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Just Over the Hill in Wine Country; Ravenswood Winery

Linda Foxworth

The Zinfandel grape, as it is called in the US, came to this country from Italy where it is known as Primitivo. It is from the European species Vitas Vinifera, but Zinfandel did not originate in Italy. Zinfandel's original home is Croatia where the grape goes by the name Crljenak Kastelanski. Though it is not originally from the US, and though it is not a North American but rather it is a European species, Zinfandel is known as America's grape. Planted in California soils in the 19th century, Zinfandel gained tremendous popularity in the 1970's. A big part of its current popularity can be attributed to the 'Godfather of Zin,' Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood Winery.

The winery is located in Sonoma just north of the town square, but Ravenswood has vineyard throughout Sonoma County. Most of those vineyards are, like the winery, devoted to Zinfandel. Because of its warm dry days and cool nights, Sonoma is a perfect climate for the early ripening Zinfandel grape.

Unpretentious and laid-back, the tasting room is an easy and pleasant visit with a motto 'No Wimpy Wines,' that Ravenswood strongly follows. Big River Zinfandel from the Alexander Valley vineyard is made from old vines with a big, smoky flavor, dark fruit, and almond. The Estate Zinfandel comes from the vineyard on site and has a red cherry aroma with rosemary and chocolate. Bedrock Zinfandel is made from vines that were planted in the 1880's. Its flavor is like a tangy, baked cherry pie with spice. Teldeschi Zinfandel comes from the Dry Creek vineyard and features 100 year old vines that create a smoky, raspberry flavor in the wine.

Ravenswood does produce some white wines such as Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, as well as other reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but they are known for their Zinfandels. The choices for Zinfandel at Ravenswood are both plentiful and stunning.

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