Ravenswood 2007 Vineyard Designate Zinfandels:
Quality and Ageability
Ravenswood Winery is synonymous with Zinfandel. Few wineries in California have been more successful in producing outstanding wines from this varietal than Ravenswood. Since the mid-1970s founder and winemaker Joel Petersen (lower left) has championed Zinfandel and kept true to his motto “No Wimpy Wines”. Admiring European winemaking, he has followed Old World methods limiting technological interference while using native yeasts and small open top fermenters and aging in barriques.
Ravenswood’s vineyard designated wines are produced from meticulously cultivated, low-yielding, old vines in locations considered ideal for growing Zinfandel. Each vineyard has a special terroir that yields specific flavor characteristics that make each one special. Not withstanding the fact that Ravenswood was sold to Constellation Brands in 2001, Joel Petersen and Ravenswood continue to turn out fabulous hand-crafted wines. As our tasting shows, these vineyard designated wines combine power and elegance with a well-defined sense of place. The 2007s are all very drinkable now, but their fruit quality, acidity, and tannin levels make them age-worthy as well.
The 2007 Zinfandels
Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel Barrica Sonoma Mountain ($35) 90
The Barrica Zinfandel is medium dark ruby in color and has a nose of black raspberry and violets. The palate reveals dark plum and minerals and is rather dry on the attack with earth flavors, mint notes and tannic grip on the finish. The Barrica is a 12 acre estate which includes 6 acres of 118-year old Zinfandel vines that yield about 2.5 tons per acre.
Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel Belloni Russian River Valley ($35) 91
Dark ruby in color, the Belloni Zinfandel was initially closed when first opened, but in time showed itself to be ripe and sweet on the attack with dark fruit and a touch of violets and licorice. It has lots of minerals with nicely concentrated fruit and bitter chocolate notes on the finish. Needs food! This wine is sourced from the 7.5 acre Belloni vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The vines are estimated to be 90+ years old, yielding less than 2 tons per acre.
Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel Big River Alexander Valley ($35) 91
The Big River Zinfandel is produced from a meticulously farmed vineyard planted in 1893. It consists of 14 acres situated on a knoll above the coastal fog line. This medium dark ruby Zinfandel exhibits raspberry, black pepper and earth notes on the nose. It has a very flavorful attack of sweet raspberry liqueur-like red fruit with firm, sweet tannins on the finish. A beautiful wine!
Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel Dickerson Napa Valley ($35) 93
This 2007 Zinfandel from the Dickerson Vineyard in Napa is one of the very finest Ravenswood Zinfandels. Medium ruby in color, it exhibits a characteristic eucalyptus and mint nose with notes of underbrush, cherry, minerals and white pepper. Lighter on the palate than the others, it exhibits a silky elegance, good acidity and a long finish. The 10 acre Dickerson Vineyard is one of Ravenswood’s most celebrated vineyards for Zinfandel. An amazing bargain given the quality of this wine!
Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel Old Hill Sonoma Valley ($60) 93
The Old Hill Zinfandel exhibits outstanding purity of flavor and balance. Medium dark ruby in color it offers dark red plums and a hint of mint on the nose. On the palate it reveals flavors of huckleberries, blueberries, toast, garrique and violets. This is a delicious wine of both power and elegance sourced from the 14-acre Old Hill Vineyard that has an average yield of less than 1.5 tons per acre. Absolutely delicious!
Ravenswood 2007 Zinfandel Teldeschi Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma ($35) 92
The medium dark ruby Teldeschi Vineyard offers dark red berry fruit and brambles on the nose. It has a soft attack and a palate of concentrated ripe red berry, plum and orchard fruit flavors with vanilla notes. Long and flavorful on the finish, there is also a lingering touch of earth and garrigue. The Teldeschi Vineyard consists of some 30 acres of Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah; the blend of these varietals in this gorgeous wine depends on the vintage.
How well are Ravenswood’s vineyard designate 2007 Zinfandels likely to age? Just for fun, Michael Sternberg, a local restaurateur and esteemed member of our tasting panel raided his cellar and brought us a case of old Ravenswood wines to help answer this question. The vintages ranged from 1991 to 1998.
The answer to the question? It depends!! Ravenswood Zinfandels are definitely age-worthy. However, they also have their limits. We loved the youthful 1993 Monte Rosso and the 1991 and 1992 Bellonis; these bottlings exhibited purity of fruit, bright acidity and overall balance and freshness. On the other hand, the 1991and 1993 Cooke, 1998 Old Hill and 1993 Wood Road Belloni were generally in a state of decline with dry and medicinal flavors.
For the sake of comparison, we also tasted four older vintages—from 1989 to 1993—of Pickberry Vineyard, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. In general, the Pickberry Vineyard blend has aged somewhat better than the single vineyard Zinfandels. Our favorite was the 1990 Pickberry (54% Cabernet Sauvignon), which revealed a lovely combination of light dried cherry fruit flavors with mushrooms, roasted meat and cedar and got better and better after it was opened. Our second favorite was the 1991 Pickberry (60% Merlot); it was fruit forward and still showing lots of plum, blackberry and violets with very youthful tannins. The 1989 Pickberry and the 1993 Pickberry were also both quite youthful, combining dried fruit, earth, and barrel flavors with good acidity and structure.
All in all, it was a great tasting and a credit to Joel Petersen’s winemaking.
Written by Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler, April 2010