2006 Chauvet Zinfandel
California: Sonoma County
What We Say
WINE SPIES WORLD EXCLUSIVE:
There are currently two places in the world to purchase today’s wine: At the Ravensood winery – or HERE. Don’t miss out on this very limited opportunity to purchase this wine at today’s special price.
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Mission Codename: Quoth the Raven
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: After a protracted surveillance, infiltrate Ravenswood Winery and procure their winery-only 2007 Chauvet Zinfandel, making it available to our Operatives as a World Exclusive wine
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ravenswood Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Ravenswood Chauvet 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 Zinfandel is a rare treat for lover’s of exceptional Zin. Today, winemaker Joel Peterson shows off his winemaking skills and his Chauvet Vineyard fruit, which was planted 135 years ago, in 1874.
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 Zinfandels, which are characterized by their richness and and balance, are vastly popular with our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark garnet in color, with a dark and almost Burgundy heart, this wine looks deep and richly foreboding. When swirled, this wine shows off a softly bouncy surface that settles fast, leaving behind tight clusters of thin legs that take a long time to emerge before they march slowly down the glass.
Smell – On opening, the wine presents darkly jammy mixed berry aromas. These are followed by brighter blueberry, dark plum, smoky dark cherry, dark chocolate and dark dusty spice.
Feel – Light and wet on entry, then immediately more complex, with a grippy and mouth-coating feel as the fuller body of the wine makes itself known. After a few moments, the wine evolves, showing beautifully balanced fruit against a spicy tang on the mid palate, with minerals and that add the right amount of dryness.
Taste – Brooding and dark, but energetic balanced balanced flavors of overripe blackberry, smoky blueberry, ripe raspberry, dark plum, dark cherry and smoky baking spice and black pepper.
Finish – The finish is smooth and rich, leading off with dark fruits, and backed by dark cherry, minerals and spices – the flavors evolve before they tail off slowly and silky-smooth.
Conclusion – We are thrilled today to bring you this winery-only wine from Ravenswood. Those that know Ravenswood wines are likely more familiar with their fantastic but more mainstream wines. Today’s wine introduces you to a far more exciting and exclusive Ravenswood wine, their 2006 Chauvet Zinfandel. Produced in very limited quantity, The Wine Spies we able to secure a small quantity of this amazing Zin. With deep fruit that springs out of the glass, this wine is a balanced and delicious treat that is a brilliant companion to any meal – without overpowering it. Exhibiting a balanced feel and an evolving flavor profile that leads to an intriguing finish, this wine gets our heartiest recommendation.
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: We make wine from much of Northern California, though our home is Sonoma. This is a very special region from the stand point of weather, soils, winemaking history in California and age of vines (some of the first vines planted on Root stock,1888, are in Sonoma). We have a great range of volcanic soils, a wonderful marine influenced climate and a local that has been growing grapes and making wine since the time of the Spanish occupation.
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 Bedrock Zin and the Chauvet Zinfandel are both from very old vineyards in Sonoma Valley. The Bedrock was planted in 1888 and the Chauvet was planted sometime before 1920. They are both low production, less than three tons /acre, and they are both planted in Tuscan redhill series soils (very well drained reddish soils of volcanic origin). The Bedrock, while it is about 76% Zinfandel, has many of the grapes planted in traditional old vine California field blends that include Petit Sirah, Carignane, Mouvedre, Syrah, Alicante Bouche, and a few others. Chauvet is mostly Zinfandel with a few percent Alicante Bouche. Both have great vineyard specific character, delicious flavors and the typical Sonoma Valley character of Spicy black fruit character with a distinctive, savory, acid-tannin balance. The Chauvet is a little softer and more forward than the Bedrock.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOEL: Anything Italian or Mediterranean inspired. Also, grilled meat.
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
About This Wine:
High-tones blueberry and raspberry fruit notes wrap themselves around a core of sweet cherry dusted in kitchen spice. A perky, bright acidity makes this a perfect wine with food but the silky finish invites you to kick back and just enjoy a glass or two.
History: In 1850, a young miller by the name Joshua Chauvet left his home in France and made a journey around Cape Horn to San Francisco. Skilled as a baker, he ran a successful bakery and general store and eventually purchased 500 acres of land in Sonoma from General Vallejo. Although the mill on the property was his main business, his intent all along was to plant the ranch to grapes. In 1874, he made his first commercial wine and within five years his winery’s output was over 52,000 cases of wine. Not a bad little operation for a baker from Champagne.
Today the historic Chauvet ranch is a mere ten acres, but is still growing Zinfandel and producing enviable wines. Located on the valley floor in the heart of Sonoma, the soil is rich, holding moisture so the vines can remain dry farmed. California Zinfandel clones, St. George rootstock, organically farmed….nothing Joshua would have done differently.
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
Varietal: 100% Zinfandel
Appellation: Sonoma County