This past Sunday Joel Peterson was gracious enough to host me and my partner under a canopy in Bedrock Vineyard and we tasted through most of the 2021 Once & Future Zinfandel lineup. Although I met Joel a few times back in the days at Ravenswood those moments were fleeting and in passing. This was my first opportunity to sit down with the master of Zinfandel himself and have a great conversation with someone whose wines I have drank for the better part of almost thirty years now.
Joel Peterson founded Ravenswood Winery in 1976 with a focus on Single Vineyard Zinfandel. Ravenswood was immensely successful and over time began producing in excess of a million cases per year. Joel eventually sold Ravenswood to Constellation. I recall going to Ravenswood every August in the mid nineties for the release of their Single Vineyard Zins with the intent of securing coveted bottles of Old Hill, Dickerson, Cooke and Belloni. Once & Future is the return to the original vision Joel had for Ravenswood so many years ago – a small project specializing in wines from unique older vineyards.
We tasted with Joel for almost two hours and in addition to talking about the wines Joel entertained us with stories about the likes of Charlie Cook, David Goines, Phil Coturri, Alice Waters, Robert Parker and more. It is a cliche but it is certainly safe to say that Joel has probably forgotten more about wine than most of today’s crop of winemakers know.
While we chatted we tasted through most of the current release Zinfandels including the Napa Valley, Vogensen, Oakley Road, Bedrock, Dickerson, Bacigalupi and Teldeschi. It is worth noting that Vogensen was one of the first vineyards that Joel made wine from pre Ravenswood. Across the board, the wines have bright red fruits, perfect acidity and a structure and power not often seen in Zinfandel. The wines from Ravenswood have always aged exceptionally well and I suspect that will be the case with the Once & Future lineup. Each wine was stunning but my favorites were the Dickerson, Bacigalupi and Teldeschi. Although I was too busy enjoying time with Joel to take copious notes all the wines would be in the 93-96 point range with my favorites at the upper end.
Although Once & Future makes many varieties in addition to Zinfandel, starting in 2023 Joel will focus solely on Zinfandel once again. 2022 will represent the last vintage of Once & Future Merlot, Petite Sirah and Mataro. In addition the 2023 vintage will also include the inaugural vintage of Once & Future Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel!
Once & Future makes around 2000 cases per year and there is still room on the mailing list. I can’t recommend many lists more highly than Once & Future. It was such a treat to taste with Joel Peterson and I look forward to doing this again in the years to come.