Fred Peterson may have been a doctor if he had been a bit more focused on academics. Advice from his advisor at UC Santa Cruz to take some time away from school and figure out what he wanted to study, led to an offer of a job in a classmates family vineyard in Mendocino County and the decision to make grape growing and winemaker his career. Fortunately, he hadn’t used up all of his GI Education benefits at Santa Cruz and enrolled at UC Davis in the department of Viticulture and Enology, where he received his bachelor degree in June 1978.

Peterson Winery has been a fixture in the Dry Creek Valley since setting up shop in a red barn off of Lytton Springs Road down the street from the Lytton Springs Winery in 1987. Though the winery is no longer located in the red barn, it remains an important part of their history and is represented on every wine label with a back drop of Bradford Mountain, the location of Peterson Wineries Estate Vineyard and Fred’s home.

Fred, his wife, Kathleen Stewart and children Maya, Ben, Joe, Jamie and Emily are active in the Healdsburg and Geyserville communities. Kathleen owns and operates the popular Downtown Bakery and Creamery with Maya and Joe. Jamie Peterson is the winemaker, having come on board as assistant winemaker in 2002 and taking over the reins of winemaker in 2006. Emily Peterson oversees sales and marketing for the winery, while Ben helps out in both the vineyard and winery. Jamie continues to produce the wines using the same philosophy as his father, “great wine is about place and vintage and not about creating a preconceived style to please critics or marketing department. I continue the traditional “low tech/high touch” winemaking methods.”

Fred is also committed to the Geyserville Fire Protection District where he has been a volunteer firefighter/engineer for over 30 years and is now a director for the fire district. You can read about his experiences in a blog post he wrote for the Russian River Wine Road at

After the 2005 vintage and almost twenty years of crafting the wines at the old red barn, Fred had the opportunity to move to Timber Crest Farms further up Dry Creek Valley and and lease what was the packing shed from the former fruit drying operation. As Fred and Jamie were converting the former packing shed to a winery and tasting room, Locals Tasting Room became the only location to try these vineyard-centric wines. After finishing his tasting room at the winery, Fred decided to continue to showcase his wines at Locals as the perfect in-town extension of the winery, and it has been a perfect balance ever since.

A perfect example of Peterson Winery’s commitment to small lot, sustainably farmed wines is the 3V White, a blend of Vermentino, Vernaccia and Verdelho, all grown in a small block on Bradford Mountain. A beautifully balanced Mediterranean wine that is as perfect for summer as their Rose, which sells out so quickly it may not be available when this is published.

In addition to their incredible Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels, Fred and Jamie love Rhone varietals and do an amazing Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre (GSM) and Syrah from the estate vineyard on Bradford Mountain. Given Peterson red wines lack of filtration and fining, combined with ample natural acidity they receive longer barrel aging and bottle aging prior to being released. At $38, the 2013 GSM is an incredible value given its Bradford Mountain provenance and barrel/bottle aging.

Another popular wine from Peterson is their old vine Carignane blend from the Tollini Vineyard in Mendocino County called “Zero Manipulation”. A wine and label that perfectly reflects their philosophy that “we don’t work backwards from how we want wines to be, we work forward from what we get from the vineyard”.

At $16.50 a bottle, and even less for Locals wine club members, the Zero Manipulation blend is a steal. The wine is made with all of the care and barrel aging as the rest of the Peterson red wines, it just costs less. This wine pairs perfectly with past Bolognese or a good steak frites. As Fred says, “with such slim margins on this wine, we make it as a public service”!

by Barbara Barrielle