daily experience.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
95 Points – Wine & Spirits
About This Wine:
Sonoma’s first famous Zinfandel, made in 1862 by William Hill, was grown in this vineyard. These vines – probably Sonoma’s oldest – turn out remarkable wines. Old Hill Vineyard contains 14 different varieties, but is blended to be 75% Zinfandel. It had Rhone-like intensity with blackberry, black pepper, vanilla, coffee, smoky, and mint scents.
Tasting Notes: This 2006 Old Hill Zinfandel is a well-balanced, complex wine that will age very nicely. The wine keeps unfolding each time you put your nose in the glass. You’ll notice an array of scents and flavors in this wine; most notably mulberry and blackberry. There’s even subtle nuance of mint. A great dinner partner, it is lovely to be consumed now or put down for years to come. -Joel Peterson
About The Winery:
For as long as anybody cares to remember, this has been the credo (calling card? Battle cry? Team yell? Coat of arms?) of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, California. Expressing our commitment to full-flavored varietal wine — notably Zinfandel — it sums up our mission to capture everything a vineyard has to offer, and to promote it in a way that won’t put people to sleep. Wine is, after all, one of the most fascinating and fun things in life, which is why Ravenswood winemaker Joel Peterson believes that it belongs on the table — not on a pedestal or in an ivory tower.
How did the name of Ravenswood become interchangeable with irresistibility? In the early 1970s, when California’s claim to fame was the “best jug wine in the world,” Joel’s dream was to create wines that would rival the greatest of Europe. Turned out he wasn’t dreaming: In his first vintage, 1976, he produced 327 cases of Dry Creek Zin that took first place in a prestigious San Francisco tasting. But despite the cult following and critical acclaim that began to swirl around its hypnotic logo, Ravenswood remained a roving boutique until the late 1980s, when its Vintners Blend program was launched. Conceived on Joel’s conviction that, besides great wine, the world needs good, affordable wine (“a lake of wine an inch deep”), it redefined the concept of Best Jug Wine in the World.
Thanks to this and a few other things (not least, its tireless campaign against priggish elitism), Ravenswood acquired an informal reputation as the people’s premium winery. In 1999 the company went public with a “Dutch auction” of shares offered over the Internet, and two years later Ravenswood was purchased by Constellation Brands, becoming part of its fine-wine division, Franciscan Estates — a productive partnership that kept the winery under Joel’s control while providing greater resources for efficient operation and growth.
The picture has changed a bit since 1976. Following the original inspiration of wineries like Ravenswood, California has now shirked its once-wimpy status to a fault. But the more things change around our Sonoma headquarters, the more they stay the same. In this brave new enologically altered world, Ravenswood continues to set a stubborn standard for complex, balanced, uncompromising wine that captures everything a vineyard has to offer (and, we might add, nothing more).
About The Winemaker:
Joel Peterson grew up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay during the Dark Ages when California wine was judged by the type of jug it was bottled in. However, Joel’s farsighted father Walter bucked the status quo by starting the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club, which studied fine wines from all over the world. Walter allowed his son to join the group’s twice-weekly tastings when Joel was nine years old, carefully measuring the wine in the boy’s glass — then his spittoon — to make sure everything was expectorated.
By the time he was a teenager, Joel thus had a working knowledge of European vineyards and vintages, along with a collection of headstrong opinions about what made good wine. After graduating from Oregon State University, he followed in the professional footsteps of his parents (both of whom were chemists), going to work as a laboratory scientist. On the side, he made money through wine writing and consulting, gaining a local reputation as a gifted taster (and tasteless punster).
Eventually it dawned on Joel that he had the background (not to mention the prejudices) to be an actual winemaker. Hence, he apprenticed with Joseph Swan — one of California’s outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel — to learn the art of traditional winemaking as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1976 Joel founded Ravenswood in partnership with fellow wine lover Reed Foster (a Harvard MBA gone astray) and over the next half-dozen years, their fledgling operation moved from the rear corner of one willing winery to another. When Ravenswood finally turned a profit after a dozen years of operation, they settled on the northern edge of Sonoma, where the winery’s tasting room is located.
Joel is now acknowledged as a leader in California wine — an articulate spokesman and stylistic trendsetter who helped make Zinfandel the runaway phenomenon that it is today. If there were a California Winemaking Hall of Fame, he’d be a shoo-in for early induction — not just as a home-run hitter but as one of the most popular players in the majors. (It’s said that even as a Little Leaguer he could handle the spitter with aplomb.)
Wine Type: Red Wine
Appellation: Sonoma County
Aging: 20 months in French Oak