Saturday, 20 November 2010

Ravenswood wine dinner at 28-50

Last week the King of Zin Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, California, was in London to host a wine bloggers dinner at Xavier Rousset's wine workshop 28-50.

I remember quizzing Xavier about his next venture during lunch at the Fine Wine 2010 conference in Ribera del Duero in May. He mentioned he was about to open a sister restaurant to Texture, but this time he wanted to focus on wine, so had christened it 28-50 after the latitude at which vines are grown. Six months on and the place is heaving with both the wine trade and city slickers day and night - smart move.

Beginning with a glass of fizz, our group is soon ushered upstairs to a long wooden dining table overlooking the bistrot below. In the far corner I spot Tim Atkin and Victoria Moore, who were no doubt discussing the latest broadsheet wine writer transfers. It's like the end of the football signing season - everyone's on the move. Moore has just been snapped up by the Telegraph, and Fiona Beckett has filled the vacancy at the Guardian. So where does that leave Johnny Ray?

I digress. After an enjoyable interview that morning, I was keen to find out more about Peterson, so saddled up next to him. He'd brought seven Zins with him, from the wallet friendly 2007 Vintners Blend (£7.99), to the top end Barricia Zinfandel (£24.95). In keeping with his 'No Wimpy Wines' mantra, we were to drink Zinfandel from starter to pudding, so I chose the boldest dishes on the menu, to give them a chance of standing up against the big, bold, peppery beasts.

Peterson is a consummate raconteur, and spent most of the evening recalling tales from his winemaking past, from picking four tones of grapes during a thunderstorm under the watchful gaze of three ravens, and sleeping in fields in Spain, to being propositioned by a masseuse in the Middle East. During the starters (delicious duck rillettes for me) he tells me the winery is named after the leading man in Donizetti's opera Luica de Lammermoor - Sir Edgar, Master of Ravenswood.

'The raven is seen as a trickster god to the American Indians, so it wasn't a large leap to adopt it as my totem', admits Peterson, who promises free tastings for life to anyone who has the distinctive Ravenswood symbol permanently inked.

The winery has been making some of the world's best Zinfandels for over 30 years, and Peterson still seems fiercely passionate about California's native grape. Moving on to the main event, a suitably un-wimpy onglet of beef, the wines come into their own. Both the Tedelshi 2006 and Barricia 2006 stand out - full of sumptuous, brambly black fruit, pepper and spice, they are big, bold and grippy without being monsters, with a lovely licorice finish. I'm amazed at how smooth, soft and approachable the wines are, despite their high alcohol levels.

The final wine - Lodi 2005, is served in a mammoth bottle by a brave waitress. In our interview earlier that day, Joel had championed Zinfandel as a wine capable of ageing gracefully, describing how the best wines take on Northern Italian tar and roses qualities. Curious to experience the flavours first hand, I was disappointed not to see an old Zin in the line up. Perhaps I'll have to look into getting that tattoo...

During desert, our veins pumping with Zinfandel, Joel and I engage in a spiritual discussion. He concludes that the world is a magnificent accident and that we have to live as if there is nothing else afterwards, making each day count – an exhilarating and liberating philosophy. 'Did you always feel that way?', I ask. 'Hell no, I was a Christian fundamentalist at university, but a bit of Peyote put paid to that'.

1 comment:

  1. It was a great evening wasn't it Lucy! Good honest grub and "No Wimpy Wines" at the very convivial, wine-focused location of @2850FetterLane. My video blogs will be up on very soon
    Twitter @robertgiorgione