I first started drinking Ravenswood Zins in the early 90’s. In fact, it was wineries like Ravenswood, Ridge and Limerick Lane that sparked my obsession with Zinfandel. In the early 90’s Ravenswood was a champion of single vineyard Zins. Old Hill Ranch, Dickerson and Belloni were some early favorites. Every August when the winery released their SVD’s I would make the trek from Sacramento to Sonoma to taste and purchase the new releases. Back in those days Ravenswood would often fire up a barbecue on the back deck and serve grilled meat that you could purchase and pair with a glass or bottle of Zinfandel. It really was everything I was looking for at the time when visiting wineries.
After I moved from Sacramento to Seattle visits to Ravenswood became less frequent, but I did always make sure to visit on every trip to Sonoma. Things were never quite the same starting in 2001 when Joel sold Ravenswood to Constellation. The tasting room became slightly more corporate with a more expensive tasting fee and doing away with the barbecue. Nonetheless, my wife and I would make a point to visit.
I think it has been 5 or so years since I last visited Ravenswood but regardless, I was a little saddened to learn that the tasting room will be shutting down in mid-May.
Earlier this month Constellation sold a bundle of labels to Gallo including Ravenswood. However, Constellation maintained ownership of the tasting room and adjoining 13 acre vineyard. Constellation says the decision to close Ravenswood’s almost-30-year-old tasting room near downtown Sonoma “was made with a great deal of careful thought and consideration.”
Wineries like Carlisle and Turley are now my standard bearers when it comes to Zin but I will always be thankful for coming across Ravenswood almost 3 decades ago. They fueled my passion for the variety and in a larger sense I think they contributed to a renaissance of Single Vineyard Zinfandel that we all get to enjoy today.