Vino In My Dino

  • Midwinter Check Up

    January 27, 2018 14:42

    Midwinter Check Up

    Time for a midwinter check-up from world headquarters of Pedroncelli Winery Inc-aka my office. The vineyards are in full dormancy and the crew has finished pruning the vines back to their two buds-next vintage’s crop. The cover crop has grown lush with the rain and the mustard and bell beans are set throughout the rows.

    We’ve received a smidge just over 13 inches of rain as of the end of January. The average rainfall is at 16 inches or so. We’re off by 3 inches and remember we can’t compare with the deluge of rainfall received last year. And we haven’t gone all the way back to a drought—we’re pinning hopes on the rainfall in the next two months to help fill in the reserves. And the good news from the Corps of Engineers that monitor outflow from Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino is they have slowed the outgoing water so they have enough in reserve. At this point the lakes are 82% and 89% of capacity thanks to last rain year’s contribution and their need to protect our water resources.

    Snow fell in the Sierras the last week of January and the hope is to recoup our snowpack in the next couple of months because it is the all-important water supply to many of us in California. I’ll have another weather report in April-which is also Down-to-Earth month where I’ll focus on our newly-minted Sustainability Certification and what that means to our vineyards and wines.

  • #tasteup1

    January 27, 2018 14:26


    We’ve planned our second year of what we call ‘Taste Ups’ known in the twittersphere as Tweet Ups. In January we hosted the first of five and each one focuses on a three bottle line up of our wines. This time we featured our Signature Selection Chardonnay, and Mother Clone Zinfandel. I chose a recipe for this grouping from chef and author Michele Anna Jordan (@saladdresser), one of my favorite go-to wine and food pairers. Is there such a title? She publishes her recipes weekly in the Press Democrat and I have a file I keep with her creations as well as others I run across in the world wide web-it’s like clipping coupons only better.

    The choice I made was Spaghetti Squash Carbonara and made it at home first to see which wine it would go best with out of the three I had at home. I picked the Mother Clone Zinfandel at the time and while it paired well at the taste up many of the participants also liked the Signature Selection Chardonnay. One of the ingredients that would be hard for some to find was Vella’s Mezzo Secco, a local artisan cheese, which is a dry Monterey Jack flavorful enough without being too overbearing for this carbonara and I included a wedge with their shipment of samples. Another reason I picked Spaghetti Squash is I have been following a low carb way of eating for some time and no longer eat things like pasta (I can hear you gasping). It doesn’t mean that every recipe I pick will be low carb but I have found many ways to incorporate the tenets without sacrificing flavor or satiety.

    We had 14 people online at one time across the U. S. which resulted in over 234,000 tweets about our wines during the one hour session which took place at 4pm PST. I was at the winery with Thea (@winebratsf) and Robert (@RobertLarsen) while Ed was somewhere deep in Florida participating as well but from a hotel room without the wines or food. We momentarily felt sorry for him but hey he was in warm Florida and we were in cold northern California. I made the dish for those of us at the winery as did all of the others from Texas to Iowa, Oregon to New Jersey. You’ll find the whole discussion along with my notes at this link and peruse the comments, photos and banter. We have a great group and look forward to our next taste up in March.

  • History Lesson: The Family Home

    January 26, 2018 17:05

    History Lesson: The Family Home

    I write my blog posts from my office which was also my bedroom when I grew up here at the winery. It is the family home to two generations. Thanks to my cousin Ken Walker I have a clipping from January 22, 1937 about our home. There weren’t too many catastrophes over the years-although I remember watching the hill next to our house give way after a rainstorm while at breakfast one morning-it only slid enough to form a crevice along the top third of the hill; I remember feeling the 1969 earthquake that damaged Santa Rosa as well as the 1989 earthquake when only John Pedroncelli and I were here as it shook both the office and cellar without doing any damage.

    On January 22, 1937 this building took a direct hit. As you’ll see by the headlines it was a school bus full of children (including my two aunts) that saved it from burning down. My dad was 5 years old at the time, Uncle John was 12 and aunts Margaret and Marianne were 16 and 14 respectively. My grandmother Julia, as reported, was the only one home at the time and she didn’t know the house was on fire.

    The children and bus driver got to work putting out the fire even before the fire department arrived! I remember Bill Black-he was the same bus driver I had when I was in kindergarten attending Geyserville Elementary School. I am so glad they all were able to help out and save our home and, later, office. It was originally built around 1904 and at 113 years old it is the oldest building on the property. It's still here through all those trials and happier times of family gatherings. Its' windows look over our Mother Clone vineyard like it has been all those years and will keep watch for more years to come.

  • The Finishing Touches on 2017

    December 27, 2017 16:54

    The Finishing Touches on 2017

    Buttoning up as the year draws to a close I came across a harvest report, rainfall totals and some other information pertinent to some updates and review. Now my desk is another story-well many stories. Here are some of the interesting snippets I came across.

    I get my rainfall numbers from the Sonoma County Water Agency who kindly sends an update each month. We have received 6.27” of rain (average is 7.78”) and this finds us at 80.59% of average for rainfall so far. They also include the numbers for Lake Sonoma, the man-made earth dam at the north end of Dry Creek Valley which releases water throughout the year and part of our vineyard is located along the banks of Dry Creek. At 203.848 acre-feet the water supply there is at 83% thanks to the rainfall received in the 2016/2017 rain year. It remains to be seen if we are indeed headed for a drought year. My hope, like many others in the Sonoma County agricultural scene, is we will be blessed with enough rain. We’ll know soon enough.

    The official harvest report for the state of California was issued mid-November by the Wine Institute. I always double check our county to see if anything has changed from what we experienced. They reiterated the record-breaking winter rainfall that kicked off the growing season. No early budbreak due to drought or a summer-like February like the previous years so we were back to normal conditions. Things were looking very good as summer began-crop levels up, even growth. We had a nice warm July and August providing the grapes with even ripening. The kicker was the huge heat spike we had over Labor Day weekend, reminiscent of the one we had in 2010, and it sped up harvest to the tune of 7-10 days and we lost some weight in the berries due to the excessive heat. This translated into a lighter crop literally. One side effect of lighter crop at this time is we see more concentration of fruit in the wines. We were finished picking by September 28-which now in retrospect was fortunate due to the firestorms that would overtake parts of Sonoma County on October 8. All in all a good if not great vintage at Pedroncelli.

    I came across a few items in my blog file about the firestorm, specifically the money raised for the firestorm damage to wine country by people across the globe and it was, in a word, amazing. From London, where the proceeds for the Master Class Ed and I did for Amathus Drinks was donated; In Japan our wholesaler Nakagawa Wine Company raised $60,000 for the Sonoma County Resilience Fund & Redwood Credit Union Fund, Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund & The Community Foundation of Mendocino County Disaster Fund; Oregon Cares Disaster Relief fundraiser held at The Allison Inn raised $35,000 (I read about this in a post by wine writer Karen Macneil who wrote “I got pretty choked up when the Oregon producers called to say they wanted to do this, and I offered to come up here to help. The wine industry is after all, ONE industry...and it feels good to know that people are remembering that.”) to Paso Robles wineries donating $1 per bottle for wines sold in October. There are so many more and you can visit here for the list. Local columnist Heather Irwin began Sonoma Family Meal to help feed those who lost everything-which is still serving the families in need! I met a visitor today who said “it’s not as devastating as I had seen on TV-she is from Kalamazoo MI-and I agreed there are pockets of our counties destroyed but there is plenty of beauty too.

    We need the rain, we have had a good harvest year and people help people-what more could I ask for in the coming New Year. A toast to you and yours with a splash of Zinfandel in my Dino!

  • What Wine Goes With This?

    December 27, 2017 16:51

    What Wine Goes With This?

    A cookbook was written in 1989 (the year we were married by the way) called Red Wine with Fish by David Rosengarten and Joshua Wesson. Up until then it was widely advised to pair fish with white wine-this challenged the old view and helped people think outside of the wine box when pairing different foods. At times I think the whole concept of wine and food pairing can get complicated. I try to take a casual informal view of pairing as I like to read a recipe and then start to pair up which of our wines I think will go best.

    I do have a couple of internal rules I follow. There must be a good amount of fat to help bridge the dish with wine which is on the acidic side. The simplest explanation is pairing wine with cheese-each style of cheese has an affinity for a certain varietal. But don’t stop yourself if all you have is Brie and Cabernet Sauvignon-add some roasted mushrooms on top of the brie and between the three you have a nice match. In fact I think roasted mushrooms will hold their own against any red wine-the roasted quality caramelizes the shrooms and you have a great flavor combination from Pinot Noir to Petite Sirah.

    The other rule is not to go overboard on spices and herbs—I don’t subscribe to ‘if one clove of garlic is good how about the whole head’ i.e. garlic is not the main feature but a complement to a recipe (just ask Lidia Bastianich) or ‘I like pickled jalapenos so I’ll just add a few’-STOP! they have too much vinegar to play nicely with wine. How about a nice long cooked ragout with meat, tomato, Italian herbs and hints of garlic paired with Zinfandel-my go-to wine for tomato based sauces as is Sangiovese. Make sure to finish the sauce with a pat of butter for that bridge effect to take place-or a swirl of olive oil would work as well.

    Keeping it simple with any grilled or roasted poultry, pork or lamb goes nicely with wine too. Vegetables pair better when roasted or grilled so the caramelization makes the pairing ‘sweeter’. Some of those ‘hard to pair’ veggies like asparagus or artichokes can be tamed by use of an aioli or plain old mayo, once again the fat is the bridge builder. Butter sauce with hints of herbs can do wonders as well.

    For me it is breaking down the recipe to find out the base of flavors in it-does it have herbs or spices? Citrus of some sort? Root herbs like garlic, shallot, or ginger? How do these interplay with the center of the dish like the protein? Most importantly serve it with something you like-the odds are you’ve chosen well and the wine should go with the meal. If it doesn’t fight the flavor or clash with the spices you have a winning combination.

  • A Few of My Favorite Things

    December 27, 2017 16:46

    A Few of My Favorite Things

    Reflections on the year, our 90th anniversary if you haven’t heard, and the highlights on becoming 90.

    A few of my favorite wine moments this year includes our 90th anniversary toast in the vineyard;

    being on hand when my dad was honored both as an Icon of Sonoma County and a Lifetime Achievement Award;

    doing 5 ‘taste ups’ (which are tweet up wine and food pairings) with wine blogging friends across the U.S.;

    accomplishing our goal of visiting 90 cities in celebration of our 90th anniversary;

    harvesting the last grapes 10 days before the firestorm hit Sonoma County;

    going on a first wine cruise along the Danube River in November-and meeting the best people;

    raising $5000 for CAWineStrong by donating $1 for every bottle purchased between October 15 and November 30.

    This vintage will be defined by the monumental firestorm but the year itself will, for us here at Pedroncelli, be remembered as our ninth decade in the wine business where we ride the waves of the market, what Mother Nature throws at us and we keep our head up looking to the Next Ninety.

  • Recipes for a Winter's Solstice

    December 21, 2017 11:54

    Recipes for a Winter's Solstice

    There is something hopeful about the Winter Solstice for me. Yes it is the shortest day of the year-5 hours and 14 minutes shorter than the June Solstice. Yet as we advance along the days and weeks we gain a few moments of sun each day as the earth turns and we head into a new year.

    I put together a few of my favorite recipes for winter time cooking. Some are easy and quick while others require a day’s attention. I do quite a bit of cooking and baking this time of year-the weather and our stomachs seem to yearn for home-made goods.

    Chex mix by any other name and I grew up with this appetizer made by my aunt Marianne and I renamed it in her honor: Marianne’s Mix

    Think of this as the appetizer version of Tomato Soup with grilled cheese: Cheesy Tomato Dip

    This soup comes with a recipe for Cinnamon Croutons for a warm winter spice feel: Butternut Squash Soup

    Michele Anna Jordan combines two of my favorite vegetables and braises them-a great side dish too: Braised Fennel & Celery

    This one will take some time but it is worth it with all the layers of flavor! Beef Brisket with Wild Mushrooms

    Quick and easy, this is our go-to midweek chicken dish: Chicken Chili Verde

    Translated as 'strong bread' the spicy flavors and nutty taste make this a unique dessert. Panforte

    Chocolate, coffee, creamy-all great things in a dessert! Mocha Pot de Cremé

    On final recipe is a favorite drink made with our Port and only three ingredients! Portspresso

    Enjoy all these recipes as winter has us hunkering down and remember-in a few short months our horizons will be brighter!

  • Home Ranch in December

    November 30, 2017 16:26

    Home Ranch in December

    We’ve received a couple of inches of rain in the last two months and you can see the greening of the vineyards bringing back life to the hillsides surrounding the winery. Fall colors are still apparent although a little raggedy looking as the leaves are falling off as the vine reverts to dormancy and the chill in the air indicates winter is coming. Unpruned Mother Clone Zinfandel

    Pruning begins in the Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard readying it for its’ winter nap.

    Pruned Mother Clone Zinfandel

    Things are pretty quiet out here while all the barrel work continues inside the cellar. Moss growing on an oak tree along the vineyard path.

    Mossy Oak Tree

    I even found deer hoof prints in the rain softened soil.

    Deer hoof prints

  • 90 Cities for our 90th!

    November 30, 2017 15:54

    Earlier this year I wrote a press release and it included the following proclamation which encapsulated our year-long celebration of our 90th Anniversary: “Kicking off the year’s festivities was a January wine dinner in Illinois, followed by a Valentine’s Dinner; special participation in Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting (March), Sonoma County Vintners Barrel Auction, & Passport to Dry Creek Valley (April), marking the 90th anniversary on July 22 with a trade and media event, a Wine Club Commemoration on August 12, Taste of Sonoma in September, Sip and Savor Club Dinner on October 14 (which was cancelled due to the Sonoma County firestorm) and river cruises in May and November. In between, members of the Pedroncelli family will be working their way through 90 cities as they market wines and host dinners across the U. S. and beyond, all with a special attention given to their 90-year history and glimpses of what’s to come in the next 90.

    Here are all 90 cities covered-and beyond (note: two of our trips were cancelled due to the hurricane in Texas and then the firestorms in wine country): Julie: DeKalb, Chicago, Geyserville (-really a town but it counts), San Francisco, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Windsor, Napa, Sacramento, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Burien, Colombia City, Charlotte, Blakeney, Davidson, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Boston (including Newton, Fitchberg, Holliston, Franklin), Manhattan, Eugene, Portland, Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Ashland, Medford, Truckee, Saratoga Springs, Manhattan (2nd visit), Brooklyn, Washington DC, Bethesda, Julie & Ed:London, Budapest, Vienna, Weissenkirchen, Melk, Linz, Salzburg, Passau, Vilshofen and Sedona (52). Ed: Denver, Arvada, Evergreen, Boulder, Centennial, Littleton, Lakewood, Conifer, St. Louis, Columbia, Washington DC, Alexandria, Potomac, Annapolis, Wilmington, Atlanta, Kansas City (KS), Lenexa, Lawrence, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale. (21) Mitch: Jackson, Biloxi, Hattiesburg, St. Louis, Columbia, Chesterfield, Jefferson City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston. (10) Richard: Cape May, Cherry Hill, Clifton, Garfield, Hackensack, Ho Ho Kus, Jersey City, Montclair, Seacaucus and Marmora (10).

    The Grand Total of 93 cities! We won't be resting on our laurels. Now onto the next 90 years and cities. Cheers with a splash of Zinfandel in my Dino.

  • Lifetime Achievement

    November 30, 2017 15:40

    Lifetime Achievement

    Last month the Pedroncelli family celebrated a special moment when Jim was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from North Bay Business Journal. They had sent out a call for nominations in September and I was the one who nominated my father not knowing they would turn it into such a prestigious honor. Well-deserved comes to mind. Fitting for a man who has spent his entire life, outside of college and service in the Army, working for the family business of wine. This year marked his 60th as sales and marketing manager for the winery! The exclamation point doesn’t do this justice. He didn’t rest on his laurels at the age of 65-we joke there is no such thing as retirement in my family and Jim is the prime example.

    I was asked by the publisher, Brad Bollinger, to introduce Dad and give some background. Here then are my comments.

    Before I begin my dad gave me some advice: Keep it Short.

    Born in 1932 just as Prohibition would end, he worked side by side with family in the vineyard and cellar learning from the ground up. The early 1940s found him contributing to the war effort by chipping tartrates off of the redwood tanks and sending them in to munition factories. After high school he attended St. Mary’s College in Lafayette and achieved an Economics Major. Service in the Army followed and in 1957 he began as Sales Manager for the business. This is after he suggested adding Sonoma County to the labels among other input he already had with the winery. Soon after he met my mom Phyllis and they married, beginning a life together and gaining four daughters. Jim began locally selling and delivering wines to Healdsburg, Sonoma County, and the San Francisco Bay Area. One of my fondest memories, one that I have written about before, is going on one of those weekly San Francisco deliveries in the big yellow Dodge? Truck. It was great to be away from my sisters…and to spend time with Dad.

    Sales beyond our backyard: During the 60s and 70s he developed the national distribution network that is, in many cases, still in place with the original wholesaler-many of them also multigenerational. Once the national sales network was established he went on to international sales beginning in Canada and extending into Japan-two very strong markets for us today. He established a broker network inside the US market called Winery Associates with 5 other wineries. Groundbreaking because it put a network of sales people who lived in our most important markets and each became a brand ambassador for Pedroncelli. I call this period The Next Generation. How the second generation beat the odds of family succession going beyond the first two generations. This was done by careful planning and pinpointing what worked in the market in order to pass along a thriving business to the third and fourth generations. Named an Icon of Sonoma County earlier this year at the Sonoma County Vintners Barrel Auction he takes all of these awards in stride. He is a charter member of Sonoma County Vintners, Wine Road, Sonoma County Grape Growers, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, long term member of Wine Institute. He works 7 days a week with a simple approach to life. You’ll find him at lunch with a little bread, cheese and a glass of red wine. There’s no hidden secret to success: quiet hard work over 8 decades. My sister Lisa put it this way: His lifetime achievement should be having raised four daughter through their teenage years. And we have all worked with him in some capacity-and he lived through that as well!

    Jim circa 1970s