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Vino In My Dino

  • Highlights from 2018: 10 of My Favorite Things

    December 21, 2018 10:03

    Highlights from 2018: 10 of My Favorite Things

    Lists, they are a ‘thing’ at years’ end and the New Year. Some people check it twice, some make resolutions. I’ve put together a few of my favorite blog posts, views and news from 2018.

    10- Harvest 2018 was a good, juicy and large one! As the red wines from this vintage are tucked away in the barrel room and the white wines begin their march to the bottling line we have high hopes for such a great vintage coming to you soon.

    9-90 Points and more! As I was reviewing our reviews, ha ha, I found that three times in the last year three of our wines were featured in the three different issues of the Wine Spectator-unprecedented! And more points were awarded to our Zinfandels than ever before. We were thrilled and gratified with these and for our other wines doing so well. A huge note of thanks to our hardworking cellar and vineyard crews!

    8-Milestones: reaching for 100 by taking each day at a time. We head into 2019 with our 92nd anniversary ahead. Four generations have farmed, made wine, and thrived on this little corner of Dry Creek Valley and each day is a step toward reaching our 100th anniversary-one day, one season, one year at a time.

    7-"Sell more wine." When Ed first came to work he tacked up a paper on the corkboard above his desk-13 years later it still resonates each time I visit his office.

    6-Montse Reece crushes her 12th vintage at Pedroncelli. She began as assistant winemaker in 2007 working with John Pedroncelli. She became winemaker, only the third in our 90 year history, and continues to strive for our house style while imprinting her own sensibility on each of our wines.

    5 is the number of Taste Ups we did with our wine and travel bloggers across the U.S. Some great mentions and articles were written about our wines and way of life.

    4-Word from the road-postcards to my grandsons. Ed recently visited Joe and family and his wife Ashley brought out the basket with all the postcards I had sent Jordan and Weston over the last couple of years. It is my way of staying in touch when I am out of the area. They are always on my mind!

    3-Scents & Memories: wine intertwined with me from childhood. I admit this blog post was a fun one because each morning, Monday through Friday, I get out of my car and inhale the most wonderful scents each season brings.

    2-Gratitude Vine: Our guests have had a wonderful time adding to the old vine trunk displayed in our tasting room. We'll take down the 2018 tags and our visitors will add to the 2019 version.

    1-Zin is the word. I am declaring 2019 the year of the Zin. Our style reflects the best of this grape in a trio of vineyards: Mother Clone, Bushnell and Courage/Faloni Vineyard. We have broken our own records with the quality and excitement around this true California grape. See #9 for more proof!

    From my family to yours we wish you all the best in 2019-I know I'm excited to see what's around the corner!

  • DCV Neighborhoods

    December 21, 2018 09:58

    DCV Neighborhoods

    I wrote about neighborhoods of Dry Creek Valley in November’s post (referenced here) beginning with our Wisdom vineyard. Now I’ll move on to our East Side Vineyard on the east side of Dry Creek and totaling about 45 acres of planted vines. Purchased by John and Jim in 1972 it was home to prune trees at the time.

    If you see Jim ask him to tell you about prune trees and you’ll likely hear back how happy he was to pull them up. You see, Dry Creek Valley farmers planted acres of these fruit trees. They were still a large part of what was planted here when I was growing up. Picking them wasn’t too fun but they always made money for those who were industrious. Before prunes there were grapevines so it comes as no surprise when the wine renaissance rolled around in the 1970s that the orchards were replaced with vineyards once again.

    The East Side Vineyard is home to our Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. It is situated on the valley floor where the Sauvignon Blanc is planted and as you look east the land gently rises up by two or three percent and heads into the hills above. This slight bench is where the red wine varietals grow. The type of soil is represented by the loam-rich valley floor where Dry Creek once flowed and deposited the nutrient-packed soil. As you make your way to the rise it becomes gravelly with river rocks strewn here and there proving once again the creek at one time coursed over this area.

    Neighborhoods, like the one you live in, are just that-made up of a certain set of homes, apartments, roads, or streets lined with familiar stores or neighbors. For us it means site specific examples of climate, soil and the right grape planted in the optimal spot. I'll continue the series next time focusing on our Home Ranch.

  • Aged Wines: Old and Not So Old

    December 21, 2018 09:51

    Aged Wines: Old and Not So Old

    50 years is a long time to store wine-and we have a few bottles tucked away in our cellar from our earliest vintage dated wines which began in 1965. Even 15 years is considered a long time since most people who buy wine consume it within a few weeks of purchase. We have the convenience, longevity and a warehouse where we can take a save a few cases from each vintage and store them away for education and enjoyment years later.

    Wine blogger Gabe Sasso visited the Dry Creek Valley in December. His focus this trip was on Petite Sirah. He wanted to know more about Pedroncelli’s long relationship with this singular grape. We pulled together some information and Ed put together a vertical of the wines ranging from the first year made (1997) to a barrel sample of the 2017. Not every year but a nice range with an average of 15 years old. We used Petite Sirah previous to 1997 as a blending grape with Zinfandel and other wines.

    During our pre-meeting chat I mentioned if we really wanted to throw in a ringer we should include one of our pre-1975 Pinot Noirs. Wine Geek Fact: the ruling came down from the government that the varietal shown on the label should be 75% of what is in the bottle. Before this the varietal on the label could be made up of other grapes and in larger percentages. In the instance of the 1969 Pinot Noir we poured it was about 50-50 Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah.

    We had been growing Pinot Noir on the home ranch but it wasn’t the right spot. Just as we were pulling up Pinot Noir and replanting with Zinfandel a fellow named Frank Johnson was pulling out orchards and planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the very south area of what is now defined as Dry Creek Valley (DCV was named an American Viticultural Area in 1983) but from his vineyard you are a rock’s throw to the Russian River Valley. We began buying fruit from him in the early 1980s. Today we still bring in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this vineyard.

    Petite Sirah has been woven into our story since the early days. Most vineyards were field blends and along with the varietals of the day like Zinfandel they also included Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and even Golden Chasselas and Riesling. All of these were picked and fermented together. It wasn’t until later on, well after Prohibition, that the varietal itself was on the label. This hearty grape is known for giving what I call backbone to the wine-and depth of color too.

    A few years ago wine writer Dan Berger advocated that this grape would make wines which age longer than Cabernet Sauvignon! I agree it is one for the cellar. So we found ourselves tasting 50 to 15 year old Petite Sirah with life still in them-fruit, acid, structure and the tannins just beginning to soften in the youngsters. A wonderful opportunity to revisit these old and not-so-old vintages. Cheers with a splash of Petite Sirah in my Dino!

  • December 5: The 85th Anniversary of Repeal!

    November 19, 2018 15:10

    December 5: The 85th Anniversary of Repeal!

    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!

  • Gratitude Vine

    November 19, 2018 14:34

    Gratitude Vine

    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.

    Gratitude Vine

  • Vintage Report: 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon

    November 16, 2018 15:29

    Vintage Report: 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon

    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."

    1968 Cabernet Cork

    1968 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • In the Neighborhoods

    October 29, 2018 13:48

    In the Neighborhoods

    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.

  • What's Your ZinStory?

    October 29, 2018 13:44

    What's Your ZinStory?

    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?

  • Our 91st Harvest: Vintage 2018

    October 29, 2018 13:39

    Our 91st Harvest: Vintage 2018

    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.

  • Scents & Memories

    September 24, 2018 16:10

    Scents & Memories

    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.