I took the c-train down to the city core, heading to a place I swore I’d never go…downtown during Stampede. As I peeled myself off of the sticky train seat and stepped out into the dense city heat, I could already hear the whoops and hollers mixed with the sound of country fiddling and clapping. Stampede is not my favourite time of the year but I do appreciate that it’s a part of our history and heritage.
Many businesses rely on the influx of out of town curious Stampede virgins and experienced Stampede goers, for many it’s revenue essential for survival. As an experienced Stampede fan, Joel Peterson doesn’t like to miss the party. The co founder, general manager, and winemaker of Ravenswood Winery brought his ‘Big Zins’ from Sonoma, California to Calgary and hosted one heck of a Zinfandel roundup at The Cellar Wine Store.
As we sat around the table, I could almost imagine being around a camp fire, listening to the stories about how Joel grew up with parents who instilled in him a love for great wines and the ability to evaluate the characteristics during tasting. He went from being a microbiologist working in a lab in 1976 to one of the most outspoken members of the California wine industry today. Known as the ‘Godfather of Zin’, Joel (who is a relatively strict vegetarian) loves this robust red variety and focusses mainly on letting this varietal shine.
The Zinfandel vines supposedly arrived in New York in 1829 and the first plantings in California occurred in 1852. Today it is the second most planted red wine grape in California after Cabernet Sauvignon. It is most often planted (and blended) with Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alichante Bouchet, Syrah, and Grenache. While Joel spoke, we had the opportunity to try several of his delicious Zinfandels and none of them were ‘wimpy’. He likes to make his wines on the dry side with the alcohol content between 13.5-15 ABV. Three of the wines we tasted (2012 Ravenswood Tedeschi Vineyard Zinfandel, 2012 Ravenswood Barricia Vineyard Zinfandel, and 2012 Ravenswood Belloni Vineyard Zinfandel) contained a majority of Zinfandel grapes (over 75%) blended with Carignane, Petit Sirah, and some mixed blacks. The common factors of using the same winemaker and the same grape varietal allow each bottle to reflect the terroir of the vineyard in which the grape was produced (Tedeschi, Barricia, and Belloni Vinyards).
As a contrast we also tasted a 2012 Icon Mixed Blacks single vineyard with only 21% Zinfandel, and a 2011 Pickberry Red which is more of a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec blend. As a special treat, Joel also brought a magnum of his 1994 Pickberry Red for us to taste. It was a special year for me as that was the year I became a mom…thereby increasing my need for wine. The universe is a funny thing.
While we didn’t have any food pairings, we did have a marvellous three course lunch catered by Chef Chris Grafton from Swine and Sow. We began with a Hotchkiss beans, heirloom tomato, smoked Gouda, roasted peppers salad with a basil purée. I thought the smoked gouda was a great addition and it went really well with the Icon. Our second course was so amazing I am still thinking about it…Maple espresso braised Angus Shortrib! Absolutely wonderful! The Summer Berry Pavlova was a wonderful way to finish the event.