WHAT: These three old vine Zinfandels are great examples of beautiful California Zin that reflects the place in which it was grown. Each is a beautiful wine and each is different from the others.
The Sonoma wine is full of blackberries, black cherries and spice, with a good balance between acid and tannin. The grapes are grown in the cool, coastal-influenced regions of the county.
Napa Valley fruit shows more raspberries and plums but also has spice. It has a bright, clean finish.
The Lodi wine is more fruit forward, with soft tannins and flavors of cherries and blueberries. It comes from a warmer region in the center of California with sandier soils.
All the wines are ready to drink now but should improve in the bottle for another five years or so. I would chill the bottle slightly before opening and open the bottle 30 minutes before drinking.
WINERY: Since his first vintage in 1976, winemaker Joel Peterson has been known for big, powerful wines. His motto has been "No Wimpy Wines."
He uses many Old World techniques instead of technological shortcuts to coax great wine out of his grapes. Long known for great Zinfandels, Ravenswood now produces a variety of wines in three tiers. But Zinfandel is still its best bet.
The county series is the middle tier. Peterson's goal when he started was to produce unique vineyard-designated Zinfandel that highlighted the unique flavors of each site. What he found was that not every vineyard had a different enough flavor profile to warrant its own label.
He did find that vineyards in each county did have similar characteristics, so he started taking wine that didn't make it to the vineyard-designated level and blending it by county. The result is excellent wine at a good price.
The Sonoma County winery includes one of the most fun tasting rooms I've ever visited.
GOES WITH: All three would go well with hearty meat dishes or wintry vegetable stews. They also pair well with red meat on the grill and hearty cheeses.