Peterson Winery

2006 Bernier "Zinyard" Zinfandel

Zinfandel •Bernier Zinyard

California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley

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Mission Codename: Zinsational

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Peterson Winery. Secure their newest Zinfandel, the uniquely delicious a wine that is much sought-after by their club members

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Peterson Winery

Wine Subject: 2006 Bernier Zineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

Winemaker: Jamie Peterson

Winery Backgrounder: Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley is a treasure trove of great wines, but Zinfandel is the king in this region. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is a Wine Spies Operative favorite, and today’s wine clearly reinforces their love. Fred Peterson, gentleman framer, grows the grapes. His son, Jamie, turns the fruit into a magnificent experience in a bottle.


Varietal Backgrounder: Related to the Italian Primitivo grape and 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. Today’s wine is a delicious DCV Zin that is worthy of your cellar

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and translucent, this wine almost glows with soft burgundy hues. The thin edge of the wine show a tender nectarine color. Fast, medium-width legs take a moment to emerge – before they streak down the edges of the glass

Smell – Blackberry and fresh bramble mix with bright red cherry and red plum. These dance with unique aromas of dried alfalfa bale, black cherry, Chinese five-spice, brown sugar, black pepper and soft earth

Feel – Soft and light on initial entry, velvety smooth and light of body. After a moment, the wine reveals a more medium body as soft tannins add just a hint of soft mineral-infused dryness. With an easy acidity and soft pepper, this wine has a delightful overall feel

Taste – Lead by black cherry cider, this wine presents an amazing array of additional flavors. These include soft plum, wild strawberry, brown sugar, cassis, cranberry, stewed raisin, minerals and a pleasant hint of white balsamic at the rear of the palate

Finish – This wine finishes bright, softly smoky, clean and long, with extended fruit and soft minerals that go on and on

Conclusion – We have a great affection for Peterson wines. Today’s wine easily impressed our tasting panel with its easy-drinking quality and complex layering. This is not a plummy fruit-bomb. Rather, this wine is a soft, flavor-filled and aroma-rich delight that had our panel of tasters drawing out an amazing array of qualities. Balanced and well-integrated, this wine is the perfect compliment to great food. With balanced acidity (a quality that helps to make it so food-friendly), this wine won’t overpower even a lighter meal.

Mission Report:

What follows is our winemaker briefing and interview, from a previously featured wine. Please note that some of the information refers to a different wine than the one we are showcasing today:


SUBJECT: Jamie Peterson

DATE OF BIRTH: 03/20/1981

PLACE OF BIRTH: Saratoga, CA (Mt. Eden Vineyards)

WINE EDUCATION: Ongoing, on-the-job. UC Davis Extension chemistry/lab analysis/viticulture classes.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Grew up in Peterson Winery, helping with odd jobs in the winery and vineyard as a teenager. Worked first harvest at 19, and then traveled to Australia and New Zealand to work harvest in 2001. took over as Assistant Winemaker at Peterson Winery in 2002. Given full Winemaker responsibility in 2006.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: “Zero Manipulation”/Minimal intervention, letting the vineyard and vintage show through in each bottling. No fining, no filtration. Minimal new oak usage, minimal additions and SO2 use.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Dry Creek valley Zinfandel.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Jamie. We are thrilled to be showing your 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JAMIE: Thank you for giving me the time.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

JAMIE: It’d be hard to pick one. Growing up with the sights, sounds, and smells of the winery and vineyards, there were many inspirational moments. But I didn’t think I’d be getting into the life of wine as deeply as I have until I worked harvests in 2001 in Australia and New Zealand. Seeing the international wine community and how it ties people together made me decide to come back to the family winery and join full time in 2002.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

JAMIE: From my father, growing up in the winery, and being able to learn on the job.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

JAMIE: I believe that vineyard and vintage driven wines are the only reason for small wineries to exist. I prefer wines from different vintages to reflect the growing season (otherwise why put the vintage on the bottle?) rather than use additives (acid, tannins, enzymes, gum arabic, overblown new oak) or technological processes (filtration, alcohol removal, micro-oxygenation) to create wines that taste the same each year. I don’t filter or fine our wines, and I predominantly use native yeast fermentations and malo-lactics, so we have to keep things clean and monitor closely, as we don’t choose to use the tools for fixing mistakes that some wineries do. We source from the same vineyards each year, so there is a thread of continuity running through vintages. Our vineyards are sustainably farmed, with a few certified organic, and a number of others dry-farmed.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

JAMIE: I’m inspired by European vintners who have made wines from the same places for generations, and haven’t succumbed to commercialism.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

JAMIE: 2002 was my first full year of working with wines from grape to bottle. 2000 was the first full harvest I worked with my father. At 28, I have 12 harvests under my belt (including working in both Australia and New Zealand in 2001).

RED: Who do you make wine for?

JAMIE: I make wines for my own tastes, and then we find enough people that share our ideas to buy it. We don’t submit our wines for scoring or competitions.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Dry Creek Valley so special?

JAMIE: The Dry Creek Valley is a special place to grow grapes because of the amount of different types of quality terrain for growing a variety of varietals. From the Eastern bench to the Western hills and mountains, the range of soils and exposures lends itself to the diversity of wines we like to make.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

JAMIE: Realize that winemaking is both simple and complicated. It’s all just fermented grape juice, but it’s all about the details; every minute little thing you do or don’t do to the grapes or wine will affect how it turns out.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JAMIE: Just finishing up harvest; we took in 50% more grapes than we ever have before, as our newly replanted Bradford Mt. Vineyard comes into production. Right now is the “what just happened” phase, where we continue to do more of the lab tests to confirm that what we are tasting is what is really there, and there are no surprises. Everything from this vintage is looking great, and I’m excited to have been able to take in this much from such a great year.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

JAMIE: The 2005 growing season was cool, and one of the latest harvests we have ever done. The Cabernet was let hang for a long time, to bring the natural mountain acidity into balance, and the resulting wine is richer and darker in fruit than the Bradford Mountain Cabernet usually is. We blended in some Cabernet Franc to soften the wine and provide some floral complexity. This wine is one of the finest I think I have seen into bottle, and will really benefit from aging.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JAMIE: I love this wine with a grilled rib-eye steak, roasted rosemary-garlic fingerling potatoes, and sides of sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, sautéed spinach, and good sourdough bread (from the Downtown Bakery here in Healdsburg).

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

JAMIE: I like to go mushroom hunting (for chanterelles and porcini), even though as a teenager I accidently picked and ate Death Cap mushrooms.

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

JAMIE: Zinfandel is the wine I seem to open the most often of our own, but I also drink a lot of Rhone wines, and wines from the Ventoux.

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

JAMIE: So many people look for the “best” wine. I always ask them “best for what?” Every wine has a place and time for appreciating (unless it just is a wine that really sucks…), and it’s more important for people to figure out what types of wine they like, and why, than what others think is the best. Trust your own palate rather than what a critic or others say.

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!

JAMIE: Thanks for having me, and for appreciating and selling our wines!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Peterson Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

90 Points – Wine Specator – ‘Best Buy’

About This Wine:

Each year the Bernier Zinyard produces grapes whose flavors reflect the growing season, as if the vines are trying out different personalities. The 2006 Bernier Zin is reminiscent of a Southern Rhone Grenache/Syrah blend crossed with a Dry Creek Valley Zin. Lovely berry aromas poised against a background of earth tones. The creamy entry and delicious flavors of juicy berry, plum and black pepper integrate seamlessly into a structure of dusty tannins and vanillin oak.

Zinyard Notes: Why call it a Zinyard? Many vineyards are planted to more than one variety. But Paul and Yael Bernier planted only Zinfandel on the hillside behind their house off of Canyon Road in northern Dry Creek Valley. Although it was planted in 1990, the Bernier Zinyard makes old-time growers feel they are walking into the past when they stroll among the vines. It is a traditional dry-farmed, head-trained (non-trellised) vineyard with Italo Sbragio’s old clone Zin grafted on to St. George rootstock. That combination embodies the very roots of Dry Creek Valley viticulture and reflects Peterson Winery’s values of savoring and embracing time-honored traditions.

About Peterson Winery:

We are located in the Dry Creek Valley, in the northwest region of Sonoma County. Peterson Winery’s new tasting room is now open for wine tasting and sales daily 11am-4:30pm. We often pour our wines at local tasting and charity events as well. Check for upcoming events on the News & Events page.

Our wines are also available for tasting at the “LOCALS” tasting room in Geyserville. See for directions and details. Click on the “Find Us” link for a map to the winery and to LOCALS in Geyserville.

If you have any questions about Peterson Winery or our wines, send us an e-mail at and we’ll respond as soon as we can.

We can’t tell our whole story here, but we hope that by looking at a few photos and reading a bit more about us, you’ll find out who we are and why we love to make great wines.

About The Winemaker:

Jamie Peterson – It’s not by coincidence that I’m the winemaker at Peterson Winery. I’ve been helping my father at the winery for the past ten years, back to the days of labeling the bottles by hand. I worked two harvests here at the winery, in 2000 and 2001, and the 2001 harvests Down Under in Australia at Lowe Family Winery, and then in New Zealand, at Ngatarawa Winery. With this solid base of experience, much to my excitement I was given the opportunity of taking over winemaking duties in June 2002, and have been loving it ever since.

Overseeing the quality of the wine from when the grapes come in all the way through to the bottle is my main responsibility and priority. Since it’s just my father and I, this keeps me pretty busy, but when I’m not checking up on barrels or wrestling with the bottling equipment, you can often find me at one the numerous tasting events we attend, whether it is for charity or for the love of wine. In my free time, I’ve started a Peterson Winery softball team with my friends here in Healdsburg. I also enjoy cooking, foraging for local culinary mushrooms, reading, and am a Giants baseball fan. Continuing winemaking tradition of Zero Manipulation.

Technical Analysis:

Composition: 100% Bernier Zinyard

Varietal Breakdown: 90% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah

Harvest Dates: Sept. 20, 2006

Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Alcohol: 13.5%

pH: 3.55

TA: 0.59g/100ml

Barrel Aging: 13 months

Types of Oak: 10% new American oak barrels, 90% 3-9 year-old French oak barrels

Bottling Date: October 31, 2007 (unfined & unfiltered)

Production: 275 cases

Release Date: October 2009

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