Great Tastes
Peterson Winery / by Luke Straub / October, 2019

At Peterson Winery, they like to keep life interesting. To do so, Fred and Jamie Peterson, a father-son winemaking team, bring the unique characteristics of the vineyards they work to life, including the winery’s estate vineyard on Bradford Mountain, which is visible from the winery’s Dry Creek Road location.

“There are too many boring wines out there—have a personality,” says Fred, who started the winery in 1987. “If a wine doesn’t have something interesting to say, what’s the point?”

Peterson’s wines develop their own soul with an approach they like to call, “Zero Manipulation.” The light but steadfast approach from Fred and Jamie ensures every sip speaks of a unique place and time. Jamie joined the winery as assistant winemaker in 2002 and runs the cellar. He also helps Fred tend to Peterson Winery’s estate vineyard, where Fred built the family home in 1984. They jointly decide when to pick each harvest. “This is the most important decision a winemaker can make,” Fred says. “You can’t undo it.”

The third member of the team, Fred’s daughter, Emily, runs sales and marketing. “We make small batch wine, so we’re not pushed by marketing dollars,” she says. “It feels good when people come in the door and leave feeling like they’ve discovered something.”

For the first discovery on this day, Emily pours a 2015 Estate Grown Merlot. It has beautiful soft tannins associated with the varietal and is smooth and supple. What makes this taste special is the site. The wine has a savory, herbaceous quality not associated with most Merlots. The well-drained, red-clay soil on Bradford Mountain has a mineral element that produces a distinguishing quality.

Next we taste a 2014 Zinfandel, sourced from West Vineyard in Dry Creek. This wine is fruit forward with flavor notes of blackberry and raspberry. It has more tannin than most Zins, with a sturdy hint of clove and spice. It’s a satisfying drink. That could be because the winegrapes in West Vineyard were planted in 1902, and the history is expressed with each sip.

Emily offers an estate-grown, 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon for the next taste from Bradford Mountain. It has big fruit flavor that bursts onto the palate and the Cabernet finishes with a classic tannin note. The soil from the Peterson Estate once again differentiates this bottle of vino. Sunny days and cool nights produce small and intensely flavored fruit. That, along with the attention to detail with this small-batch wine, makes for a Cabernet to remember.

For the final taste of Peterson Wine on this day, we try a 2011 Syrah. While not as popular a varietal as Cabernet, this vintage has plenty to offer. Fantastically concentrated and enjoyable upon first sip, there’s hidden flavor to be found. A swirl of the glass followed by a deliberate taste revealed rich and smoky elements as well as an earthy, black cherry note. Though this phenomenon is specific to some varietals such as Syrah, a small batch of wine has more life than a mass-produced effort, according to Emily, and with it, more soul. The flavor is well worth the extra effort, which only added to the experience.

Peterson Winery was in the midst of harvest during this visit, and after our tastes, Emily explained the mood. “You never know until its here. It’s so much anticipation. You only get one shot.” She talked of 2011, when the wait for ripe grapes seemingly took forever, and of 2017 when a heat spike on Labor Day along with crew shortages took its toll. But somehow, Peterson Winery produces vintage after vintage of wine that personifies its place of origin—and every bottle has something interesting to say.