Vino In My Dino
November 19, 2018 15:10
Just as the holidays go into full swing there is a day we should all take a moment to celebrate. December 5 is the day, 85 years ago, when the 21st Amendment ended what the 18th Amendment began: Prohibition. This is a very important day to all of us in the Pedroncelli family for obvious reasons.
Without this act we would be farming prunes or walnuts. There would be no “Pedroncelli Winery” or Pedroncelli wines to drink. A bleak thought!
My grandparents, Giovanni & Julia, bought the property mid-Prohibition and probably thought the dry time in America would end much sooner than it did. A couple of things happened however. Let’s go back to the fact that my grandparents, even though they came from Italy, had never owned vineyard let alone make wine. The good news is they learned from the ground up-by tending the vineyard they bought, selling the grapes to heads of households who were permitted to make 200 gallons of wine (84 cases!) during this dry period and finally learning to make wine alongside all these ‘vinpatriots’.
Without the fortitude to stay the course the third and fourth generations would not be here continuing the heritage begun 91 years ago and we wouldn’t have the legacy of wines worth celebrating the day 85 years ago when the 19th amendment was repealed. Much like Open That Bottle Night (last Saturday of February) this is a day those of us in the wine biz enjoy the most. So let's celebrate with a glass of Zinfandel!
November 19, 2018 14:34
Lizzy Boardman, one of our friendly Tasting Room Staffers, is the idea lady behind our seasonal ‘look’ whether it is summer or fall, winter or spring. When she was thinking about decorating last winter in preparation for Winter Wineland this avid Pinterest fan found an idea of a grapevine trunk holding notes of thanks. She named it Gratitude Vine.
The vine itself is the trunk from the Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard just across the way. The project, begun in January, has garnered 100s of thankful tags and it is fitting as we celebrate the holidays, and recently Thanksgiving, we give thanks for many things. From friends to wine, family to joy, hope and peace—all of which are hanging on our Gratitude Vine.
We are filled with gratitude for our 91 years on this beautiful ranch producing fine wines for your enjoyment. We are also grateful to our friends who have supported and savored our wines through the years and toast those new friends to come.
Stop by our tasting room and add your own to the vine-it is getting a bit crowded but we believe there is always room for more. Via this blog post I invite you to share what or who it is you are thankful for this year and we'll add it to the vine for you. I personally am thankful to the first responders in the latest fires around California-without them more would have been lost.
November 16, 2018 15:29
Notes from wine enthusiasts who cellar our wine and write to me with their tasting notes are always welcome in my inbox. I received one such message today and wanted to share Mike K.'s experience with our 50 year old Cabernet Sauvignon.
Think about it. Vintage 1968. I was 8 years old. While I don't remember specifically watching these grapes come in I am sure I was around after school wandering by the tanks in the cellar. My uncle John was at his prime in his 20th year as winemaker. His brother Jim recalls the vintage being a relatively easy one (compared to others challenged by rain or heat). In fact the Wine Enthusiast Vintage Chart lists 'Great Older Vintages' and includes California Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1968 vintage.
Mike K., the wine enthusiast who sent me his notes, had some questions before he opened the wine. He and I wrote back and forth as he checked the website for background information, let me know the fill level was good, I let him know who made the wine and to use an 'ah so' opener in case the 50 year old cork had disintegrated. The evening came when he opened the wine so without further ado here is the message along with two photos he sent, one with the cork since he and I had wondered about the quality.
1968 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Private Stock
There is always a sense of trepidation and anticipation when you open an old bottle of wine. When it does not go well, there is a bit of a sense of loss and what could have been. But when it goes well, like it did with this bottle, it can be a great experience especially when shared with friends. We really enjoyed this bottle and was very appreciative of the effort that went into make this some 50 years ago.
I've had Napa Cabs from '70, '74 and '78 recently so it is from this perspective that this note is being written. 50 years, this wine has traveled for quite some time. The wine on opening needed a bit of time to wake up but once it did, it was a wonderful wine. This must have been a great large scale wine when it was young but the stuffing has allowed it to aged to become a graceful and elegant wine. On the noses, typical tertiary notes of cedar, tobacco, forest, dried fruits, and tea. The wine is very balanced, the texture was still very smooth and quite lush. The acidity kept it amazingly fresh for such an old wine. Compared to others of this age from the 70's I think that it was this balance and this liveliness that was the hallmark of this wine. Wonderful, drank well over the three hours that it was opened. While the finish was a bit short, the persistence was very long and lingering. Stunning.
Thanks Mike! You made our Friday. My cousin Richard, John's son, wrote this after receiving the above assessment: "A great vintage, a great wine and a great wine maker."
October 29, 2018 13:48
I often refer to our neighborhoods of grapes found right here in Dry Creek Valley-the smallest of the four major Sonoma County winegrape appellations-because there are diverse little micro-climates and steep hillsides producing some of the tastiest fruit around. And some of the grapes come from longtime neighbors going back 60 or more years!
You can see by the Sonoma County appellation map with all of the 19 American Viticultural Areas (AVA) outlined that we are a county of neighboring appellations. And within each AVA are hills, benches and valley floors. In each of these there are thousands of acres of varieties and vineyards making up a total of 60,000 acres in Sonoma County (and there are 1 million acres in Sonoma County).
With a little inspiration from the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley here is how we see the appellation in neighborhoods: As defined by soil and area the Dry Creek Valley is split into these areas: Western Benchlands, Eastern Hills (that’s us!) and Valley Floor. The appellation itself, 16 miles long and about 2 miles wide, is furthermore split almost in two by Lambert Bridge Road where south of the bridge is cooler than the vineyards to the north by several degrees at times. For instance our Chardonnay comes from south of the bridge on the valley floor. Our Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from north by almost 5 miles where it is on the eastern hillsides.
When you then drill down to estate vineyards and our growers you get 8 different locations in the valley. Each one is planted to one or more varietals. I’ll use our Wisdom vineyard as an example: it is located on West Dry Creek Road (Western Benchlands) and has been planted to Cabernet Sauvignon for more than 50 years. This neighborhood is known for producing excellent Cabernet as well as Zinfandel (the Courage/Faloni vineyard is just around the corner).
I’ll introduce you to our other ‘neighborhoods’ in the coming weeks.
October 29, 2018 13:44
ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) is an organization that has been promoting this uniquely Californian grape for over 30 years with special tastings and other nationwide events. Would you like to know more about our ZinStory?
My ZinStory began when I first sipped it from my Dino cup when I was four years old. It is the inspiration behind the name of this blog as you may have guessed by now.
Why don’t we start at the beginning of Zinfandel in Dry Creek Valley. The 1850’s saw many people moving into this area and they began to plant grapes along with other crops. They chose Zinfandel, among a few others, and the rest is ZinStory.
On the winery property it started in the early 1900s when the Canata family planted Zinfandel and made barrels of wine destined for sale in San Francisco. Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli bought the vineyard, shuttered winery and home mid-Prohibition in 1927. They acquired a 25 acre vineyard which supported the young family by providing grapes for home winemakers where each head of household could make 200 gallons.
Zinfandel continues to be our most widely planted grape today with 33 acres of first, second and recently third generation vineyard on the original land my grandparents purchased 91 years ago. We continue our story with three Zinfandels: our Mother Clone located on the home ranch and spanning in age from 115 year old vines to 4 years old; our Bushnell Vineyard which is owned by third generation family member Carol Bushnell and her husband Jim. We have been getting fruit from this place since the 1940s; Courage is our newest member and comes from the multi-generation grape growing Faloni family. We believe it takes a lot of courage to be a farmer and grow Zinfandel!
Our winemaker Montse says Zinfandel tells the story of the vintage. Whatever has gone on during the growing season through to harvest is reflected in this grape and the wine it makes. Recent examples of this includes the incredible concentration in the drought influenced year of 2015. 5 years before this a heat wave struck in 2010 and we lost nearly half of our crop-also a concentrated vintage due to the very low yields. There are many other memorable examples of quality from vintages like 2012 (the year of plenty), 1997 (considered the vintage of the century), 1985 (focused & concentrated) and 1978 (Zinfandel was the winner after years of drought brought excellent quality). Just remember every bottle tells its’ own ZinStory.
Now, what is your ZinStory?
October 29, 2018 13:39
We completed this year’s harvest on October 9th with a final load of estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Our vintage wrap up includes comments from winemaker Montse Reece and Vineyard Manager Lance Blakeley. Get the harvest scoop from the people who know.
I will begin by saying there is one word that describes this harvest perfectly: abundance. This coming from an abundance of fruit and an abundance of good weather to bring in the fruit-yes a little rain fell in September and timing was good-we only had a few of red wine varietals on the vine including our Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah still hanging and these grapes are built for this type of challenge! We began with Sauvignon Blanc on August 30 and finished on October 9 with Cabernet Sauvignon. It was quick and chaotic at times and when it cooled down mid-September the weather extended hang time nicely.
From Lance Blakeley comes his comments as the Vineyard Manager. In production all varietals were above average anywhere from 5% to 15% stemming from spring and summer growing conditions that led to a great crop set. Labor went fairly well as we teamed up with some other local growers to share some of their pickers. We machine harvested 15 acres and all went well in quality. The younger cabernet sauvignon blocks really stood out to me this year as did the merlot which got plenty of hang time and tasted outstanding. Our wine yields were good too as we had full bunches with very little, if any, shrivel or raisining.
From Montse Reece her comments as Winemaker. This harvest we had more consistent weather without extreme heat spikes like last year. That reflects on the quality of Zinfandel which was exceptional and also the wine yields that were up by 20% over all varietals with respect to last year’s. We did see some challenges especially accommodating the bigger crop across the board but do note the Zinfandel came in at normal tonnage as we had less in 2017. This harvest all grapes, but in particular Zinfandel, were back to a normal cycle of ripening with mild to hot days and cool nights, that translated into a slowing ripening and a better retaining of the acids and phenols. This year I see impressive balanced wines with moderate alcohols and beautiful integrated acids.
As with Zinfandel the good weather cycle this year elevated the acid, flavor and aromatic profile of the grapes. Cabernets had an extended hang time to reach their maturity and as a result we’ll see more concentrate flavors, colors and bright acidities. A vintage to look forward to.
And with these comments we close the book on Vintage 2018. I, for one, am looking forward to tasting the first wines released from this harvest early next year.
September 24, 2018 16:10
If you have been reading my posts for a while you’ll remember my favorite season is fall and the best aroma this time of year is the smell of fermentation. When I arrive at my office and get out of the car I am welcomed with the sharp and wonderful smell of grapes fermenting away in the cellar. This is an olfactory memory scent which takes me back to when I was a little girl growing up here. It is literally like coming home for me once fall and harvest begin.
It brings back memories of making 'wine' from just picked wine grapes by squeezing them into plastic wine glasses which came with our play china set. I am certain it all became a sticky mess and my mom likely cleaned it up. We made 'vine houses' of the huge head-pruned French Colombard vines by claiming one of our own (I have three sisters by the way, all younger than me) and creating our own vine village using the canopy for the 'roof'. The time my sister Lisa, who was about 6 years old, walked across the sump and fell into the just-pressed wine. She was find and later on my uncle John labeled up a bottle of "Mountain Lisa" to commemorate the occasion. We would pick our own grapes and bringing them in to be weighed-pretty sure it was all of 20 pounds of second crop Zinfandel but we were so happy to do it-nothing back breaking like today's grape pickers!
We wanted to be a part of the process that absorbed my dad and uncles' time especially since our house was right in the middle of the operation. The home was surrounded by winery buildings which were built as needed during the growth years of the winery. Today it is World Headquarters for J. Pedroncelli Inc-and my office is my old bedroom I shared with my sister Joanna. So many memories! Bee stings, scraped knees, muddy shoes, learning to ride a bike in pea gravel (try it sometime), digging around the old stuff left by my grandfather in the attic of the winery, finding where the latest kittens were born and trying to tame them-I even climbed up on top of a wine tank to get to them and I am afraid of heights and I had more of a problem getting down however, picking fruit and vegetables from our large garden, canning with my grandmother Virginia, drying walnuts and then helping to clean them, watching my mom prepare abalone that was caught by my uncle Al and getting to eat what is now a delicacy. All of these tie me back to my childhood growing up a Dry Creek girl.
A toast to memories of harvests past, the current one ongoing and knowing there'll be more as we continue on to the next generations.
September 24, 2018 16:02
We started these virtual meet ups with the help of Robert Larsen of The Larsen Projekt. Through this we connected with wine bloggers around the country last year in celebration of what is new and exciting at Pedroncelli in our 90th year. In September we completed our 4th of 5 gatherings for our 91st year.
We invite wine bloggers from Texas, Illinois, Virginia, New York, Oregon, California, Iowa and Maryland to join us and we usually have between 12-15 who all log on at 4pm Pacific Time to chat for an hour. We send them the wines, the recipe and usually an ingredient from the recipe to help them along-this time it was dried Porcini mushrooms to go into the Slow Cooker Beef with Pasta and Porcini.
Preparation on our part includes fixing the dish and taking photos of the process, prepping with background information on each wine along with winemaking notes and winemaker quotes, pouring the three wines we featured: our 2016 Pinot Noir and Merlot along with our 2014 Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon. We aim to have two of the wines pair up perfectly with the dish and, in this instance, the third wine, Pinot Noir, became the 'sipping' wine before the main event.
What is so interesting about the hour is we have a dozen people tasting the wines individually and posting their thoughts (at the same time across three time zones), asking questions, posting their tasting notes, bottle shots, their take on the recipe as well as telling us what they did differently-making it low carb or not using the slow cooker method because time is of the essence. It is a great conversation to have while Ed and I, at the winery, scroll and type furiously while answering questions and engaging our friends. We look forward to our fifth and final taste up later this year. Now I get to have fun finding the next recipe as we've already picked out some great wines.
September 24, 2018 15:57
I saw an article this week that talked about Vintage 2018 being a late harvest this year predicting some wineries will be picking until November (!). The article said this was due to the cool weather we had in the last two weeks of August just as harvest was beginning and continued over the first three weeks of September. But for us in the upper part of Dry Creek Valley where we have been picking since August 30 it is warmer than say the Russian River Valley or the Sonoma Coast.
A blanket statement or headline like this makes many people think we are all the same, that the vast Sonoma County vineyard acreage is in lockstep with one quote and one type of climate. So it follows that an article can't put all appellations into one basket. We have warmer days than some of our cooler cousins to the south and west of us. In fact it is the distinction of Dry Creek Valley itself, when it comes to climate, where we have those warm-to-hot days and cool, marine-fog infused evenings that make this area so special. We are reaping the benefits when it comes to quality in the grapes because those cool nights bring development of sugars, tannin and acidity. The last word, acidity, is what signals Montse Reece, our winemaker, to set things in motion to pick a particular block or vineyard. She relies on this above all others to bring in The grapes are ripe but not overripe which will give the varietal character without going full tilt into fruit bomb territory. The tannins are rounded and smooth leading to a solid structure.
With all that said we are winding down harvest here and will finish at the end of the first week of October. We have had a warm final week of September (96 degrees on Wednesday) and it pushed many of our varietals to the perfect range. Cheers to our 91st harvest and looking forward to tasting the first wines of the vintage early next year!
September 14, 2018 15:33
I returned to my desk from an early September East Coast jaunt to find the sun was already making its’ way to fall. I could feel the change of seasons as the sun warmed my back with the unmistakable and different intensity of heat. Even the way the afternoon sun’s rays were subtly different in their slant was a harbinger of change-and an earlier sunset also signals this time of year.
One thing that hasn’t changed is harvest. This time of year finds the cellar and vineyard crew knee deep in fermenting fruit. The grapes are right on time this year, our 91st grape harvest, with the growing season beginning in mid-March with bud break through bloom and crop set through veraison and ripening over the mostly even heat this summer. The cool down the last two weeks of August was great as it gave the grapes even weather and more time to develop. We picked Sauvignon Blanc off estate vineyards on August 30. Soon we were bringing in Zinfandel for both the Rosé and Red wine lots followed by Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay. Over the month or so left at this writing we’ll see more of the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah and our Portuguese varietals for our Four Grapes Port. All in all things have gone smoothly so far and vintage 2018 is set to bring in great quality and development in the grapes.
At the helm of the winemaking team is Montse Reece who has been here since the 2007 vintage when she was hired as assistant winemaker to my uncle John. Remember, we have only had three winemakers for the entire 91 years beginning with my grandfather Giovanni from 1934-1948 when he went back out into the vineyards to work the land and tend the vines. My uncle John made wine here for nearly 65 vintages and developed our ‘house style’ of wine which are varietally correct, great acid and balance as well as food friendly. When he passed away in 2015 Montse, who had worked with him for 7 vintages, became our third winemaker and one of very few California women winemakers. The other side of the business of harvest and where all wine is born is in the vineyard. Lance Blakeley, our Vineyard Manager, learned from John how best to plant and harvest our grapes. He’s also the guy who is in touch with our growers. About half of our production comes from our neighbors and every grape picked is within 14 miles of the winery-regionally focused I like to say.
This note from home comes with a nod to what my grandparents began and achieved followed by the great regard and appreciation of what the second generation did by splitting the ‘chores’ of wine and grape growing (John) and sales & marketing (Jim). My generation, the third, works to secure the family business for the fourth and fifth generations and on into the future.
A toast to Vintage 2018 and all the hard work of past and current family and staff-we are in it together and always look to the future.
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