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I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Joel Peterson

Episode 460 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Joel Peterson, Founder and Winemaker at Ravenswood winery and the Founder and Winemaker at Once & Future Wine, both in California.

Joel Peterson’s wine career spans the arc of California wine from the 1970s to now, and for him it went from making a few barrels of wine in a shack to later being in charge of a million-case wine facility. In between were encounters with some of the early pioneers of post-WWII California winemaking, people like André Tchelistcheff and Joe Swan, and a key realization that Zinfandel offered a special opportunity for making wine. Joel made the connection that California had a wealth of old-vine Zinfandel, but that those grapes were often vinified into low-end jug wines. He felt that the grape offered more when it was vinified for more potential by the likes of Swan and Paul Draper, and decided to pursue that route for his own winemaking. That decision to take full advantage of the old vines that were already in the ground, and to flesh out his wine portfolio of Zinfandels by offering them at different price points, ended up being the foundation of huge commerical success for his wine wine brand Ravenswood during the 1980s. Now Joel has returned to smaller scale winemaking at Once & Future, having sold Ravenswood to Constellation and having spent time working at that larger company. The sum total of experiences lend themselves to all sorts of stories and thankfully Joel is quite good at telling them, as becomes clear quite early in this interview. At the same time, he shares sharp observations about the current wine market and how that differs from the situation he found before, and he gives a rundown of some of the most prized California Zinfandel vineyards today. If you’d like to follow along with an extraordinary career, while at the same time hearing a funny and insightful story or two, this is the interview for you.

Listen to this episode:

I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @leviopenswine

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