Vino In My Dino
April 19, 2018 18:06
April 19, 2018 15:52
April 19, 2018 15:50
March 29, 2018 10:13
April is designated Down to Earth month with the national observance of Earth Day taking place on April 22. It was started in the 1970s as a way of calling attention to the environment. People are encouraged to participate in many ways including planting trees, cleaning up, getting out in nature and connecting with our earthly home.
Being farmers for over 9 decades puts us in touch with the earth on a daily basis. We are at the mercy of weather and happily have landed in a place where soils, climate and geography produce grapes and wine of highest quality. Ever since people have lived in Sonoma County it has always been highly regarded as having all the right stuff to grow an amazing bounty of agricultural gems from peaches to walnuts, prunes to hops and now grapes are the crowning glory.
What is sustainability for us? • Compost of grape pomace, vineyard prunings, and other mature organic materials are spread in the vineyard to replenish the soil and grape stems are spread on roadways for erosion control. • Planting cover crops to improve the land’s natural fertility, control erosion and host beneficial insects. Cover crops such as barley, oats, and bell beans are all grown naturally and are chopped and turned into the soil to replenish nitrogen and oxygen. • We limit tilling by half by cultivating one way only in our head pruned Zinfandel. This saves fossil fuels as well as controls erosion in the vineyard. • Soil moisture content is checked weekly by vineyard management to dictate when and how much water is applied to vineyards in order to watch our water usage and not over-irrigate during the growing season. • All of our vineyards are hand pruned, the grapes are hand-picked, and hand tended throughout the vineyard year. • Motion sensitive lighting has been added to production buildings. • Our barrel room, housing 2000 barrels, is naturally ‘air conditioned’ by way of a venting system that opens at night, drawing in the cool air, and closing in the morning thereby keeping the barrels at a constant 55 degrees or lower.
Did you know? California is a global leader in sustainable winegrowing practices in terms of wine acreage and case production. As of November 2017, 127 wineries producing over 74% (211 million cases) of California’s total wine production and 1099 vineyards farming 134,000 acres (22% of statewide wine acreage) are certified sustainable. On our 90th Anniversary Pedroncelli entered the ranks of the certified giving us proof on paper what we have always practiced.
March 29, 2018 10:10
Prunes. Or Italian Plums. Those wrinkly sweet fruits I grew up with in Dry Creek Valley. Now some history of their importance here.
We hosted our second Taste Up of the year in late March. A Taste Up for us is a Tweet Up with wine bloggers around the U.S. all talking about a specific set of wines along with a recipe I chose to pair with them. We add in some information about our wines and the recipe and the bloggers do the same, tasting the wines, fixing the dish, asking questions. It is a lively one hour conversation with many different voices all focused on Pedroncelli wines and the dish at hand.
The recipe was from the New York Times with Florence Fabricant’s Chicken with Chiles & Prunes. We even sent along some prunes in the wine pack. Now the reason prune is the word is because there used to be acres of prune orchards right here in Dry Creek Valley. Prunes became the vineyard replacement once Prohibition pulled the rug out from under grape growing. Up until the 1980s you could still see these orchards not only here but in Alexander Valley as well. Then wine made a comeback and those trees made way for vines once again.
If you grew up here you probably know what’s coming. If you didn’t let me share the story of the why prunes are such a big part of our history. Back in the days Jim and John were buying land to expand our vineyards they first bought 5 acres of prune orchard on West Dry Creek Road in 1965-which is now home to our Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon. In the early 1970s they bought two more pieces on Dry Creek Road and this is where the rest of our Bordeaux varietals are planted (sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon).
As kids we picked prunes as they typically ripened before school started. Hated very moment but the money made it worth it. Imagine a warm-turning-to-hot August day. Prunes are knocked off of the trees and land in the dirt where you kneel to pick them. Usually with the bees buzzing around because they were so ripe (bees sting you know). These were then brought to a place where they were dried. There was a huge dehydrator called Sunsweet in Healdsburg. This town was once known as the ‘buckle on the prune belt’. While I was in grade school we used to make posters for the Prune Blossom Festival (using cotton balls as blossoms because the aforementioned valleys were carpeted in tree after tree of white blossoms). This event took place during the 1960s and attracted thousands of people (in a 1969 Healdsburg Tribune story they estimated 5000 people came to visit-tourism before its time!). Even a popular show, The Dating Game, had the winning couple pay a visit to the area during the festival. Local farmers baked recipes with this dried fruit like prune cake and prune whip which was prepared and served to all who visited at the local grange hall. A little non-wine history for our little corner of Dry Creek Valley--if you see Jim ask him about prunes-he has some stories to tell!
March 29, 2018 10:07
March really did roll in like a lion and brought us much needed rain for the vineyards and even delayed bud break by 2 weeks. As the month ended we had temperatures in the 80s and spring had sprung with cover crop as high as the vines in some places and bees buzzing around the rosemary bushes.
We received over 7 inches of rain in total for the month pushing us closer to an average rainfall and away from full on drought. In fact we are officially not in a drought because of all the rain. Yahoo-we weren’t looking forward to that type of challenge so soon after the last one.
Vines typically begin their growth in spring which usually begins by mid-March. A few early starters pushed some buds like our Sangiovese-which acted like a race horse this year raring to go. It is often the first out of the gate or just after our Zinfandel. Our Mother Clone Zinfandel wasn’t far behind. Once bud break takes place the growing season begins. Bloom sometime in May followed by crop set in June and through the summer we'll watch as the grapes color up and ripen. Before you know it the grapes will be ready for harvest.
March 1, 2018 09:51
I have been following Janet Fletcher for several years and receiving her newsletter Planet Cheese. This week she had a wonderful post about cheese trivia. So are you a cheese fanatic like me? Read on for some very interesting facts from Janet Fletcher's newsletter post "Trivia but not Trivial" where a young man named Pat Polowsky instructs us with answers to cheese urban legends. Sign up for her newsletter if you want the latest in cheese news at www.planetcheese.com Don't miss her classes held in Napa or at The Cheese School in San Francisco as well as other spots around the Bay Area. I am a big fan of cheese and I can't think of another way to become educated on the artisan cheese world.
February 28, 2018 14:15
Drought. The word is bandied about these days as we look to the last significant month in our rain cycle. March is usually the final frontier when it comes to the rain season. If we haven’t had enough (and we haven’t) then this is the last stand to make up for the small amount we have received so far. In fact the warm weather (in the 70s) we had in February almost made our vines think it was spring.
We’ve had between 12 and 13 inches of rain this season. Average rainfall is around 30 inches. That’s why the dreaded D-word ‘drought’ is now being used. While considered moderate we’ll need a few more inches to even get close to normal.
From the California Department of Water Resources comes this when defining drought for our state, “California is no stranger to drought; it is a recurring feature of our climate. We recently experienced the 5-year event of 2012-2016, and other notable historical droughts included 2007-09, 1987-92, 1976-77, and off-and-on dry conditions spanning more than a decade in the 1920s and 1930s. Paleoclimate records going back more than 1,000 years show many more significant dry periods. The dry conditions of the 1920s-30s, however, were on a par with the largest 10-year droughts in the much longer paleoclimate record.”
The great amount of rain we received in 2017, while a distant memory, is something that isn’t repeated too often. The good news is it filled up reservoirs and even recharged groundwater storage in some places which is an important if unseen effect-without underground water the wells so many of us rely on for farming would affect our ability to deliver water when most needed.
It remains to be seen what March will bring. We all hope for more rain to give the vines and other agricultural crops the water they need.
February 27, 2018 16:38
Family businesses are different than others because most of our co-workers are spouses, siblings or cousins. You know, when we were growing up here at the winery, women outnumbered my Dad 5 to 1. With four daughters and my Mom he survived but as my sister Lisa put it “his lifetime achievement award was well deserved-he survived four teenage girls”. He was raised in part by his sisters Margaret and Marianne who were 10 and 9 years older than he was so he had a good start in the girl department.
Women over the years have played an important part in this family business of ours. My grandmother Julia helped everywhere from the vineyard to administration to maintaining the family home and the countless dinners they hosted. Don’t forget my aunts who not only took care of my dad but they also worked with their parents to run the vineyard and farm. Later on Margaret and my uncle Al grew Zinfandel and Petite Sirah for the winery. My mother Phyllis and aunt Christine, from the second generation, also had roles in the running of the business from market visits to weighing in grape trucks, bookkeeping to hospitality.
Because of the hard work and dedication of the first two generations the third and fourth generation became owners. Those generations are predominately women (see note above about me and my three sisters and includes cousins too).
I was asked a great question at the #winestudio discussion earlier this month when the tweet up was the subject of women owned wineries. How did I find my voice and my calling amidst a family business? When I was attending college my parents encouraged me to do what I wanted to do-to pursue my dream. I majored in English with a Writing Emphasis and thought I’d go into the publishing world. A weekend side job of helping my sister in the tasting room had me commuting between El Cerrito in the East Bay to Geyserville-where I realized how much I missed Sonoma County. A few months later my dad and I had a chat in the case goods warehouse and he asked me if I’d be interested in working for the winery. I had had enough of the city life (cue Green Acres music) and came back home armed only with an English degree and willingness to learn.
Part of the blessing of a family business is when we are hired we are encouraged to take a part of the business that speaks to us-sisters Cathy and Lisa work with administration-they are numbers ladies. I found my voice by writing for the winery-newsletters, background stories, fact sheets, press kits and a blog. Good thing I majored in English w/writing emphasis. I was also afforded the freedom to find my passion about wine not only by writing about it but also traveling around the U.S. markets. When I was growing up in the heart of the winery operations I took for granted what takes place in the vineyard and the cellar. I don’t anymore—I have learned much about the process and if it is possible I have become even more of a wine fan than ever before because there is a world of wines to discover.
Amy Bess Cook has started a WoW: Women Owned Wineries website highlighting Sonoma County WoW. Check it out here.
A toast with a splash of Zinfandel in my Dino-the first wine I ever tried.
February 27, 2018 15:30
Barrel time in wine country is important enough to have its’ own celebration in the form of two Barrel Tasting weekends in March. 41 years ago the Barrel Tasting, originally sponsored by the then Russian River Wine Road (now simply Wine Road) a group of wineries located near the Russian River, began as a way for people to discover northern Sonoma County. 41 years ago there were less wineries hence wines to try-it was at the beginning of the wine renaissance here. Today you have the joy of discovering new and old friends in the mix with over 100 wineries thieving samples out of the barrel for you. The event takes place between Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.
Back in those early years there were less than 30 wineries participating. I have been here for 33 years and have worked a majority of those weekends. We went from trying to keep up with cleaning glasses to having folks ‘BYOG’ followed quickly by the first branding efforts with an official logo glass for $5. Numbers of wineries now range over 120 participating! Futures were added later on and not much has changed except the number people attending going from 100 to 25,000 at the peak in 2008. These days we see less people than at the peak-much less-which in turn gives us more time for visitors to taste and ask questions. Winemakers and cellar crews stand at the ready to talk about the wine and process of barrel aging. Join us this year as we feature the Past, Present and Future of our Alto Vineyards Sangiovese-a library release, our current 2015 vintage and the 2016 still in barrel. A splash of Sangiovese in my Dino with a toast to 40 more years of barrel tasting.
**You still have time if you want to attend, tickets are sold at the door.
- family business
- Sonoma County
- Barrel aging
- Barrel Tasting
- woman owned
- Vintage Wine
- Wine Road
- Dry Creek Valley
- Sauvignon Blanc
- International Women's Wine Competition
- Vintage Year
- National Wine Day
- Heat wave
- Cabernet Sauvignon