Learn more about Joel Peterson, Founder and Winemaker of Ravenswood Winery

Sunset  – April 1, 2011

Winemakers Honorary Chair: Joel Peterson, Founder and Winemaker, Ravenswood

Joel Peterson unwittingly embarked on his winemaking apprenticeship at the age of ten when he began tasting with the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club, organized and operated by his father.  By the time he was a teenager, he had a working knowledge of fine European vineyards and vintages.  After graduating from Oregon State University, he became a wine writer and consultant, and in the mid-1970’s he learned the art of traditional winemaking (as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy) from one of California’s outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel, the late Joseph Swan.  Along with his other talents (he was a professional research immunologist), Joel is renowned for his extraordinary palate, which sometimes seems to possess a memory of its own.  This combination of skills — in addition to his uncompromising nature and enthusiasm for all things flavorful — enables him to produce wines that consistently bear the distinctive Ravenswood stamp.

Joel has been the Winemaker of Ravenswood Winery since 1976.  Joel has shepherded Ravenswood from a small unknown winery producing 327 cases of Zinfandel, to a respected, high quality producer of approximately 800,000 cases of red wine.  Joel works with 100+ growers that provide grapes for Ravenswood annually, consulting on irrigation practices, cultivation practices, cropping levels and other vineyard management practices.  Ravenswood is one of the few wineries that has had the philosophical and winemaking skill of one winemaker for over 30 years, contributing to a consistency and quality rarely found in California.  Joel has been a long time participant and observer of the California wine industry.  He has watched the technological changes that have transformed California’s enological and business practices. Joel relates equally well to the poetry and the product that forms the basis of winemaking in this new century.

Joel is a current member and former president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance (S.V.V.G.A.) and is on the Board of Directors for the Sonoma County Vintners.  He is a founding Board member and former two-time President of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (Z.A.P.).  Joel is also a Senior Vice President with Constellation Wines US.  In 2010, Joel was also inducted into the Vintner’s Hall of Fame.

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