Ravenswood: No Wimpy Wines!

Winemaker Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, came up with the phrase "No Wimpy Wines" to characterize his big, flavorful zinfandels that packed a wallop.

Although higher-alcohol wines are now under attack by the wine thought police, Peterson continues to be the hand behind Ravenswood's big zins, although he no longer owns the place. Peterson is particularly proud of his single-vineyard zinfandels, often older vines, some of them field blends with a few other varieties inter-planted among the zinfandels. Although they come from different vineyards, the grape is basically the same as is the winemaker, so the wines are more alike than they are different; here is a sampling of five:

2012 Ravenswood "Big River" Alexander Valley zinfandel ($32)

The biggest of the batch in terms of alcohol — a hefty 15.9 percent — Big River is indeed big, burly, and complex with layers of flavors. First come the ripe, dried fruits, followed by balsamic notes, some figs, and savory notes of wood and forest floor. Yeah, it does taste a little bit like a port, but not as sweet. My Pick of the Litter.

2012 Ravenswood "Dickerson" Napa Valley zinfandel ($34)

A very-berry, intensive flavor with a lot of walnut-like tannins; also some balsamic notes and a long finish.

2012 Ravenswood "Old Hill" Sonoma Valley zinfandel ($50)

Very granular and textured; you can feel the structure on your palate. There are lots of red and black berry flavors and some fruity sweetness — lots of tannins. It's a big-flavored wine, but one that will mellow with age or extended decanting.

2012 Ravenswood "Teledeschi" Dry Creek zinfandel ($32)

Has rounded fruit, smooth flavor with black cherries, some balsamic notes, and good tannins.

2012 Ravenswood "Belloni" Russian River zinfandel ($34)

This reserve has lots of concentrated fruit that opens up with decanting. The dominant feature is blackberry juiciness with a balanced, lean, food-friendly sinewy finish. Some savory notes are mixed in with dusty tannins.