News & Events
November 21, 2017
Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2017
We love when our winery partners get the praise they deserve. This year we represent five wines on the list!
#7 Domaine Huet 2016 Vouvray Demi-Sec, Le Mont “A star of Chenin Blanc in the Loire Valley, Domaine Huët was founded in 1928; the Hwang family bought it from the Huëts in 2003. The domaine was one of the early proponents of biodynamics in the region, converting in 1990. The estate mainly comprises three vineyards: Le Haut-Lieu, Le Mont and Clos du Bourg. The distinct terroir of Le Mont, with its clay and silex soils, yields fresh, minerally wines. The demi-sec has 20 grams per liter of residual sugar, and winemaker Jean-Bernard Berthomé ages the wine half in demi-muid and half in stainless-steel tanks for six months.”
#10 Booker 2014 ‘Oublie’ Rhone Blend, Paso Robles “In 2000, Eric Jensen gave up a high-powered career as a broker and concert promoter in Southern California to farm grapes and make wine in rural Paso Robles. He obviously knew what he was doing: his wines are among the best in the region. Farmed biodynamically, Jensen’s 45 acres of vineyards are planted almost exclusively to Rhône varieties atop steep hillsides with limestone soil. A blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Counoise, Oublié is Jensen’s ode to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He fermented the 2014 in stainless steel and half the blend was aged from six to 12 months in used French oak barrels.”
#12 Bedrock 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel, California “Rich and supple, this is an explosion of pure, decadent fruit. Floral huckleberry and Chinese five-spice powder aromas open to layered blackberry, dark chocolate and licorice flavors that linger.”
#22 Saxum 2014 James Berry Vineyard, Paso Robles “A dramatic wine that weds power and opulence, maintaining impeccable balance along the way. Brooding dark berry and loamy mineral aromas lead to rich flavors of currant, licorice, dried sage and smoky pepper. Ripe tannins frame the finish. Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise and Roussanne. Best from 2018 through 2028.”
#85 Raventos 2013 ‘De La Finca’ Conca del Riu Anoia “A minerally version, with up-front petrol and spice notes lacing the poached cherry, salted almond and lemon peel flavors that ride the delicate mousse. Elegant and harmonious. Disgorged February 2017.”
November 03, 2017
Paso Robles Scores Big
In the recent Vinous article “Paso Robles Copes, Adapts and Evolves” Josh Raynolds writes, “Readers who follow the Paso Robles wine scene hardly need to be reminded that the region, which is historically dry in the first place, suffered through a long-term drought that drastically curtailed production in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. That has not stopped quality from surging to new highs.” His reviews for three of our producers greatly reflect this sentiment as Linne Calodo, Saxum and Villa Creek all score big!
Below are the producer excerpts from the article along with their scores.
“Matt Trevisan told me that he made about 40% of his “normal” production in 2015, adding that 2016 saw a welcome uptick of crop but that he wonders if the standard for ‘what defines a normal yield needs to be adjusted’ given how many short crops Paso Robles has suffered through in recent years. Here’s another winemaker whose wines has evolved toward a more elegant style over the last decade. The winery now houses an intriguing array of concrete tanks and wooden vats of varying size and shape, ‘which keeps the mind active’ Trevisan said. While Trevisan is by no means an old man, he’s definitely an old-timer in the context of Paso Robles’ west side producers, having launched Linne Calodo in 1998, with his wife, Maureen. They source fruit from some of the region’s top growers and they also have 20 acres of their own estate vines, split into 20 different parcels, to work with.”
- Sticks & Stones 2015 - 93pts
- Rising Tides 2015 - 95pts
- Overthinker 2014 - 94pts
- In My Dreams 2014 - 94pts (not yet released)
- Perfectionist 2014 - 95pts
- Problem Child 2015 - 94pts (not yet released)
- Outsider 2015 - 95pts (2013 in stock, 2015 not yet released)
- Cherry Red 2015 - 94pts (not yet released)
“Justin Smith, whose wines have probably brought more attention to Paso Robles than any others, is also one of the most respected growers in the region. The vineyards he farms, both his own and those of a handful of selected clients, are well worth visiting if one can finagle an appointment. The key to success in a hot dry year like 2015, and in every vintage in the area, he says, ‘is to be willing to drop fruit that’s raisined and suck up the loss, even when it’s a short year.’ Smith’s 2015s were standouts in my tastings during my July visit and also back in the office in October, when I had the chance to re-visit those wines which were still awaiting bottling in the summer. They’re going to be long-lived wines based on their sheer concentration, I’m sure, and if you can’t resist trying them now by all means give them a lot of air!”
- Paderewski Vineyard 2014 - 95pts (sold out)
- Paderewski Vineyard 2015 - 95pts (not yet released)
- Terry Hoage Vineyard 2014 - 95pts (sold out)
- Terry Hoage Vineyard 2015 - 96pts (not yet released)
- Booker Vineyard 2014 - 94pts (sold out)
- Broken Stones 2014 - 95pts (sold out)
- Broken Stones 2015 - 95pts (not yet released)
- Bone Rock 2015 - (95-96)pts (not yet released)
- Rocket Block 2015 - (96-97)pts (not yet released)
- James Berry Vineyard 2015 - 97pts (not yet released)
- Heart Stone Vineyard 205 - 96pts (not yet released)
- G2 Vineyard 2015 - 96pts (not yet released)
“The biggest challenge in the recent drought years is ‘obviously, getting as much finesse out of such concentrated fruit’, Cris Cherry told me. But that’s always a concern in a hot region, he added, noting that he thinks that raising his wines in large format, low-impact vessels, especially concrete tanks, allows for slower and gentler extraction and more delicate character in the final wines. In addition, he has been upping his use of whole clusters, ‘when it’s appropriate’, in an effort to impart greater aromatic complexity and spiciness to his wines. There’s no question that recent vintages here have seen a steady rise in quality as well as energy and I’d confidently place this winery among the upper tier of the Central Coast. Of particular interest to Cherry these days is working with his new, estate-grown Clairette, the southern Rhône variety that’s the backbone of many of the best examples of Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc. Look for interesting things to happen here soon as his vines come further into maturity. By the way, this summer Cherry closed his ever-popular and excellent Villa Creek restaurant, which was a long-time haunt for visitors to the region, as he wants to devote all of his energy to his vineyard and winery.”
- White 2016 - 93pts (2015 in stock, 2016 not yet released)
- Garnacha 2015 - 93pts (2014 in stock, 2015 not yet released)
- Avenger 2015 - 95pts (2014 in stock, 2015 not yet released)
- Willow Creek Cuvee 2015 - 94pts (not yet released)
- High Road, James Berry Vineyard 2015 - 94pts (2013 in stock, 2015 not yet released)
- Syrah Slide HIll 2015 - 94pts (not yet released)
- Luna Mata 2015 - 95pts (not yet released)
November 01, 2017
FEATURED: Wyncroft = Dialog Change
Jim Lester and Daun Page are changing people’s perception of Michigan wine. For too long, the dialog around the great wine regions of the world has skipped over Michigan. Revelations come from tasting, and Wyncroft’s wines prove that Southwest Michigan has a great and wonderful, yet undiscovered, wine potential. The husband and wife team are producing profound wines with a French sensibility. We’re proud to tell their narrative and break all preconceived notions of Michigan wine.
Many people are misguided about Michigan’s vine growing potential. Michigan has a prosperous history of producing peaches, cherries, apples and Concord grapes—all clues that vinifera grapes would thrive as well.
Wyncroft owns vineyards within two distinct Michigan AVAs: Lake Michigan Shore and Fennville. Both of these AVAs are located in the glacial moraine hills of Southwest Michigan. The mineral rich, stony clay soils left by the glaciers of the last ice age are similar to the soils of the best sites in Europe. These stony clay soils are found in a ridge of hills just 5 to 10 miles from the lakeshore. The high ground provides excellent sun exposure, while the low areas give excellent air drainage on frosty spring mornings. The proximity to Lake Michigan creates a “lake effect” microclimate that moderates winter lows and summer highs, while the abundant lake effect snow insulates the vines against the extremes of Michigan winters.
Up north in the Traverse City area, it is cool; thus producers make wines reminiscent of Germany and Champagne. Southwest Michigan sees more warmth. Wyncroft’s latitude, 42nd parallel, is the same as the Pyrenees Mountains of Northern Spain and Rome, Italy. Going west, it is the border of Oregon and California. The vineyards receive an average of 3,000 heat units per growing season. Compare that to Bordeaux at 2700, Burgundy at 2400, Alsace at 2210, and Russian River Valley at 3600. The growing season is longer than Bordeaux or Burgundy with more heat unit accumulation. This makes Michigan a more reliable area for attaining full ripeness. Also, being more northern than California, excellent acidity is retained in the grapes over the long growing season.
WASHINGTON TO MICHIGAN; GOD TO GRAPES
Jim Lester is one of the pioneers of Michigan wine. The Seattle native relocated with his late wife Rae Lee to Michigan in 1976 to pursue a Master’s of Divinity degree at Andrews University after graduating from Walla Walla College. The two got into wine because of their passion for cooking, as they wanted to know how to pair wine with food. This led Jim to start making wine as a basement hobby in 1983. His first Pinot Noir stunned him. As a self-taught winemaker, he knew it wasn’t his winemaking know-how. The quality of fruit grown in the region had to be the key for success. It was his a-ha moment that world-class wines could be made in Southwest Michigan.
With that simple discovery, Lester decided to change his career path and devote his professional life to making 100% Michigan wines. From 1986-1994 he produced wine under the Madron Lake Hills name. Jim and Rae Lee established Wyncroft in 1998 when there were only about 19 total wineries in the whole state of Michigan. They launched the winery in Buchanan, a town located about 10 miles east of Lake Michigan and just 4 miles from the Indiana border. The two worked tirelessly and passionately to grow their boutique winery via mailing list and self-distribution until Rae Lee passed away in 2009 after battling breast cancer.
Lester remarried to Daun Page, who has become integral to Wyncroft’s story and success. Together, they operate in the style of a French garagiste winery. In 2013, they purchased a picturesque, 100-acre estate in Pullman, within the Fennville AVA. Their garage became their winery and approximately 5.5 acres of vineyards were planted on the estate. Production is still extremely small, less than 2,000 cases annually. The wine labels, modeled after the Arts and Crafts movement, communicate their philosophy. Both the vineyard and cellar work are done by hand with extreme care and attention to detail. True vignerons, they conscientiously farm their vineyards to produce low yields of intense concentration. The wines are estate bottled with the labels applied by hand at the winery.
With Jim, Rae Lee, and now Daun’s devotion, Wyncroft has amassed a cult following by focusing exclusively on European grape varieties and techniques. Saying these wines are “impressive for Michigan” is a true understatement. The wines rival those from the great wine regions of the world, hence why it is time to rethink the Michigan terroir.
August 14, 2017
NEBBIOL - CAN
Ian d’Agata recently published a Vinous article titled 2016: A Very Good Year for Italy’s Many Rosatos. Ian reviewed the Sperino Rosa del Rosa but, to a surprise, listed their 2014 vintage. (What happened to the bit about 2016s?)
However, Ian did have this to say: “A recent exciting development in Italy is the emergence of many rosato wines made from Nebbiolo. The greatness of this grape variety apparently knows no limits: it can deliver uncommonly good pink wines (in the hands of talented producers, at least) as well as world-famous reds. Look for many of the stellar rosato now being made in the Langhe as well as in northeastern Piedmont, the home of up-and-coming Boca, Lessona, Gattinara and Lessona. These Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo-based pink wines are light- to medium-bodied and intensely perfumed, often with a bright mineral overlay to their juicy red berry and sour red cherry aromas and flavors.”
Ian, we believe you! We don’t say “Nebbiol - NO” but instead shout “Nebbiol - CAN” to Piedmont rosatos!
We’ve long sold out of the 2014 Rosa del Rosa, but have a wonderful supply of the 2016 in stock and ready to rock. The. Wine. Is. Delicious. With or without food, you’ll enjoy a complexity of flowers, herbs, minerals, and red fruit (some orange). The rounded fruit on the palate finely balances the acidity.
Lessona is a village situated in the Alpine foothills in Northern Piedmont. The ancient, sandy soils of marine origin in this area are ideal for the production of Nebbiolo-based wines, famous for their perfumes, elegant mineral qualities and longevity.
With that said…
Sperino’s 2012 Lessona is 100% “Nebbiol - CAN.” It is a stunning example of the magic of the Alto Piemonte Nebbiolo. Slightly chilled and just opened, the wine has a pretty nose of red fruit, flowers, rose petal, minerals and stone. It has a weightless elegance. After about 10-15 minutes, whilst warming up in the glass, the complexity of the wine shines with a new set of aromas exuding from the glass: herbs like rosemary and thyme, darker red fruits, some plum, savory earth components and more. It is a wine you could smell for 30 or so minutes before ever thinking to sip. Once in the mouth, the wine shows refined tannins. There is some grip when it opens up. The flavors mimic the nose; they are complex and abundant. This wine will has a long life ahead of it.
August 09, 2017
FEATURED: THANK YOU!
9 years and running!
The 9th Cream Warehouse Tasting & Sale BBQ was a great success.
We’d like to thank our customers. You make this all possible. We’re constantly searching to bring you producers and categories that we believe will enrich the Chicagoland market. Thank you for coming and exploring our book. Thank you for supporting our producers.
The Cream Team
June 08, 2017
These brothers are making deliciously complex, minimally made, organic Beaujolais wines that have gained enthusiastic praise from peers and press alike, accrediting them as some of the newest stars of the region. Lucky for us as we happen to direct import them both!
Jamie Goode’s Wineanorak.com 6/2016
“Since I first tried his wines a couple of years ago, Julien Sunier (above) had been on my hit-list of must-see Bojo producers. And then, a while later, I tried the wines from his brother, Antoine Sunier (below). These were different, but also compelling… The Sunier brothers with their brave organic approach, coming here without money behind them, but forging their own identity, is surely the future for the region. They are tremendous fun, too.”
Wine Advocate by Neal Martin 6/2016
“Julien Sunier seems to be one of the main drivers for the revolution that is sweeping through Beaujolais at the moment. He is an outgoing and outspoken winemaker, even predisposed to criticize his fellow vignerons’ wines when I was tasting them at his winery high up on the hills in northern Beaujolais. If he ever tires of making wine he would make a fine if formidable wine critic.”
Vinous by Josh Raynolds 8/2016
“Antoine Sunier, a native of Dijon, is the younger brother of Julien Sunier, who is one of the region’s ascendant stars, and these 2014s represent his inaugural vintage. It’s a pretty impressive debut, for sure. Antoine studied at the viticulture school in Beaune and followed up by working with Jean-Paul Lapalu, one of the most highly regarded winemakers in Beaujolais, before setting up his own estate. The wines are made by carbonic maceration followed by aging in small, used wooden barrels, with no sulfur applied until bottling. The purity and energy of these wines will thrill fans of Antoine’s brother’s work, as well as any fan of Beaujolais in the vibrant mode.”
While brothers, the Suniers’ wines do differ: 2015 Régnié Tasting (5/25/2017) Julien’s 2015 Régnié is a bit more restrained and masculine than Antoine’s Régnié. Red fruit mixes with mushroom and earth. Minerals with hints of peppery spice also develop over a meaty background. This wine shows dry tannins defined nicely by crisp acidity.
Antoine’s 2015 Régnié is fruitier/fresher in the sense that it is juicy on the palate (think sour apple juiciness). One still gets the mushroom notes, but there are also cranberry, raspberry, and plum flavors. The tannins do not seem as drying as Julien’s wine.
Both are compelling expressions that can be poured BTG!
What do we want? GAMAY!
When do we want it? NOW!
How do we want it? BTG!
The wines were tasted while a bowl of dark chocolate covered raisins and almonds sat a few inches away. Unable to resist, surprisingly, the wines and chocolates went superb together! Recommended.
May 30, 2017
Two Gins, Two Whiskeys
Ransom Old Tom Gin started the Cream spirits portfolio back in 2008.
At the time the gin was presented, we had been partners with Tad Seestedt for several years selling his Oregon wines in Chicago. The new gin was damn good and unique (the only Old Tom, barrel aged gin on the market). We took a leap of faith with Tad, bought the gin, and started a spirits portfolio.
Today, Tad makes more than just the Old Tom. Here is a closer look at his two gins and two whiskeys.
Ransom Old Tom Gin: This is an American classic. Ransom’s Old Tom Gin was the first Old Tom gin to be made in the US since WWII. Six botanicals and a distillate made from barley and corn combine to make this the most balanced and subtle Old Tom gin available. Aged 10 months in neutral 60-gallon barrels, the color is that of brown onion skin, the nose is a lift of juniper and citrus with baking spices and baked Russian tea cake cookies. The mouthfeel is subtle and soothing with gentle flavors. Sandalwood and rose petals intermingle with finishing touches of orange zest, juniper and herbs.
Ransom Dry Gin: Only the “heart of the hearts” (the very best portion of distillate) is retained for this special gin. Fashioned after Holland’s renowned malt wine genevers, Ransom Dry Gin combines the maltiness and hop aromas of the style with a decidedly more intense botanical infusion. Oats, white flowers and an array of spices that hint at the botanical infusion (anise, coriander, juniper, cardamom) show on the nose. The palate is supple and silky, engulfing the mouth with flavors of citrus and spice. The texture is incredible with roundness rather than dryness on the finish. Subtle flavors pleasantly linger on the tongue long after the sip. This is definitely a gin one can drink neat as well as mix to make cocktails.
Ransom Rye, Barley, Wheat Whiskey: This is an incredibly unique whiskey. Home grown six-row barley is combined with malted and unmalted rye, barley and wheat to make the mash. The nose is malty and cereal oriented with herbal undertones and hints of violets. The palate is broad and oriented towards an expression of cereal that is gripping and nearly tannin oriented. A tantalizing briny quality hints in the front and leads to soft fruit flavors of bananas and red apples with a long finish of grain and flint. This is one of the most captivating releases of Ransom’s history.
Ransom The Emerald 1865 American Whiskey: From an 1865 mash bill of a 19th century Irish whiskey, double distilled, the Emerald has sweet honeycomb and oatmeal all over the nose. Wrapped up with hints of celery salt and quince on the nose, the palate follows with rich oat, hints of honey on corn bread, herbs and an incredibly silky feel that coats the mouth and lingers for minutes.
May 08, 2017
FEATURED: 257 Years
Hold out your glasses Cream customers as we are now serving you 257 years of Champagne history and expertise! Bring out the Champagne Lanson!
Founded 16 years before our very own country, Champagne Lanson is one of the oldest, family-run Champagne houses. Over the years, the winemakers behind this famous label have carefully perfected their art, passing down the secrets of their craft from one generation to the next. Today’s owners, Philippe Baijot with his son Enguerrand Baijot (Sales Director), have invested in Lanson’s infrastructure while adhering to the unique history and style of the house. The quality has never been better.
VINES: Negociant Or Grower
While technically a negociant, Champange Lanson owns a fair amount of vines—125 hectares of vines to be exact. This land makes up 1/3 of their production needs. Did you know that not every Grandes Marques owns vineyard land? Owning land is favorable as it allows for better quality control year after year.
Included in the 125 hectares is the prestigious Clos Lanson, which dates back to the 18th century and is the only remaining vineyard within the walled city of Reims. Clos Lanson is a one-hectare plot of Chardonnay that sits above the Lanson cellar (House of Lanson is located in central Reims). The land is farmed organically.
The remaining grapes are carefully selected from over 400 hectares of vines located in the best Champagne crus. More than 50% of all the grapes come from Grand Cru and Premier Cru villages.
WINEMAKING: Reserves Bring Depth
As you know, champagne is about the art of blending. Lanson has 400 tanks in the cellar. Each tank represents a different wine to use for blending! Large oak casks are used to age the reserve wines. The micro-oxygenation brought by the wood allows for rounder and richer wines. Very rare in Champagne, Lanson uses a minimum of 30% reserve wines from at least 10 different harvests in their NV blends! Not only that, but roughly 50% of Grand Cru and Premier Cru wine is going into the NV blends. The resulting depth and complexity is remarkable. Also helping depth is the length of aging. The NV wines are aged for a minimum of three years before bottle aging. This is a lot longer than the law requires (15 months).
STYLE: Freshness & Energy
For over 250 years, Champagne Lanson has made wines without malolactic fermentation. This decision is key to the unique Lanson Style. It also places Lanson in a select category of few Champagne houses (Krug, Gosset, Salon to name a few). Lactic acid gives a yeasty, buttery brioche flavor on the palate. By excluding malolactic fermentation, the wine keeps its natural, mouth-watering flavors and freshness. Wines are cleaner, richer and fruiter with an outstanding aging ability.
FUN FACT: The Brits Adore Lanson
The Champagne house has a long history with England. Queen Victoria awarded a Royal Warrant to Lanson in 1900; this made it an official supplier to the Court of England. Champagne Lanson was the first Champagne house to be awarded the honor. As the official champagne supplier since 1977, Lanson is the only Champagne poured throughout the tournament. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Lanson’s partnership with Wimbledon.
March 28, 2017
FEATURED: AGAVE WEEK: April 10th - 13th
Who is coming, you ask?
Tequila Fortaleza: Guillermo Sauza & Billy Erickson (owners)
Tequila Arette: Eduardo Jr. Orendain (owner)
Fidencio Mezcal: Arik Torren (owner)
Koch el Mezcal: Carlos Moreno (owner); Lucio Bautista, Adrian Bautista (distillers)
Agave Week Events
We’ve booked a spectacular week of events for the industry and consumers alike. We hope you can make a few! For the Tuesday and Wednesday events, please contact the restaurant for more details about drink specials (there are lots!) and dinner menus.
Monday, April 10th
Industry Agave Tasting
RSVP to Christophe@creamwine.com
Tuesday, April 11th
Fortaleza Bar Takeover
Fortaleza Bar Takeover
Arette Bar Takeover
Fidencio Bar Takeover
Koch Bar Takeover
Wednesday, April 12th
December 22, 2016
Once & Future - Joel Peterson is back!
Christmas has come early! Joel Peterson is back to his roots.
We are very fortunate that our relationship with Joel’s son Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock Wine Co. has led us here: distributing the legendary Zinfandel producer’s new project Once & Future. Welcome to Cream Joel!
We are now offering a very limited quantity of Once & Future 2014 Petite Sirah, Palisades Vineyard, Napa Valley. Please ask your Cream Sales Representative for pricing and availability.
Joel Peterson sent out a heartfelt release letter that takes us through his journey, which we’d like to share in entirety.
In late 1972 I met Joe Swan and was given an extraordinary chance to learn the art of winemaking. I was a complete novice when it came to the craft, but not when it came to wine. I had grown up in a household of two chemists: my mother Frances, a nuclear chemist and my father Walter, a physical chemist. After my brother and I were born my mother applied her meticulous science skills to food (later doing much of the recipe testing for Alice Waters’s original Chez Panisse cookbook). My father became obsessed by wine, eventually writing one of the first wine newsletters in the San Francisco Bay Area: The San Francisco Wine Sampling Society. With this as a childhood backdrop, I learned about the pleasures and complexities of food and wine at an early age, along with a healthy love of science.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, with the California wine business still recovering from the hangover of Prohibition and offering few options of high quality wine (with some notable exceptions such as Beaulieu and Inglenook) my parents’ taste, and as a result mine, was informed by European wines. Many of the best were from single vineyards where the grapes were grown perfectly matched to site, the wines made by a person who had special insight into that location and a deft touch with the process. I learned that the most interesting wines were generally made in fairly small lots, frequently relying on native flora for fermentation and more often than not, stored in wooden cooperage for some period of time to mature and concentrate before bottling.
When Joe Swan took me under his wing in the early 1970’s, his fastidious winemaking techniques, and wines, mirrored my theories and tasting experiences. Grapes from carefully selected and cultivated vineyards were harvested at ripeness but not over ripeness. They were fermented in small 3 - 4 ton open top redwood fermenters and punched down by hand. The processing was minimal and the aging occurred in small, newly imported French oak barrels. Although Joe wanted to specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, he practiced his early winemaking with old vine Zinfandel. As the four subsequent decades have shown, these turned out to be some of his best wines. It was those first Swan wines that made me fall in love with Zinfandel and, in particular, with older vines. I came to see these as the most European grapes in California; mostly planted in the right locations, usually dry farmed, moderate in production (2 - 3 tons per acre), head pruned and frequently intermixed with other varieties that were unique to California.
When I started Ravenswood in 1976, I wanted to focus on Zinfandel. I planned to make single vineyard wines in a somewhat gothic, old world style. It was my hope to make wine similar to that made in Europe but with a Californian twist; small open topped redwood fermenters, hand punchdowns, extended macerations, native yeast, gentle transfer, minimal processing and small French oak aging - all done by hand. I thought the winery, if I were lucky, would grow to six or seven thousand cases. For a number of reasons, mostly dealing with the hard realities of cash flow and distribution and the necessity of equity partners, I found myself unable to make that vision of a small winery into a reality. Though I was able to make single vineyard wines that I hope helped redefine the qualitative ceiling of California’s old vines, Ravenswood also started to make a wine called “Vintners Blend” that proved immensely popular. Thanks to that, starting in 1983, seven years after the first vintage, Ravenswood began to grow and over the following three decades its annual production kicked up to nearly one million cases, at one point becoming the bestselling red Zinfandel brand in the world.
Along the way, I have watched and participated in the growth and maturation of the California wine business. I have seen the increased sophistication of an expanding wine consumer population. I have worked with some of the best, most talented and nicest people in the wine business. I have travelled to and sold wine in most of the wine drinking countries of the world. I have had the pleasure to taste many great wines. I have been a Sole Proprietor, a General Partner in a Limited Partnership, the President of both a C Corporation and a publicly traded corporation and a Senior Vice President at Constellation Wines. I have been the President of Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers. I helped found ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and was its President two times. I support and consult with the Historic Vineyard Society and currently am a member of the Board of the Sonoma County Vintners. In 2011 fellow industry members gave me the honor of induction into the Vintners Hall of Fame. Best of all I have a son, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who has chosen winemaking as his career and runs the highly innovative and successful Bedrock Wine Company.
Both in the vineyard and in life, I have definitely learned a thing or two about vintage variation. I am enormously proud of the wines I make at Ravenswood, from those wines that sing of place - Old Hill Ranch, Dickerson, Belloni, Barricia, Teldeschi - to the more economical wines that helped turn a couple of generations of people onto the joy and deliciousness of well-wrought wine. However, after nearly 45 years in the wine business, I feel it is time to return to my roots.
Once and Future is the return to the original vision I had for Ravenswood so many years ago - a small project specializing in wines from unique older vineyards, made with a sensitivity to place and in a style that I personally love and believe in - wines that force me to dust off the old redwood vats and get out a new punch down tool (my original is in the Smithsonian), wines that dye my hands a harvest shade of black/purple and sometimes force me to take an additional Ibuprofen in the morning. In short - wines of sweat, commitment, and love.