Suggested Retail: $18
Joel Peterson started Ravenswood in the mid-1970s and developed it into what was probably the best-known Zinfandel specialty winery in the world. He sold Ravenswood to the giant Constellation in 2001 for a reported $148 million and continued an affiliation with the brand under Constellation’s ownership until 2015. Last year that firm sold Ravenswood to Gallo.
Their Sonoma Valley tasting room has closed, but the Ravenswood website indicates they’re still marketing quite a few different Zins, each identified by the individual vineyard which supplied the grapes. The current releases of these single vineyard Zinfandel bottlings range from $42 to $60—expensive perhaps, but all distinctive and of high quality.
Our Wine Pick for this week might not have the cachet of those pricey Zins on which Ravenswood made its reputation, but we found it a very appealing example of this All-American variety. The label indicates the grapes were sourced from old vines in the Lodi AVA (shorthand for American Viticultural Area, a delineated and government-certified grape growing region). The “Old Vine” designation has no such governmental oversight and is open to the interpretation of the winery making such a declaration. However, there are still plenty of older Zinfandel vineyards in Lodi and we’ve no reason to believe that this wine was not sourced from their grapes.
Lodi is about 35 miles south of Sacramento. Cartographers might consider it as part of California’s Central Valley, but winemakers know that Lodi is something special and deserving of respect as a worthy growing region regardless of its distance from the coast. It can produce quality grapes at prices that allow for a wine like this Old Vine Zin to sell at a reasonable price.
The Ravenswood 2017 Old Vine Zinfandel delivers most of the positive qualities you could want in a Zinfandel. There’s a lot of fruit—aromas and flavors of Bing cherries, dark plums and blueberries. Some spice and a bit of chocolate are subtle additions to the background. Most impressive, we found, was the balance. There’s that traditional Zinfandel punch, but without the sweetness and excessive alcohol in some bloated versions of this variety.
We purchased our sample bottle last week at a California supermarket for a price much less than the suggested $18. We suggest you shop around, but we can recommend this wine even at full retail.
Food Affinity: You could pair this wine with almost any dish you’d think appropriate with a red wine. We think it would be a good choice with a red meat done on a backyard barbecue or, if you’re cooking indoors, something slowly braised like osso buco, especially if the recipe incorporates some tomato or tomato sauce.