Born in Iowa during the Great Depression, Richard (Dick) Peterson has been an innovator in the California wine industry since the late 1950s. The industry was just emerging from the effects of Prohibition and was about to explode into life. He was perfectly positioned to become a key player in that dynamic revolution. After receiving his Ph.D. in Agricultural Chemistry from U.C. Berkeley in 1958, he was with the E. & J. Gallo Winery for ten years, culminating as Research Director and Assistant Production Manager in charge of all winemaking. In 1968, he was chosen by Andre Tchelistcheff to replace him as Winemaster of Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley, and remained there six vintages, moving in 1974 to become Winemaster and President of The Monterey Vineyard. From 1986 until 1990, he was Winemaker and President of Atlas Peak Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Peterson invented many wine techniques still in use today, such as ‘no topping, bung-and-roll,’ a practice for barrel aging red wines. He showed that winemakers do not need to ‘top off’ barrels to prevent oxidation because the head space inside a barrel of wine is not air, but a vacuum. He is the original designer of the steel barrel pallet, which allows wine barrels to be handled mechanically instead of by hand. The pallets are now used in most American wineries and in many around the world. He has authored numerous wine publications, including newsletters and research articles in technical journals. For many years, he wrote a column, ‘Common Sense Winemaking,’ in Wines & Vines magazine.
He created many successful new wines, including Lancers Vinho Branco in Portugal, the J. Wile line of varietal wines, Seagram’s first wine cooler, and all the original Monterey Vineyard and Taylor California Cellars varietal and generic table and sparkling wines.
In 1977-78, he was president of the 2,000 member American Society for Enology and Viticulture, having been a member since 1959 and a director, 1973-75. He was a long time director of Wine Institute, past chairman of WITS, a Supreme Knight in the Universal Order of Knights of the Vine, and a member of most professional wine societies. He is a founding member of the American Institute of Wine and Food, AWARE, Society of Wine Educators, and the International Wine Academy. He has judged wines professionally in Australia, Portugal, France, Argentina, and the U.K. as well as the United States.
Today he lives with his wife, Sandra, on their seven acre farm in Napa Valley where he has a two acre Wrotham Pinot vineyard from which he produces two wines for his brand, Richard G. Peterson: Brut Rose Napa Valley Sparkling Wine and Pinot Noir still wine. He has been an expert legal witness in about forty wine-related civil suit cases, and is a sought-after judge at prominent national and international wine competitions. The Winemaker is his first book.