He’s Referred to as The Godfather, All You Need to Know About Lodi Zin, Believe It or Not Burger King is Making a Decent Chicken Sandwich and More in Half a Glass

Writing from the edge of the Russian River in Sonoma County

The Godfather of Zinfandel

Winemaker Joel Peterson discovered vines in Sonoma County that had been planted in 1888 and were going to be removed and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon. He purchased the 152 acres that he now farms with his son Morgain Twain-Peterson for their small production winery, Bedrock Wine Co.

The 130-year-old grapevines at Bedrock Vineyard in Sonoma are pillars of survival. They look like trees in an arthritic pygmy forest, clawing at the sky like gnarled bursts of lightning, there are nearly 30 varieties in this vineyard — burly, twisted limbs pruned goblet-style.

The 35-acre vineyard contains a classic “field blend” of Zinfandel, Alicante Bouchet, Mourvedre, Carignane, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah, as well as at least five more obscure varieties.

“Field-blend vineyards came out of a concerted, organized effort to produce higher-quality, well-balanced wines back in the 1880s,” said Twain-Peterson.

Peterson senior, now in his 70’s is founder of the well-known Ravenswood winery and has been in and around wine most of his life starting with a childhood where his family allowed and encouraged his interest in wine allowing him to sample French wine and to travel with them thought out Europe.  

He started Ravenswood Winery back in 1976 and by the late 1980s Ravenswood was thriving. The value-priced Vintners Blend Zinfandel provided the cash, and the single-vineyard, old-vine Zins like Teldeschi, Old Hill and Dickerson provided the prestige.

I have long been a fan of his wines and was fortunate interview with him at a recent wine event in over in Sonoma and to ask him about his well-known title and how “Vintners Blend” came about.

Once you’ve been called the “Godfather of Zinfandel” what else can you be called?

“You’d be surprised what people call me especially my children”, he immediately responds with a laugh. “The Godfather is not a bad moniker and it took me a while to get there, I flirted for a while with the King of Zinfandel and the Prince of Zinfandel.  I’ve been entwined with Zinfandel for so long and I’ve worked very hard to make sure that Zinfandel has a good reputation – I think calling me the Godfather is fair”, he concluded.

His Vintners Blend wine was introduced in 1983 and was an immediate sales success. I know I drank a lot of it back then in Springfield, IL. as well as Chicago.

“The first thing I needed to do was to lighten it (Zinfandel) up a little bit but to keep it fresh and keep a lot of Zinfandel character, the flavor of raspberries and the black fruit and to give it a little bit of an oak note and to make it into a serious but not very expensive wine,” he offered.

“Fruit from Napa and Sonoma, even back then, were fairly expensive so I went to Lodi; $1500 a ton in Sonoma only $300 a ton in Lodi,” he explained. I wanted the fruit from the old vines, he stated.” (Loyal readers will recall I’ve told you the Lodi story before).

So with fruit from Lodi he looked to bring in flavors from other regions. “We reached out to Mendocino for their high acid fruit with lots of freshness and lots of spice to blend with the heavier fruit that comes out of the Lodi area and we pulled fruit from the Amador Foothills area that has more tannin and structure,” Peterson offered.

“We worked to build a really interesting blend”, he continued,  “still serious but of lighter weight, using less oak than we normally would, 10 months in barrel as opposed to the normal 18. So you’re shortening the dwell time and the cost of the materials but you’re still using really good materials and you’ve put together a really lovely wine”, he proudly stated.

So you’ve got a “serious wine, now what? “In 1983 we didn’t have a marketing department but I kind of knew what was selling and I knew I didn’t want to make sweet even though that’s what was selling, so I said let’s make a serious wine and see if people drink it, so yeah it was pretty much seat-of-the-pants and it turned out to be pretty good pants.” I suggested that he probably got a jacket to go with it too – we laughed.

“I’d like to say I’m a brilliant marketer and that I knew exactly what was going to happen, but nah, not so much”, he smiled.

By the late 1990s, Peterson was forced by investors sell the brand to Constellation, one of the biggest wine and spirits companies in the world, for $148 million – they grew production but not quality, the wines suffered and as a result the label was sold to Gallo along with 29 other lesser labels in 2019. Today it’s in wine limbo relegated to $9 buck grocery store status with a “do not buy” sticker from me.

So sad to see such a success end up so badly


Notes On Lodi Zinfandel Styles

My favorite wine is Cabernet but my really, really second favorite red wine is Zinfandel and my favorite place for it is the Lodi region 85 miles slightly north east of San Francisco in a flat, hot and dusty plain that strangely enough is actually influenced by far reaching tributaries of the San Francisco bay.

Randy Caparoso is a noted wine writer and researcher who writes regularly for the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Recently he posted a 5,200 word, highly detailed; let’s call it a study of the region and the types and styles of Zinfandel.

I have taken the liberty to edit some of the most pertinent information along with some of my thoughts for your perusal.

First thing to remember is that there are basically two styles for Lodi Zin:

1. The broadly defined varietal styles usually found on retail shelves. You could call this the “commercial” style of Zinfandel, grown, produced and packaged for the market at large.

2. Focused, appellation or terroir driven styles more likely to be found in specialty stores or sold directly by wineries.

The California Zinfandel profile

The commercial styles are produced to meet broad consumer expectations of “Zinfandel” as a variety category. These wines are made to taste less like, say, a “Lodi” or “Sonoma” Zinfandel than a California style of the grape in general. Consequently, you can expect these Zinfandels to taste full bodied and fairly ripe with “jammy” (a common descriptor), berry-like fruit, which is what most people expect out of California Zinfandel.

The commercial style of Zinfandel reds are also discernibly oaky-possessing vanillin, almost sweet and often slightly smoky/toasty aromas and flavors-which is also a predominant preference among Zinfandel lovers.

Primitivo (a clonal variation of Zinfandel), Zinfandel and Petite Sirah

Third, commercial styles of Zinfandel are almost always blended with large percentages of Petite Sirah up to 24.9%, the maximum legal amount allowed for varietal bottlings. Petite Sirah is a grape that can add deeper color and sturdier tannin to Zinfandel. It works particularly well in commercial brands of Zinfandel because these wines are typically harvested when grapes are very ripe, producing wines that are jammy in varietal fruitiness but on the soft side when it comes to tannin. Petite Sirah is a perfect grape for bringing a sense of balance and sturdiness to Zinfandel when picked ultra-ripe, which is why over 95% of Zinfandels found in stores are blended with varying percentages of Petite Sirah.

Petite Sirah also possesses an intrinsic black pepper-like quality that further enhances the often subtle peppery spiced character common to Zinfandel itself, plus a blueberry-like fruit profile that compliments the black and red berryish qualities typical of Zinfandel. What’s not to like? This is why California Zinfandel is so popular, and why many Lodi-grown Zinfandels are made exactly this way.

So that gets you to the basics of what you can expect from a bottle of Zinfandel. I have edited a short wine list from the article that should be fairly available along with notes on their styles and flavors.

Depending on what kind of meal you plan for Thanksgiving these wines; with all of their cherry and black fruit should work well with turkey and a hearty dressing. The OZV has long been one of our house favorites as well as the MossRoxx.

2020 OZV (by Oak Ridge Winery) ($20)—Nose of unabashedly lush, jammy, plump black and red berryish fruit, delivered in soft, round and pliant medium-bodied sensations on the palate.

2018 Klinker Brick ($22)—True-to-Lodi black cherry varietal aroma amplified by sweet/smoky/spicy oak in medium-full to full body plumped out by fruit and oak tannin.

2020 MossRoxx Reserve (by Oak Ridge Winery) ($24)—From the Maggio family’s 50-to-60-year-old blocks, lush black cherry aroma tinged with faint loamy earthiness, pungently oaked yet velvety smooth and well rounded.

2020 Gnarly Head (by Delicato Family Vineyards) ($9-$12)—Ripe-toned aroma of red and dark berries enhanced by smoky/spicy oak, in a medium-full body juxtaposing plump and meaty sensations.


Half a Glass

It Might Not be Royal But it Tastes Pretty Good

Burger King is once again wading into the chicken sandwich arena, this time with the recent nationwide of launch of its new line of BK Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwiches.

The four versions; the BK Royal, the BK Bacon and Swiss Cheese, the BK Spicy Royal and the BK Southern BBQ crispy chicken sandwiches are meant not so much to challenge Popeyes or KFC but the likes of Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A and Carl’s Jr.

The other member of the tasting panel sampled the spicy version with a triple pepper spicy glaze coating and a Bacon and Swiss Cheese version topped with savory sauce and a creamy Swiss cheese, bacon, lettuce, and tomatoes on a toasted potato bun-that was for me.

Both sandwiches looked good and better prepared than past sandwiches from Burger King and other fast food restaurants.

“Chicken is cooked well, the vegetable combination is good and the spicy sauce doesn’t overpower, in fact the sauce really makes it a tasty sandwich.”

Both sandwiches had a nice size piece of chicken breast, breaded and nicely cooked, the chicken on its own was crispy and tasty, quite different then let’s say McDonald’s or other comparable restaurants.

I thought the bacon Swiss sandwich had good flavor but the bacon only added a touch of salt without any flavor. The bun isn’t bad and holds up to the sandwich but I wish it was toasted a bit more as it became gummy at the end.

Overall the tasting panel thought both sandwiches were very good, we ate both sandwiches-which we usually don’t do and liked them- unlike past experiences at BK’s and similar restaurants.

E & J Gallo Winery Opens Regional Distribution Center

FORT LAWN, S.C. – It only took 15 months for E & J Gallo, the world’s largest winery  to get its 400 million dollar Regional Distribution Center officially up and running in Fort Lawn S.C. bringing close to 500 jobs to Chester County.

You may recall that I shared with you Gallo’s decision to make Chester County home to its East Coast Operations in a currently more than 1-million square foot building after state and local officials made some questionable changes to local rules and regulations but that didn’t stop a gushing Brooke Clinton, President of the Chester County Chamber of Commerce to say, “It’s so exciting to think about the jobs and opportunities for residents”.

Oh and if you’re so interested you may apply for a job with E & J Gallo; https://gallocareers.com/southcarolina

Big Bucks in Wine and Spirits Tied to Grocery Chain Sale

I have no idea where the huge grocery store sale proposal sits as I write this but the side story is how much money is involved with the stores sales of wine, beer and spirits.

Kroger carries some 4,000 unique spirits SKUs, with significant variances in selection from market to market, according to local laws. Albertsons sells spirits in 1,200 locations, wine in 1,800 locations, and beer in 2,000 locations—and where all three beverage alcohol types are sold, beverage alcohol comprises about 10% of total store sales.

Kroger carries some 4,000 unique spirits SKUs, with significant variances in selection from market to market, according to local laws. Albertsons sells spirits in 1,200 locations, wine in 1,800 locations, and beer in 2,000 locations—and where all three beverage alcohol types are sold, beverage alcohol comprises about 10% of total store sales.

Curtis Mann, Albertsons group vice president of alcohol (nice title) has helped build Albertsons into a force in beverage alcohol by leveraging a commitment to knowledgeable service, exemplified by its beverage steward program; a recent partnership with the Napa Valley Wine Academy to further educate staff; and frequent in-store and virtual wine, spirits, and beer tastings. A master of wine himself, Mann believes the company’s focus on staff and training will further build trust and loyalty among Albertsons’ millions of customers. “It’s one thing for me to know a lot about wine, but the people who are really selling it—our division managers and beverage stewards—are dealing directly with the customers,” he says. “Our combination of passion and education is what makes us different.”

Figure he gets offered a lot of free bottles?


I’ve featured several stories lately about the rising cost of wine tasting in Napa and but I’m happy to offer some good news; a list of some 15 or so wineries with tasting fees of $30 or less and there’s some major ones on the list. If you’re interested send me an email woodywine@aol.com and I’ll be happy to send it along.

I’m also happy to send along my Thanksgiving recipes brined turkey in the Weber, bacon and sausage dressing, gravy and cranberry recipes if you’ll request them.

That’s My Whine and I could me wrong…

My recipes for a Breakfast Slider Sandwich with Deep Fried Sausage, Crepe Egg and American Cheese and Easy Pasta Meat Sauce With Bacon & Parm are in fact right here, enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Woody Mosgers, cooks, caters, writes, drinks, matches wine and food and offers wine country tour information and planning in Santa Rosa Sonoma, CA. at Woodywine@aol.com