Joel Peterson is known as “The Godfather of Zin” because of the work he has done exclusively with the grape variety and he has been instrumental in making it what it is today. A clinical microbiologist by day, Joel, who inherited an interest in wine from his father, spent much of his spare time dabbling in winemaking with two single vineyard Zinfandels from 1976 being his first. Both wines won 1st and 2nd place at a prestigious tasting in San Francisco in 1979 and this convinced Joel that he needed to spend less time in the lab and more time in the vineyard. As he owned a limited amount of property, Joel started buying in grapes from single vineyards in different counties across California. Ravenswood now offer three different class of wines based on this philosophy – Single Vineyard (from a specific vineyard), County Series (from a specific county) and Vintners Blend (a blend of several different types).
The Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel is a wine from the County Series named after the city of Lodi in San Joaquin County, California , where the grapes come from. The vines are old – with some dating back over a hundred years or more – and their origin is a source of much debate in winemaking circles. A school of thought is that they were imported from Italy as the Zinfandel grape in that country is known as the Primitivo and bears a striking resemblance to Zinfandel in character and the wine that it makes. In fact in recent DNA tests it has been established that the Primitivo and Zinfandel grape are genetically identical but that it arrived in California via the East Coast from Croatia where it is known as Crljenak Kastelanski (black grape of Kastel). It very quickly became California’s most planted grape variety with 34,000 acres planted in 1884 and also ironically became the favourite varietal of the Italian immigrants who arrived in the area around the same time, who kept it thriving through Prohibition.
This wine is actually around 80% Zinfandel and 20% Petite Sirah. The grapes are harvested and spend 18 months in French Oak of which a third is new. In the glass the wine appears dark, inky red and is fairly opaque indicating a full body and depth. On the nose it is full of red and black berry driven fruit with a hint of spice and vanilla from the oak. It is very smooth, dense and supple in the mouth – initially with a very ripe/dried fruitiness but with a relatively uncomplex cocoa and black pepper spice lingering, hot finish due to its relatively high alcohol content (14.5%).
Although it can be drunk on its own (it’s my neighbours favourite quaffing wine), good food matches include dried and cured meats, pasta in rich, red sauces and most types of flavourful hard cheese.
Marks out of 100 – 85 (would get 90 but for its lack of complexity)