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Once & Future

Once & Future 2018 Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel

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“In 1981, Otto and Anne Teller, who owned the organically farmed Oak Hill Ranch across the highway from Old Hill, purchased the vineyard. In 1983, Otto called to ask if I would be interested in helping revive the vineyard and make wine from the grapes. He was determined to continue to farm the vineyard organically without irrigation. When we started working with the vineyard, it was only producing about one half ton/acre, which is extremely low. That didn’t seem to bother Otto at all; he was just interested in making good wine. I was definitely on board. I made some of the most interesting wines of my career from this vineyard during that era.

What I subsequently learned was that I was working with one of the most historic and storied vineyards of early California.

In 1848, William McPherson Hill from Philadelphia set out on a seven-month voyage around Cape Horn to join the men rushing to San Francisco searching for gold. Hill quickly determined that by selling goods to the miners, he could make more money with less effort than mining. He started a mercantile company and came to realize that there was a shortage of fruit and, perhaps more importantly, good wine. In 1851, he purchased his ranch in Glen Ellen from General Mariano Vallejo and began planting peach orchards and grapes.

Hill started a winery and by all reports was producing some of the best Zinfandel in California. His 1866 vintage took first place at the national exposition. Due to Phylloxera, Hill replanted his vineyard in the mid-1880s, making it one of the oldest vineyards, if not the oldest, on St. George rootstock in the state. He interplanted the Zinfandel with many of the varieties that existed in his original vineyard. At least 16 varieties have been identified in the current vineyard.

Will Bucklin, Anne Teller’s son, is the current caretaker and farmer of Old Hill Ranch. He has continued to dry farm the land and keep as many sustainable farming practices in place with the focus on keeping this ancient vineyard site as healthy as possible. This requires good soil management, which is really good carbon management that necessitates rebuilding the soil with compost and cover crops. Will also concerns himself with the plant biome, soil biology, and plant microflora. His work with this ancient head-pruned/field-blended vineyard has substantially revitalized it and has increased production to sustainable levels.” - Joel Peterson

227 cases produced.


Joel Peterson is a Zinfandel Legend. His career has pushed the limits of the American wine industry, he's been a steadfast champion of Zinfandel and Sonoma County, he created one of the most successful California brands ever, and his original punchdown tool hangs in the Smithsonian Museum- a testament to his place in American wine history.

Once and Future could be dubbed Joel Peterson's "new" venture, but it would be much more accurate to describe it as a return to his roots. When Joel started Ravenswood in 1976, he planned to make single vineyard wines in a style similar to those made in Europe but with a Californian twist; small open topped redwood fermenters (pictured above), hand punch downs, extended macerations, native yeast, gentle transfer, minimal processing and small French oak aging.

Though his intention was a 6,000 - 7,000 case winery that remained committed to these philosophies, the runaway success of Ravenswood 'Vintner's Blend' inevitably drove the project to a much larger scale.

This new venture is a return to the original vision Joel had for Ravenswood, it's what he once dreamed of and what he's chosen for the future. Touting decades of close relationships with the best old-vine, dry-farmed vineyards in California, Once and Future benefits in all the best ways from Joel's illustrious career. In this new chapter, Joel will make all the wine himself, in small quantities, according to his original vision.

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