Vino In My Dino

  • The Making of a Classic

    May 30, 2018 15:59

    The Making of a Classic

    What is a classic? Definition: judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind. What is Sonoma Classico? Read on for a glimpse into why we created this tasty blend.

    Before my grandparents purchased the property which would become Pedroncelli Winery the original winery and vineyard was founded and run by the Canata family who established it in 1904. The wines they made reflected the style throughout Sonoma County in the years preceding Prohibition. These were field blends with an emphasis on Zinfandel and included other varietals like Petite Sirah, Carignane, Golden Chasselas, and Alicante Bouschet. The goal then was simple: to create a wine ready to drink soon after harvest. By growing and including grapes like Zinfandel the wine would be easier to drink, approachable sooner rather than later. This is how a classic is born.

    These blends continued as my grandfather began to make his own wine after Repeal (during Prohibition he made his living by selling grapes to home winemakers). First barrels of wine bearing his name followed by his own eponymous label in the late 1940s. He used Claret and Burgundy to identify the blends. Later on when John and Jim, second generation, continued making blends these wines were named by appellation or proprietary name like Mountain Red, Premium Red and Sonoma Red.

    We made our Sonoma Classico by combining the wisdom and honoring the lineage of red wine blends. It captures a combination of estate grown grapes each contributing fruit, depth and structure to the wine. These blends were the foundation of California wines and continue to be an integral part of our line of wines. The tradition is there, 90 years strong. Sonoma Classico: the standard by which all others are measured.

  • Word from the Road

    May 30, 2018 15:56

    Word from the Road

    “Write what you know” is often said when talking about themes and subjects for blogs. I have put together a few observations about market visits as I have been working from New York to Boston, Seattle to DC/Maryland/VA in the last couple of months and have a two week stretch right in front of me for June. When I say I work the market it can mean either hopping in a car with someone I have never met (a sales representative for our wholesaler for instance-not an Uber driver) or traveling there to host a table at a large trade event, speak at a wine dinner, or have lunch with several accounts. Join me won't you as I outline a typical day.

    I receive my itinerary either weeks or a few days in advance of my trip. Typically my day begins around 9am when I am picked up by an appointed sales rep who has Pedroncelli wine samples in their bag. They have set up appointments for us where the accounts (either retail or restaurant) are open to considering new wines and our quality and price point fit their customer’s palate. I often praise my liberal arts education because it gives me a springboard for many avenues of discussion with the person I have just met. Sometimes the first appointment is 30 minutes or an hour away. And then there is what we call ‘windshield time’ between other appointments. Music preferences, favorite books or authors, food passions, how they came to be in the wine business among other subjects are tossed back and forth between us.

    We arrive at the place and I usually present between 4-6 wines which gives the wine buyer a good idea of the style of our wines. Appointments can take 15-30 minutes depending on questions and possibly other distractions like phone calls and customers asking their own questions of the buyer. The follow up is key and asking at the end of the time which wines they liked or would buy is very important

    I usually have between 5 and 8 appointments set up giving us time to get to and from the hotel as well as between the scheduled times. My day will end around 6pm. If nearby I will go revisit a restaurant we called on earlier that day or find a new place to dine. I also play catch up with emails although it is so much easier now that I receive them on my phone throughout the day. I remember sitting up until very late in the Ramada Inn in Newark trying to log in and answer emails at midnight because there were too many-thankful for technology which allows me to speed things up and operate smoothly.

    And of course there is the ‘time’ on the road. Away from home, away from my husband and our middle-aged comforts of relaxing in the evenings, Dirk our dog is missed too. A year or so ago I realized all this travel was keeping me away from seeing my grandsons Jordan and Weston often. They are too young for email (thankfully) but not too young for post cards! I send each of them at least one from the week-saying I miss them and hope to one day take them to (fill in the city). Which I seriously do want to travel with them in the coming years. Now you’ve had a glimpse into life on the road. And we didn’t even talk about hotels and the fact that I take slippers with me and won’t let my feet touch the carpet barefoot!

  • Bloom & Set: The Vineyard in June

    May 30, 2018 15:55

    Bloom & Set: The Vineyard in June

    One of the most exciting parts of the growing season is when the vines set their crop. Before that happens however did you know vines ‘bloom’? They do and there is a lovely aroma that wafts off of them during this time. Find out how 2018 is looking in our vineyard.

    Most of the time Mother Nature works with us and sometimes she doesn’t. Wind. Rain. Extreme heat. All of these can affect the bloom and set phase of a grapevine. This year the month of May brought us the perfect weather setting for bloom. A long cool month without extremes made the crop set easy this year. According to Vineyard Manager Lance Blakeley, "Weather has been ideal for bloom time. We are about 95% berry set with all varietals. While it is still early on in the season our Cabernet Sauvignon looks like an above average crop along with our Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot is looking like an average crop. Zinfandel on the Home Ranch is below average just on cluster counts we have surveyed."

    Farming 105 acres here in northern Dry Creek Valley has challenges but this year we escaped any detrimental weather and now we look to the next stage, veraison, which will take place in July. That is, weather permitting!

  • Going Italian

    April 23, 2018 16:46

    Going Italian

    What do you get when you combine 74 lovers of Italian food, wine and heritage? A wonderful evening where Pedroncelli wines were poured, delicious food was served and great conversations flourished. My parents Jim and Phyllis joined me as we talked about our history in Sonoma County and our roots in Italy to this group at a dinner sponsored by the North Bay Italian Cultural Foundation (NBICF) held at Riviera Ristorante in Santa Rosa.

    My family has deep Italian roots via my grandparents who arrived separately with their families from northern Italy in the early 1900s; my grandmother came with her mother and sister who met up with my great-grandfather in Redding, California. My grandfather traveled as a teenager with his sister when she was betrothed to marry a fellow Italian in Dunsmuir, California. Years later my grandfather Giovanni was selling vegetables to the hotel run by my great-grandparents and met my grandmother Julia on one of his stops. The rest was history and a few years later the young family, with three children-Margaret, Marianne and John, pulled up roots and moved to Geyserville where there was a home, a vineyard to tend and a shuttered winery waiting out Prohibition. I think part of the reason they moved to this area was because of the many other Italians who had made Dry Creek Valley home.

    The connection with NBICF began when my aunt Marianne moved back to Sonoma County in the early 1980s after working for the State of California. She joined this Italian-focused group as a way to network and find new friends. She was very proud of her heritage as an Italian-American, accent on the Italian. She practiced her Italian in small groups, traveled and went to many events over those years. We have kept in touch with NBICF since she passed away. They even started a scholarship in her name for any student wanting to continue their Italian language education at Santa Rosa Junior College.

    All in all we ‘went Italian’ along with everyone else at the dinner and enjoyed making new friends and visiting with old ones as well. Pedroncelli, after all, is Italian for La Dolce Vita. Saluti a tutti.

  • Spring? in the Vineyard

    April 19, 2018 18:06

    Spring? in the Vineyard

    Yes spring in the vineyard where it is time for a Home Ranch update. Founded in 1927 by John and Julia Pedroncelli the Home Ranch consisted of a Zinfandel vineyard planted in the early 1900s along with a winery, shuttered by Prohibition, and a home. Mother Clone Zinfandel vines as they are in late April (2018). This is a second generation vineyard on this stie and the block was replanted in the early 1980s. The 'Mother' vineyard was 'Cloned' back into place using budwood from the previous generation as well as the same vine spacing, they are head-pruned (or goblet-trained) and hand picked. enter image description here

    Poppies, the California State Flower, are blooming along Canyon Road where we are t-budding over one of our Petite Sirah vineyards back to Cabernet Sauvignon-which was planted here previously for nearly 20 years. Site-specific planting is what we do now-learning from the vineyard and which varietal is best suited for each block. enter image description here

    Speaking of Petite Sirah, here it is beginning the 2018 journey on a block located two hillsides away from the winery. If you look closely you can make out Zinfandel on the left hillside and some of our Portuguese varietals going up the right-hand hillside. enter image description here

    As you know I take vineyard walks each day mostly because our dog Dirk likes to stretch his legs. These tractor tracks take me back to when I was a young girl walking along the vineyard roads. I liked to hop from space to space (my feet were smaller then) kind of like skipping cracks in the pavement. Taking this shot today brought me back to those younger days when I would watch the tractor make its' way to and from each block and later I would follow. enter image description here

    On our way back to the winery I took this final shot of the Syrah which is getting quite 'leggy' with shoots reaching for the sky. This block contributes its fruit as part of our blend and brings depth of fruit and structure. enter image description here

    Thanks for taking a walk with me today. Next time I'll walk through our Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc vineyards a mile west of the Home Ranch. Until then have a happy spring!

  • Zealous for Zinfandel

    April 19, 2018 15:52

    Zealous for Zinfandel

    I know I have a pretty good life here in Dry Creek Valley. Either I’m looking at or walking through our Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard, visiting my markets where I present our wines to accounts (always with Zin in the bag) or attending events featuring more Zin. It is a good to be in the Zin business these days.

    Recently I was a guest at an event called Sonoma Summit sponsored by the Sonoma County Vintners, hosted by Sbragia Winery (thanks Ed and Adam-the view was fabulous) and the guests were 30 sommeliers from across the U.S. I was there, along with 11 other Zinfandel producing wineries, to talk about our own individual Zealous for Zinfandel stories. I was the only one who wasn’t a winemaker by the way-so I didn’t get into the weeds trying to talk about pH or brix. The organizers paired up four wines at a time from different appellations within Sonoma County. Some vintages varied between 2015 and 2016. Each speaker told their stories of farming zinfandel, waxed eloquent about the process, gave inside stories on what Zinfandel means to them. Then we tasted through the flights with the stories fresh in our minds.

    I found the Zins all shared some wonderful DNA characteristics-whether grown in Sonoma Valley or Rockpile, Dry Creek Valley (represented with 4 offerings) or Russian River Valley. The ‘Z’NA I write of was the defining spice-berry dynamic of the Zinfandel grape that wove itself throughout the 12 wines. It was pointed out a couple of times how difficult a grape it is to ripen hence to bring out the dynamic between fruit and spice, soil and hillside. At Pedroncelli we call it personality. Our Mother Clone Zinfandel has quite a personality. It’s spice-forward rather than fruit-forward and showed quite an affinity to pairing up with the Hoisin-braised Pork Belly, the featured dish of the Dry Creek Valley flight.

    All in all it showed we were all fans of this grape with roots in Dry Creek Valley going back to the 1850s when it was first planted. Half of all Zinfandel grown in Sonoma County is right here in our little valley-a mighty showing from the smallest of the four major appellations! And the opportunity to compare with 5 other sub-appellations was priceless. The next time you try a Zinfandel do some detective work: where it came from, what shows up in the aromas and flavors, and realize how different this grape is from other red wines out there.

  • Down to Earth Month: Connecting Sustainability with our Way of Life

    March 29, 2018 10:13

    Down to Earth Month: Connecting Sustainability with our Way of Life

    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.

  • A Word About Prunes?

    March 29, 2018 10:10

    A Word About Prunes?

    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!

  • Rain!

    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.

  • Calling All Cheese Fanatics

    March 1, 2018 09:51

    Calling All Cheese Fanatics

    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 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.