Vino In My Dino

  • An Icon: Jim Pedroncelli

    April 18, 2017 11:07

    This week the Sonoma County Vintners are hosting their third annual Barrel Auction. Each year they have chosen icons who embody Sonoma County winegrowing. This year my dad Jim was chosen and will be honored on Thursday at a special event.

    An icon as defined on Google: “a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol of something.” Or ‘a person who is very successful or admired: a pop icon.  Dad is a Sonoma County wine icon and is one of the early adopters of placing the appellation on our label, a tireless supporter of programs the Sonoma County trade group has sponsored over the years, and, of course, the leader at Pedroncelli Winery.

    Going back to the beginning, my dad was born in Geyserville at the family home, the youngest of four. Working from the ground up he, along with his brother John and sisters Margaret and Marianne, experienced the many aspects of the job that come from being in the family business: vineyard and cellar work followed by sales and marketing. There are many stories about him growing up at Pedroncelli: during vineyard work he was lost among the vines and found with his dog at his side; he scraped redwood tanks for tartrates and these were used to make munitions during World War 2; showing early interest in marketing he suggested including Sonoma on our labels in the early 1950s; he developed the distributor network we have today and created a broker network, Winery Associates, to support national sales.

    All along he consistently promoted Sonoma County while others were promoting sub-appellations and was ever present on the Sonoma Tour as the trade association worked to promote the region. He is the strongest Sonoma County advocate alive today. He has committed his life to promoting Sonoma County wine —often, and regularly, above his own brand. He is a charter member of Sonoma County Vintners, Wine Road, Sonoma County Grape Growers, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, and long term member of Wine Institute.

    My dad has been known to give the tie from around his neck at a wine tasting, give the shortest winemaker talk at a dinner which was much appreciated by the crowd, and is one of the most generous individuals in the business. His being named an Icon is a well-deserved honor.

  • Women's History Month: We Are Family

    March 23, 2017 06:17

    A while ago I took part in a seminar entitled “Growing up Among the Vines” and one of the stories I told was about my sisters and I building vine houses under head pruned Chenin Blanc vines. I remember it was cool inside the canopy of long canes and large leaves in the days just before harvest. We had our own vine village. This and many other memories are with me as I reflect on four generations of family ownership.

    March is Women’s History Month designated each year by proclamation from the President. Women’s History Month is chosen each year to celebrate the achievements and contributions made to our great nation. We have been quietly working in our corner of Dry Creek Valley with women in every generation contributing to the success of the winery.

    As a third generation member and the oldest of four Pedroncelli daughters my experience is filled with many memories of growing up side by side with the family business.  My grandmother Julia, matriarch of the first generation, kept the books, entertained many visitors with her cooking and hospitality, and helped our family business blossom. Daughters Margaret and Marianne, sisters to John and Jim, took part in the early years out in the vineyard and farm. Later Margaret, along with husband Al Pedroni, became a longtime grower of Zinfandel, an extension now of our estate vineyards farmed by daughter Carol and her husband Jim Bushnell.

    Grandparents, aunts, uncles, dad and cousin celebrating Sunday dinner.

    Also from the second generation, my mom Phyllis took over bookkeeping when my parents moved to the family home at the winery in the mid1960’s. She weighed in grape trucks, managed the office and later went on marketing trips with my dad doing all she could to help the winery go forward. Christine, uncle John’s wife, worked side by side to further the business as well. Her interests took her into the world of politics with many community and civic activities including the first woman president of the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees, appointed by Sonoma County on the Dry Creek Zoning Committee, part of the committee to build the Geyserville Educational Park, Chairman of the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees and many other accomplishments.

    Christine, Jim and Phyllis partners from the second generation.

    In the third generation, my sisters Cathy, Lisa and Joanna all have made great contributions throughout the years as well as cousin Maureen with her singular talent as chef. Fourth generation member Denise is our graphics designer. To this day we work side by side here at the winery each of us using our own talents like the previous generations to shepherd our interests forward. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of such great examples and strive to do more and be more in the coming years. A toast with Sauvignon Blanc in my Dino to generations of women in our family-90 years and counting!

    The Pedroncelli sisters Joanna, Julie Lisa and Cathy.


  • Vineyard View: From Drought to Plenty

    March 10, 2017 07:37

    The phases our Mother Clone vineyard has experienced in the last five years echoes a climate pattern that reaches back 90 years ago. Soon after my grandparents bought the ranch in 1927 they experienced one of the longest droughts on record spanning 1928-1934. Our recent drought period of 4 years ended with the 75 inches of rain that we have received (so far) for the 2016-2017 season. Average rainfall typically is in the 35 to 40 inch range.

    The impact on vineyards during drought periods are pretty evident. The vines protect themselves and lower production of fruit in order to survive. If they didn’t cut back then depletion within the vine system would do more harm, nutrients would be lost and quality compromised. If there are diseases in vines like a virus it is even more evident in the fall as bright red leaves shows the stress. As farmers during the recent drought we were on strict conservation measures and gave ‘just enough’ water to each vine, trying to keep a balance between the two extremes.

    The state of California has been measuring precipitation over 2 centuries. In studying the data, it shows the climate patterns we have experienced and the devastation that follows. “Droughts and floods can occur in close proximity. For example, the flooding of 1986 was followed by six years of drought (1987-92). At the beginning of the state's historical record the so-called "Noachian" floods of winter 1861-62 were followed by two severely dry years.” As quoted from California department of Water Resources on their website.

    We have had 5 historical droughts in the last 90 years and each one of them made their mark on agriculture. Once again I’ll point to the circular nature of climate. We do not live in a world where we can control the elements and are dependent on the weather each and every year-even when one season mirrors another it can be very unpredictable. A toast to both sides of Mother Nature-the extreme of drought to the overabundant rains we have had, so far.

  • 03-03-17

    March 3, 2017 07:25


    This weekend we are celebrating 40 years of barrel tasting at Pedroncelli—we were one of the founding wineries and have participated in this educational event since the first year-1977. While I was too young at the time to participate I worked my first barrel event in 1986. It was free back then, people even brought their own wine glass with them because the wineries weren’t equipped to wash enough glasses to supply the event. Ahhh those were the days-it is more upscale now with glass included in the ticket price.

    The next two weekends we’ll welcome event attendees into our cellar (yours truly will be the greeter) and thief samples of our 2015 Mother Clone Zinfandel side by side with our 2015 Bushnell Vineyard Zin. Our winemaker Montse will be here tomorrow to answer your burning barrel questions; cellar master Polo will be here next Saturday to do the same. Don’t be shy-barrels are a big part of a wine's story.

    Here are a few stats to whet your whistle:

    Why taste from the barrel? This gives you an idea of the aging process-compare an unfinished wine with a finished wine for the best comparison like our 2015 Mother Clone vs the current 2014. You'll find subtle and extreme differences between the two.

    What happens inside the barrel? During the aging process, as the water and alcohol dissipate and thereby concentrating the wine, the young wine softens little by little. It will take on aspects of the oak as well as loosen up its' grip. If you are trying a wine from the recent harvest be prepared-the tannins are pretty harsh but the silver lining is you get a glimpse of things to come—the fruit components, the acidity, the body—and some of the characteristics will dominate the others.

    How many barrels do we have and what kind of oak are they? There are 2000 barrels in our Barrel Room. Most are American oak, some French and a smattering of Hungarian. Each barrel holds about 25 cases of wine-50,000 cases of vino at any given time.

    It's cold in here-what is the cellar temperature? This is important-our barrel room is kept at a constant 55 or so degrees. It is also humidified because this helps to slow down the oxidation within each barrel-which helps to save wine.

    A toast to barrels-get it? toast ha ha-with a splash of Zinfandel in my Dino!

  • Pillars of Pedroncelli: Farming

    February 28, 2017 13:42

    Plans for our 90th anniversary are being rolled out via press releases, wine writer samples and extra market travel. When we decided to focus on the whole year as a celebration we will make sure each event we host or participate in focuses on and celebrates our 9 decades as a family owned and farmed winery in Dry Creek Valley. We developed the “Pillars of Pedroncelli” to emphasize what has made our business so successful. The first of the three is family, the second is farming.

    Dry Creek Valley is very special to us. I am glad my grandparents put down roots here when they could have chosen anywhere else. Today we know this is one of the best places on earth to farm grapes. And great wines begin with the best vineyard locations.

    Cesar Perez with Silver plowing hillside Zinfandel-circa 1960s. Very few photos of our vineyard survive. This is a good representation of our home ranch.

    Our winery and vineyards are located in this American Viticultural Area we helped form. Renowned as prime land for grape growing, high quality wines are the result. The climate, where the development in ripening grapes is protected from the heat by the marine fog intrusion in the evenings, is singular and unparalleled. Pedroncelli wines are regionally focused and site specific and we’ve learned to pair the right varietal with the best site creating great character. Farming at its best is when you take the sum of experience and find just the right spot for a varietal. Wine excellence follows.

    Fog burning off the vineyard, typically late morning, and it makes all the difference in quality.

    A little background on the valley itself. It is 2 miles wide and 16 miles long and is associated with three towns: Healdsburg, Geyserville and Cloverdale. It is the smallest of the four major appellations within Sonoma County. Populated in the mid-1800s by settlers, grape growing began in earnest by the 1860s. Wineries cropped up by the 1870s and the rest is history. Well except for that 13 year Prohibition ‘experiment’. By 1972 a wine renaissance drew many new vintners to the area as we were the only commercial winery during those lean years following Repeal. Today 9000 acres are planted with more than 70 wineries and we welcome visitors to experience what wine and grape farming are all about. A toast in my Dino with a splash of to farming the best spot on earth!

    Second generation Cabernet Sauvignon-you do gain a lot of wisdom from 50 years of growing the same varietal on the same site.

  • Pillars of Pedroncelli: Flagships

    February 28, 2017 13:37

    Plans for our 90th anniversary included defining the three pillars of Pedroncelli-what sets us apart from all the others. This month's posts included family first-who we are and what we have been doing for 90 years to carry on our heritage; the second is farming-this singular place where development in the grapes we plant are defined by climate and soils making high quality wine and the importance of being good stewards of the land for 9 decades. Finally our flagships: Zinfandel, of course, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Dry Creek Valley and Zinfandel are synonymous so it’s natural that it would be our first varietal produced and our flagship. It was among the first grapes to be planted in the 1860s when Dry Creek Valley became home to vineyards. Our home ranch has been planted to the grape since the early 1900s and we kept the vineyard going through Prohibition by selling to home winemakers. Zinfandel was the first varietal wine we made in 1948 and followed with Rosé by 1954. Today half of all Zinfandel grown in Sonoma County (2500 acres) is grown in Dry Creek Valley. We have found it to be distinctive when grown here showcasing the berry-pepper dynamic of fruit on one side and the signature black pepper spice on the other.

    Old Vine Zinfandel

    We were the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Dry Creek Valley where it flourishes after 50 years and has its own unique qualities of fruit and spice. Having purchased this 5 acre piece in 1965, located on West Dry Creek Road, we learned site specific qualities gaining wisdom over the years as how Cabernet thrived in the climate, soil and which trellising ripened the grapes best. 3200 acres are planted in the valley putting the king of grapes at the top of the list.


    It makes sense that these two varietals make up over 50% of our estate vineyards and both are considered hallmark wines here in Dry Creek Valley. A splash of Cabernet in my Dino as a toast to flagships.

  • OTBN!

    February 24, 2017 13:56

    Open That Bottle Night is tomorrow night, the 25th of February. This is a fun way to take a look at the wines you have stored or saved over the years-and even if you don’t have a cellar or closet to age wine pick something up you haven’t tried before. It doesn’t have to be expensive or an older vintage-just open that bottle!

    Some advice: In the case you have an older vintage on your hands remember to check a few things out: fill level of bottle or any leaks through the cork. If you have a two-pronged wine opener this is best for older corks but careful use of a regular corkscrew should do the trick. Decant if you like although I think the aromas of an older vintage (15-20-30 years old) tends to dissipate quickly. Needless to say don’t linger over a wine that is quite old-it is delicate in its old age.

    Here are a few OBTN comments from friends over the last year-perhaps you have a bottle lingering in the cellar/basement/closet/top of the refrigerator (hope not) that you and your wine friends would enjoy!

    Dave P, MN: My wife and I have been drinking your wines for many years (30+). For tonight's Valentine's Day dinner, I made beef tenderloin with mushrooms and a mustard sauce. I opened your 2008 Family Vineyard Petite Sirah. It was wonderful. Smooth tannins. Fruit practically jumped out of the glass. It was the perfect accompaniment to the food. The predominant flavors on my palate were blackberry and cherry and blueberry. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure prior to opening it that it would be primo. But it was. Now I have to go buy more of it.

    Herb S.,: I am finishing a 2012 Dry Creek Valley Cab. I opened it today around 2pm. Popped and poured right into the glass. It was great directly out the bottle. Definitely noticed it needed a little air, but very satisfying. As the night went on the wine just got better and better until the best sip was my last sip at midnight. (I actually left the house for a few hours, or that bottle would have been long gone!) Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the work you do to put out a quality product, consistently. My cellar will always be stocked with Pedroncelli!

    Or this video about our 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bobke TV

    Either way I'll be enjoying a wine in my Dino-now which one should I open?

    1970 Cabernet And Food

  • Pillars of Pedroncelli: Family

    February 10, 2017 13:47

    Last month we worked out our plans for our 90th anniversary. Deciding to focus on the whole year as a celebration, each event we host or participate in will focus on and celebrate our 9 decades of being a family owned and farmed winery in Dry Creek Valley. We developed the “Pillars of Pedroncelli” to emphasize what has made our business so successful. The first of is family.

    Three on the Stairs

    It all begins with my grandparents Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli who purchased a vineyard, shuttered winery and a home—beginning a now four generation legacy smack dab in the middle of Prohibition. Something about this place called to them-perhaps it was the largely Italian population of the valley or memories of home. Either way it is one of the firsts of our family legacy-buying a winery during the driest period in U. S. history. And I am very happy they chose Dry Creek Valley when there were so many other places in this state—like Bakersfield…

    Aunts Margaret and Marianne flank John, around the time they moved here.

    Pedroncelli was among the earliest on the Sonoma County wine scene and there are many other firsts for us: inviting customers to taste wine in the cellar and take away bottles blended by my grandfather in those early years. I call this the social media of the day-volume of sales depended on this homegrown effort of word of mouth, friends telling friends.

    A boy and his dog (Jim, age 9)There is a family story about my dad Jim who went missing one day after the family worked in the vineyard-he was found later under a vine with his dog.

    We crafted a varietal Zinfandel by 1949 and not too much later added Sonoma to the label. We made a Rosé out of Zinfandel in 1954 now with more than 60 consecutive vintages. We were the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Dry Creek Valley in 1966. We were early adopters of small oak barrel aging and temperature controlled stainless steel tanks transitioning from redwood and concrete fermentors.

    In the cellar Giovanni & John in the cellar.

    My dad Jim blazed the trail in establishing a network of distributors selling wine through the three tier system and by the 1980s he helped create an independent sales & marketing network. Today we work with some of those original wholesalers, many multi-generational as well.

    Jim Pedroncelli, 1970 Jim in the early 1970s.

    I think one of the best ‘firsts’ for my family is thriving beyond the first and second generations with careful planning, quiet innovation and steadfast quality. Here’s to the next 90 with a splash of Zinfandel, our flagship, in my Dino!


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