Once & Future
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Country of Origin: USA
Location: Napa Valley, California
People: Joel Peterson, Owner & Winemaker
Viticulture: Practicing Organic
Joel Peterson started Ravenswood in 1976 to focus on his love of Zinfandel.
He planned to make single vineyard wines in a somewhat gothic, old world style. He wanted to make wine similar to that made in Europe but with a Californian twist; small open topped redwood fermenters, hand punch downs, extended macerations, native yeast, gentle transfer, minimal processing and small French oak aging – all done by hand. His hope was that the winery, if lucky, would grow to six or seven thousand cases. For a number of reasons, mostly dealing with the hard realities of cash flow and the necessity of equity partners, he found himself unable to make the vision of a small winery into a reality. Though he was able to make single vineyard wines that 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. 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, Joel watched and participated in the growth and maturation of the California wine business. He saw the increased sophistication of an expanding wine consumer population, and worked with some of the best, most talented and nicest people in the wine business. Joel was extremely influential in the California wine industry; he was the President of Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers, one of the founders ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), President of ZAP two times, key supporter and consultant to the Historic Vineyard Society, and an inductee into the Vintners Hall of Fame. What makes Joel most proud is his son, Morgan Twain-Peterson, who has chosen winemaking as his career and runs the highly innovative and successful Bedrock Wine Co.
While proud of his Ravenswood legacy, Joel Peterson has decided after nearly 45 years in the wine business to return to his roots!
Once & Future is the return to the original vision Joel 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 he personally loves and believes in. Once & Future are wines that force Joel to dust off the old redwood vats and get out a new punch down tool (his original one is in the Smithsonian). Once & Future are wines that dye his hands a harvest shade of black/purple and sometimes force him to take an additional Ibuprofen in the morning. In short – Once & Future are wines of sweat, commitment, and love.
"It’s always a pleasure to taste with Joel Peterson, as he is a veritable fountain of knowledge when it comes to the history of California vineyards and wines. Peterson describes 2019 as a relatively moderate growing season, but with more notable weather events than 2018, including rain in May and several heat spikes towards the end of the season. The 2019s aren’t as consistently brilliant as the 2018s, but that is interesting in a different way because there is more distinction between sites. Certainly, the character of the very best vineyards in this range comes through loud and clear, and that is what these wines are ultimately all about - expressions of place. The 2019s were fermented in open-top redwood tanks, with indigenous fermentations, and aged in French oak. Readers will find these wines endowed with terrific energy, vibrancy and character."
Wine Advocate 12/2019
"The texture of these wines is one of their hallmarks: silky, softly grainy tannins balanced by juicy acidity, with restrained, elegant fruits and none of the rusticity sometimes associated with Zinfandel. Bravo!"
"Joel Peterson is one of the seminal figures in American wine, and yet he remains incredibly down to earth, with a level of youthful passion and excitement that is great to see. The 2017s are strong across the board, even if some of the wines show the effects of the heat spikes that conditioned the growing season."
"Joel Peterson is one of the deans of American wine. These new releases from Peterson's new Once & Future label embody the experience Peterson gained through decades of working with top sites in Sonoma during his lengthy and illustrious career at Ravenswood."
I'll Drink to That!: Episode 460: Joel Peterson and the Winemaking American Dream
San Francisco Chronicle: Joel Peterson set the course for California Zin. Now he returns to his roots
The Press Democrat: Still no wimpy wines for Sonoma winemaker Joel Peterson's new Once & Future label
Forbes: To Discover the Magic of Good Zinfandel, Ask this Winemaker