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The Pursuit of Sustainability: Petersen Vineyards

In a burgeoning region of winemakers and winegrowers, Peter Petersen of Petersen Vineyards is leaving his footprint in the Contra Costa wine community. In fact, due to his focus on sustainability, any footprint outside of great tasting wine he leaves is negligible.  One of the newer vineyards open to the public in Contra Costa County, a visit to Petersen Vineyards will present you with a variety of delights. From the rich notes of his Spanish and Portuguese styled wines, the welcoming atmosphere of the tasting room and Petersen’s unique perspective on winemaking focused on sustainability, you can trust there is a wine for everyone at Petersen’s.  

Flavorful Wines with a European Twist

PetersenVineyardWines

PetersenVineyardWines

If you are a local wine aficionado or have had the opportunity to visit any of the local wineries, you are familiar with the quality, caliber, and characteristics of Contra Costa wines.  The rich Delta soils allow farmers to grow incredibly flavored grapes, which are made into flavorful wines. When Peter made the decision to grow grapes and begin to explore the wine-making industry, he knew the land where Petersen Vineyards is located would result in stellar winemaking grapes.  But, he wanted to make wines that had unique flavor profiles from the rest of his Contra Costa Wine growing companions.

This is why Petersen decided to grow Spanish and Portuguese varietals of grapes for his wine-making. Peter admits he enjoys port and wanted to grow grapes he could make into port.  But, he also emphasized wanting to make great wines that had different notes than the wines other local vintners were making. Peter explained, “They are already doing it well. Why compete?  I knew I wanted something they were not already doing to compliment what was already in the market.”

Petersen Vineyard

Petersen Vineyards

A day of wine-tasting at Petersen Vineyards will introduce you to the flavor profiles of the red wines and ports you would expect on a Spanish vacation or a tour of coastal Portugal.  As many local Contra Costa wineries showcase typical California wine profiles of a Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot or Sauvignon blanc, a visit to Petersen will lure visitors to enjoy Spanish and Portuguese flavors.  

Wines you can expect to taste at Petersen’s include:

  • Valdepeñas
  • Tinta de Vida
  • Souzão
  • Touriga Nacional
  • Blanco
  • Rosado
  • Zinfandel
  • Petit Sirah

Exploring the Agricultural Aspect of Winemaking

Most winemakers understand the quality of wine depends on the agricultural aspects of how grapes are farmed. The quality and flavor profiles of the grapes are directly correlated to the flavor profiles and qualities of the wine they produce. Knowing this, when Peter made the jump into the wine industry, he committed to taking on the agricultural aspects of grape-growing alongside learning the art of wine-making. He openly admits there has been a steep learning curve but trusts his early mistakes in farming has led to phenomenal wine-making.

When you visit Petersen’s winery, take the time to explore the vineyards surrounding the tasting room. What you will find in his vineyards is slightly different than what you might expect to see. When you visit Petersen’s vineyards, it becomes evident his farming techniques do not depend on products such as RoundUp.  Peter explained that he grew up farming.  And because of his experience, he believes that herbicides and pesticides were initially a blessing for small farmers with limited resources.  But, with the passing of time and the increased dependency on the chemicals, weeds became more resilient.  Peter knew that when he began to cultivate his vineyard, taking the path of sustainable, organic farming was the only option. 

Petersen Vineyards Sunset

Petersen Vineyards Sunset

With his commitment to sustainable and organic farming, Petersen recognized that his work-flow would be different than that of other farmers.  He invested in a mechanical weed abatement machine that pulls weeds from under the vines but does not touch the leaves.  Another change was updating the seasonal canopy management strategy and aligning the technique with the most effective plant growth.  Petersen explained, “with a bit more work, a complete elimination of chemicals used for pest and weed control, the grape quality is better than ever.

Winemaking

The wines at Petersen Vineyards are special for their unique, European flavor notes – but also for how the wines are made. Again, Peter will admit that it was through a series of trials, error and a lot of research that brought his wines to life.  First, Petersen knows the quality of his wines stem from the quality of his grapes and the farming techniques he uses to cultivate his grapes. However, his wine-making process also differentiates his winery from other local winemakers.

Petersen Vineyards Crush

Petersen Vineyards Crush

Peter explained a tedious aspect of winemaking is sorting the harvested grapes for crushing. Some wine-making strategies have no sorting and grapes are crushed in clusters, including the stems, and whatever other vine detritus, might get into the press.  Other winemakers separate the grapes from the stems before crushing. Peter found manual sorting where only fruit is crushed allows the essences of grape to shine in his wine. 

After a less-than-satisfying first year in wine-making – tediously following winemaking guidelines, Peter reflected back to his engineering roots.  Through an intensive process of analysis, Peter examined the steps of wine-making.  His research suggested the simple option of doing more, with less. This resulted in the elimination of many varieties of wine additives, common in industrial winemaking, and focusing on old, natural techniques. This resulted in a long fermentation process with prolonged maceration.  This allowed Peter to extract every bit of character from the grape and into his wines.

Through the process of simplification and a bit more elbow-grease, Petersen’s wines became cleaner, bolder, and more flavorful. Even better?  You can enjoy his wines without dealing with any headaches!

Visit the Vineyards

Petersen Vineyard is a stunning location to visit year-round. Mt. Diablo acts as a backdrop to the quaint tasting room and rows of neatly of organized grapevines.  The tasting room itself is reminiscent of Mediterranean winery – casual, welcoming, and inviting. Friendly faces will greet you behind the tasting bar and tables are set up throughout the room to enjoy a sample, or a few samples, of Petersen’s wines.  Friday evenings mean tasting events, live music, and the perfect kick-off to the weekend. Petersen envisioned a place where people would want to come and enjoy friends, enjoy wine, and have the chance to experience tastings with the winemaker. And this is exactly what he has done. Even better,  Petersen has realized his dream while also building a sustainable winery.

Petersen Vineyard Wine Tasting

Petersen Vineyard Wine Tasting

Outside of providing vegan wines made from grapes cultivated with eco-friendly strategies, Petersen Vineyard leaves a zero carbon footprint.  The energy used to cultivate, harvest and make the wine is less than what the solar panels Petersen installed produces. Another fun aspect of Peter’s commitment to sustainability is his recycling program, where certain bottles are designed for reuse.  When consumers bring back these empty bottles of wine, he will happily discount a dollar off the next purchase.  Recycling keeps customer’s coming back and answers to his commitment to sustainability. This idea of being a sustainable winery is just another one of the major differences between what Petersen offers and contributes to the landscape of Contra Costa winemaking and what other local wineries are focused on.    

When to Visit Petersen Vineyards

Petersen Vineyard is open for tasting every Friday evening and by reservation.  Events and tastings are on the website. Peter Petersen has taken the idea of wine-growing and wine-making sustainably to heart and brought to market the deliciously unique flavors of Europe to the growing Contra Costa wine market.  When you are exploring your local backroads, every day is a good day to visit Petersen Vineyard.

To contact Petersen’s directly, call 925-890-4841 or visit www.petersenvineyards.com.  Wine tasting can be scheduled throughout the week, or visit the vineyard Friday afternoons when the tasting room is open to the public. The address to the vineyards is 101 Blaine Ln, Knightsen, CA 94548.

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