Tastings of 2008 Ravenswood Single Vineyard Zinfandels

Ravenswood is one of California’s iconic Zinfandel producers. Our evaluations and tasting notes of the 2008 single vineyard Zinfandels are given below. Ravenswood was founded by Joel Peterson, who started his wine career as a Zinfandel garagiste, making just a few hundred cases a year when his newly founded Ravenswood winery opened for business in 1976. He quickly became famous for his Zinfandel, especially the single vineyard series made from low yielding old vines, and, today, the total output of Ravenswood exceeds a million cases.

When Joel Peterson sold Ravenswood to wine giant Constellation Brands in 2001, some critics expressed trepidation. But Joel continues to make the wine from the same low yielding, old vineyards and using the same time-tested techniques—native yeasts, open top fermenters, extended time on the skins, and aging in French oak barriques. The result, consistent over time and across vineyards, are wines of superb structure and balance. The 2008 vintage reviewed here strikes us as being as good as ever and overall on a par with the 2007 vintage that we reviewed last year.

While we like all the Ravenswood wines we tasted, our stylistic favorites is the Belloni Zinfandel. The Belloni strike us as being more terroir driven and less flamboyant than some of the other single vineyard Zinfandels. In addition, we found both the Old Hill and Dickerson Zinfandels to be juicy, quite extravagant and delicious wines that are superb examples of their genre.

Ravenswood 2008 Single Vineyard Belloni Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($35) 93
The Belloni Zinfandel is a terroir-driven wine, beautifully balanced with an attractive earthy complexity. It shows a soft spicy attack of fresh black raspberry and brambly blackberry with distinct earth and tobacco notes, finishing very long. Beautiful! The Belloni is a co-fermented field blend of 78% Zinfandel and 22% other varietals. It spends 20 months in French oak (32% new). The Belloni is sourced from the Belloni Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The 90+ year old vines yield less than 2 tons per acre.

Ravenswood 2008 Single Vineyard Old Hill Zinfandel Sonoma Valley ($60) 93

The Old Hill Zinfandel is a powerful, extroverted wine of dark red fruit, lots of sweet, toasted oak, and big, ripe tannins. It shows a juicy palate of dark cherries and plum with a touch of bitter cherry pit along with the vanilla and cedar from French oak aging. It’s a blend of 75% Zinfandel and 25% other varietals aged 20 months in French oak (34% new).

Ravenswood 2008 Single Vineyard Barricia Zinfandel Sonoma Valley ($35) 91

Made from old, low-yielding vines, the Barricia Zinfandel is a distinctive and attractive wine with its blackberry fruit and notes of violets and blueberries. It offers a juicy palate with chalky mineral notes and a persistent, soft finish. It’s a blend of 76% Zinfandel and 24% Petite Sirah aged 20 months in French oak (33% new).

Ravenswood 2008 Single Vineyard Dickerson Zinfandel Napa Valley ($35) 93

With its black raspberry liqueur nose, the Dickerson Zinfandel impresses from start to finish. It’s a beautifully balanced wine with a silky smooth palate, loads of berry fruit with notes of oak spice and earth, good acidity, and slightly dry tannins on the finish that are likely to be resolved by a bit more bottle age. [Remember, this wine was just released at the time of our tasting.] The Dickerson vineyard is located on the west side of Napa Valley.

Ravenswood 2008 Single Vineyard Big River Zinfandel Alexander Valley ($35) 90

Made from the fruit of Alexander Valley vines planted early last century, the Big River Zinfandel shows vanilla oak and plum along with notes of resin and raspberry. It’s a nicely balanced wine with a straightforward flavor profile.

Ravenswood 2008 Single Vineyard Teldeschi Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($35) 91

The Teldeschi Zinfandel is a blend of 75% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignane, and 2% Alicante Bouschet, each of which is fermented separately and later blended together. Semi-opaque ruby in color, the wine reveals nicely concentrated cassis, blackberry, and toasted oak with forest floor and mocha notes. It finishes long with good tannic grip.

Don Winkler and Mike Potashnik
The International Wine Review

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