Joel Peterson Bio
The Godfather of World-Class California Zinfandels
Joel Peterson unwittingly embarked on his winemaking apprenticeship at the age of ten when he began tasting with the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club, organized and operated by his father. By the time he was a teenager, he had a working knowledge of fine European vineyards and vintages. After graduating from Oregon State University, he became a wine writer and consultant, and in the mid-1970’s he learned the art of traditional winemaking (as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy) from one of California’s outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel, the late Joseph Swan.
After spending a period as an immunology researcher, in 1976 Peterson co-founded Ravenswood Winery and has been its winemaker ever since. In the past three decades, he has shepherded Ravenswood from a small unknown winery producing 427 cases of Zinfandel, to a high-quality producer of approximately 800,000 cases of red wine. Today Peterson works with more than one hundred growers who provide grapes for Ravenswood annually, consulting on irrigation and cultivation practices, cropping levels and other vineyard management issues. Ravenswood is one of the few American wineries that has been led by the same winemaker for 30 years–which contributes to the winery’s consistency and quality. As a long time participant and observer of the California wine industry, Peterson has witnessed first-hand the technological changes that have transformed California’s enological and wine business practices.
Peterson is a member and past president of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance (S.V.V.G.A.); a founding member and former two-time President of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (Z.A.P.); and a Senior Vice President with Constellation Wines and the Centerra Wine Company. In additional to his many professional accomplishments, he is renowned in wine circles for his extraordinary palate and taste memory.