Benchmark Wineries

A Rafanelli

A small family owned winery now in its fourth generation, A Rafanelli was founded in the early 1900s by Italian immigrants. Their son moved the winery from Healdsburg to Dry Creek Valley, where it remains today. The current winemaker is Shelly Rafanelli, whose sister manages day to day operations at the winery.


Bedrock Wine Co is the brainchild of Morgan Twain-Peterson. Founded in 2007, the winery sources grapes from heritage old-vine vineyards from around California. The wines are made with little intervention: native alcoholic and malolactic fermentations, little to no new oak, no other additions. Morgan himself is the son of Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood winery, cementing zinfandel as a family specialty.


Originally a husband and wife garagiste wine hobby dedicated to zinfandel soon led to something requiring more commitment. Mike and Kendall Carlisle began by making 5 gallons of zinfandel, which grew to 300 cases, growing to 1000 cases with the founding of their winery (after the purchase of the Pelletti ranch with its old vines) in 1998. From there their operation has grown to nearly 10,000 cases sourced from old vine vineyards all over California.


Founded in 1982 by Fred Cline in Oakley, CA, began by making wine from old vine vineyards, some dating back to the 1880s. In 1989 the winery moved to a new property in Sonoma Carneros to expand their operation, as well as add to their vineyard holdings.

Dashe Cellars

Michael and Anne Dashe founded Dashe Cellars in 1996 in Oakland, before moving to the old Naval Airbase in 2001. Both Michael and Anne have degrees in winemaking and have held positions at Chappellet, Schramsberg, Far Niente, and Lafite-Rothschild to name a few. The winery has a low impact approach to winemaking, allowing native fermentations with little to no fining or filtration.


Owned and operated by the Indelicato Family, Delicato wines was founded in 1924 by Gaspare Indelicato. The family is now in its fourth generation, and have winery and vineyard locations in Napa, Santa Lucia Highlands, Lodi, as well as its original vineyard in Manteca.

Dry Creek Vineyard

In 1972, David Stare founded the first new winery in Dry Creek Valley since prohibition, and was the first to plant sauvignon blanc in that part of Sonoma. David was also integral in the creation of the AVA, as the person to initiate the appellation application in 1983. He has also long been a champion of zinfandel, and was one of the first to include an “Old Vines” designation, beginning in 1985.

Frog's Leap

Founded in 1981 by John Williams and Larry Turley, Frog’s Leap was the first winery in Napa to be certified organic. The name comes from the original property name of Frog Farm, and Stags Leap, where John had his first job as a winemaker. The winery is dry farmed, and was one of the first to convert to solar power.

Grgich Hills

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first rose to fame as the winemaker behind Chateau Montelena’s Paris Tasting winning chardonnay, and after meeting with the heirs to the Hills Coffee family, broke ground on their new winery in 1977. Many awards follow, with their first 1998 vintage zinfandel sourced from vineyards in Calistoga in 2001.

Jeff Cohn Cellars

Established in 1996 by Jeff and Alexandra Cohn, this boutique winery produces around 5,000 cases of wine yearly. Jeff got his start working for Rosenblum Cellars, and made the first CA zinfandel to be included on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list. Originally called JC Cellars, they changed the name to Jeff Cohn Cellars in 2012 to improve recognition of their wines and winemaking.

Lagier Meredith

Located on Mt Veeder, Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith purchased their property in 1986. Carole is perhaps best known for her previous life as a professor in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. There her work in genetics established the parents of cabernet saugivnon, as well as chardonnay, syrah, and zinfandel, showing the zinfandel is identical to Italy’s primitivo and Croatia’s crljenak kastelanski.

Louis M Martini

Established in 1922, L. M Martini grape products company was founded to supply sacramental wine and grape concentrate during prohibition. In 1933 the winery is ready to sell wine with the repeal from their new facility north of St Helena. 1938 brings the addition of the Goldstein Ranch vineyard, located on the Sonoma side of the Mayacamas, which is renamed Monte Rosso due to the iron rich volcanic soils there.


Six generations of the Martinelli family have been farming their ranch since the 1880s. Some of their zinfandel vines are over 140 years old, and they have also taken cuttings from these to propagate new vineyards. They are well known for their “Jackass Hill” zinfandel, which as the steepest unterraced vineyard in Sonoma, it was said by the family that “only a jackass would try and farm it.”

Michael David

The Phillips family has been farming in Lodi since the 1860s, and grape growers since the early 20th century. Brothers Michael and David Phillips founded the winery in 1984, and some of their labels are Freakshow and Earthquake.

Orin Swift

David Phinney founded Orin Swift in 1998 (taking the middle names of his parents for his winery. He would create the wildly successful Prisoner label in 2000 before selling it and refocusing on other wines and projects, both in California and abroad.


Founded in 1932, Parducci is the oldest operating winery in Mendocino. In a nod to its heritage, the wines are aged in redwood wine tanks that are more than a century old. The winery is certified sustainable, and in 2007 became the first carbon neutral winery in the US.


Beginning in 1927 when John Pedroncelli Sr. purchased a small winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, Pedroncelli is now run by the third generation of the family. The vineyards are certified sustainable, and make many single vineyard bottlings.


Along with Ridge and Rosenblum, Ravenswood completes the “Three Rs” of classic California zinfandel producers. Founded in 1976 by Joel Peterson, the motto of “no wimpy wines”, along with a balance of single vineyard and value oriented wines cemented Ravenswood as one of most reliable producers of CA zinfandel. Changes in ownership (with a sale from Constellation to Gallo in 2019) has left the brand in limbo, with no news for the next step.


Founded in 1993, Renwood specializes in single vineyard and old vine zinfandels. Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Amador County, the old vines Renwood uses are between 50 to over 100 years old. Renwood Ranch and the winery was sold to Rombauer in 2019, though the brand was not.


Ridge is the largest grower of organic grapes in Sonoma, and all of their vineyards are certified sustainable as well. Founded in 1962, Ridge began by focussing on single vineyard zinfandels, and began the tradition of producing wines with minimal intervention. Ridge is well known for their zinfandel, but is perhaps better known for their Monte Bello vineyard, which had a cabernet sauvignon included in the 1976 Paris Tasting.

Robert Biale

Bob Biale founded his eponymous winery in 1991 and produces wines from old vine zinfandel and petite sirah. His father Aldo, while working the family ranch as a teen during the 1940s, would sell bootleg wine (code named Black Chicken) along with the fruit, nuts, and poultry the ranch produced. Black Chicken is now one of wines produced by the family, still sourced from the original family vineyard.


Founded in 1980 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer, using grapes from Stags Leap, and made at Shafer. After building their own facility, they in turn helped to give a winery space to many well known names as they were getting started. In recent years they have expanded their vineyard holdings both in the Napa Valley, as well as in the Sierra Foothills.

Rosenblum Cellars

Kent Rosenblum, who would come to be known as the King of Zin, founded his eponymous winery in 1978 in an old factory building in Alameda. Rosenblum explored old vine vineyards from under-appreciated regions, and acknowledged the grapes provenance by adding the vineyard (or friend’s) name on the label.

Saucelito Canyon

Saucelito Canyon is based around the oldest commercial vineyard in San Luis Obispo County, planted in 1880. This zinfandel vineyard was rediscovered by Bill Greenough in 1974, who rehabilitated the plantings, and added to them with new plantings of zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon.


Founded by father and son team Ed and Adam Sbragia in 2001, their family history dates back to 1904 when Ed’s grandfather immigrated from Tuscany. Ed spent 32 years as cellar master at Beringer, while also tending to his family’s vineyard, which is mainly planted to zinfandel.

Scott Harvey

Scott Harvey has over 40 years experience in the wine industry. Beginning his career in 1978, before joining the Santino winery where he made the winery one of the best in Amador County. Later, he joined Folie a Deux where he created the Menage a Trois line of wines.


Founded in 1895 by Edoardo Seghesio, an immigrant from Piedmont, Seghesio winery now possesses more than 300 acres of sustainably farmed vines in Sonoma county. Originally producers of bulk wine, they reduced their output from 1.7 million to 30,000 cases annually in 1993, allowing more attention to detail and higher quality.

St Francis

Located in Sonoma Valley, St Francis was founded in 1971 by Joe Martin originally as vineyards, before beginning to make their own wine in 1979. St Francis now farms over 380 acres in Sonoma, all of which have been certified sustainable.

The Prisoner

The Prisoner began its life as a red blend created by Dave Phinney for his Orin Swift Cellars in 2000. A non traditional zinfandel based blend, it was a runaway hit in the wine world. The Prisoner label was sold to Huneeus Vintners in 2010, before being sold to Constellation in 2016. The levels of production have increased greatly, from 385 cases for the first vintage to 165,000 in 2017.


Larry Turley, after co-founding Frog’s Leap, realized that zinfandel interested him most and founded his label in 1993. Turley’s specialty is old vine zinfandel, sourced from both Napa Valley as well as their second estate in Templeton, Paso Robles. in addition to zinfandel they also produce petite sirah.


The Unti vineyards were planted in 1990, with the winery starting in 1997. Their estate vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley are dedicated to Mediterranean varietals, and have been farmed organically since 2003. The winery also practices some biodynamic treatments as well.