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Zinfandel

  • Zin is It!

    January 24, 2019 10:21

    Zin is It!

    January brings ZAP’s (Zinfandel Advocate & Producers) Zinfandel Experience known as ZinEx to San Francisco. We participate in a few of the events and here is a wrap up of those as well as other articles and observations. Especially since I have declared 2019 The Year of Zin it is fitting for today's post.

    The first of the events held by ZAP was specifically for Sommeliers-no winery folks allowed. Doug Frost, Master of Wine & Master Sommelier along with Lauren Mowery, a Master of Wine Candidate and prolific wine writer had previously chosen 6 Zinfandels to present to the Somms and our 2016 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel represented Dry Creek Valley (our buttons were bursting!). It tickled me Zin when I heard it had been chosen as the favorite!

    A Media Lunch followed and was held at One Market where chef Mark Dommen prepared small dishes to match eight Zinfandels in a speed tasting/pairing format with 8 different media invited to visit with each winery representative every 15 minutes. Nothing like diving into an ocean of Zin with delicious plates of well-thought out food. I brought along our newest Zin, Courage, to share. As we took our turns at each table for two the discussion buzzed around Zinfandel and its’ charms. Ranging from why Zinfandel at all, where is its' place in the world, how to better position Zinfandel in front of customers to the origins of Zinfandel for Pedroncelli. All of the brief and intense conversations made me wishing I had more time. When I came to Doug Frost’s table we chatted about the Somm Zin Session and about how Pedroncelli’s style has outlasted many of the fads and came out a winner. Doug also knows my dad Jim from his time when he sold wine for our wholesaler in Missouri many years ago. He fondly remembered our wines, our house style and most of all my dad’s outstanding character as one of the best and focused wine salesmen around-it was nice to hear so many kudos for his hard work. Jim Gordon of Wine Enthusiast wrote an article soon after (found here) as did Jeff Kralik (aka The Drunken Cyclist) found here as well.

    Once finished at lunch I joined Ed at the Media & Trade tasting where we met folks from around the globe-from the Czech Republic to Santa Rosa CA and every spot in between. Zin really is it for us this year and my goal is to entice you each month as I bring a new Zinfandel experience to you.

  • DCV Neighborhoods, Part 3

    January 24, 2019 10:06

    DCV Neighborhoods, Part 3

    I am taking you to the original founding property for our tour of Dry Creek Valley neighborhoods in part 3. When Giovanni and Julia purchased the property in 1927 it came with 25 acres of vineyard first planted in 1927. This little corner of Dry Creek Valley-actually in the north east quadrant just a mile from Highway 101 and a few miles from the town of Geyserville which we call our home town. We are the only winery on Canyon Road but there are other vineyards planted along the 3 mile stretch and there’s a cemetery too.

    Each one of these hills surrounding the winery is really its’ own microclimate or site. Many of these blocks have been planted to two or more varietals over the 9 decades we have been farming them. What once was Pinot Noir is now Zinfandel; what once was Sauvignon Vert gave way to Cabernet Sauvignon then Petite Sirah and now Cabernet Sauvignon again. The life cycle of a vineyard is generally 20-25 years before a farmer decides to start the replanting process. With the exception of our Zinfandel vines many of the vineyard blocks on the home ranch are fairly young having just been replanted a few years ago.

    The beauty of this property is the rolling hillsides that were made for growing great Zinfandel-33 acres of it in fact. Ranging in age from well over 100 years to just 5 years old and an acre just cleared to make way for the next planting our gnarled head pruned vines stand the test of time. The beauty of Dry Creek Valley as an appellation is that more than one type of grape can grow here. We have Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and four Portuguese varietals (Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional and Souzao) growing along with the Zinfandel and totaling 50 acres. Other grapes have had their time here but site specificity (what varietal does well on a particular hillside) is what gives way to the great results from planting the best suited variety.

    Soils here are pretty rocky-much of it river rock from long ago when the land shifted up and down with the earthquake faults and bodies of water carving their way through the land. Hillside land tends toward a scarcity of topsoil too so the vines are challenged to grow in what many consider poor conditions. Thanks to both the heartiness of the vine and newer technology like drip irrigation the vines establish themselves even in thin soil and the metered water supply gives the vine much needed and the right amount of water to thrive. On to the next neighborhood, one that has been in the family for over 60 years: The Bushnell Vineyard.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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?

  • Rolling with the Crew: Machine Harvesting

    August 24, 2018 10:59

    Rolling with the Crew: Machine Harvesting

    The way grapes are picked has changed over the years going from hand harvesting for centuries to machine harvesting which began more than 30 years ago in the vineyard. The decreasing labor force, and increasing costs have been an issue for grape growers for more than a decade.

    Fortunately, machine harvesting has advanced at a similar pace. Increased harvesting quality and cost reductions make this a real and worthy option. Considering the improved quality of mechanical harvesting, and the shrinking labor force machine harvesting brings three things to the crushpad: picking the grapes at night allows the cellar to process cooler (temperature) fruit which maintains quality; technology has come a long way bringing with it more precise results in the field (cleaner pick without leaves/sticks and more careful passes through the rows without taking out a vine arm) and finally harvesting a vineyard is accomplished much faster than a team of people hand harvesting-by 50%.

    When our vineyard manager Lance replanted a block of Cabernet Sauvignon he trained it so that in a few years it could be machine harvested. The results, two years ago, were positive all the way around from the standpoint that it picked the block in half the time and winemaker Montse was happy with the quality of the fruit that came in from the night harvest. Along with the Cabernet block we are adding one section of our Sauvignon Blanc vineyard to be harvested by machine this vintage. Our Merlot will soon be picked this way as well because the vineyard crew has begun cane pruning the blocks in preparation for a machine to roll through in the coming harvests.

    Machines, however, only do well on flat pieces of land. Our hillside Mother Clone Zinfandel will always need to be hand-picked hence much of the Home Ranch (about 90%) will need a labor force to help pick. We have a strong sense of tradition. Knowing that we'll be hand-harvesting the home ranch into the foreseeable future is okay with us. There is something wonderful about handling each bunch, even if it is a nod to the traditions of the past.

  • Harvest 411

    August 24, 2018 10:34

    Harvest 411

    Join me as we prepare for our 91st harvest. Get the scoop on the preparation and the anticipation of the 2018 vintage.

    Summer brings more than hot weather and ripening of the grapes. It brings with it a sense of anticipation because we know the beginning of harvest will soon be here-sometimes sooner rather than later as in vintages past (we harvested Sauvignon Blanc on August 10 in 2004 for instance-which was the earliest harvest on record). 2018 started a bit behind 2017 by just two days later and this timing is considered a normal start to the process of bringing in the grapes.

    Over the last few weeks the cellar crew has finished barrel work and any bottling needed, cleaned up and tested equipment from the de-stemmer to the presses, the pumps and the chiller. The vineyard crew, with 100 acres of estate grapes, mainly kept watch if the vines needed water, checked grape loads on the vine or cleared out canes if the block was to be machine harvested. Lance, vineyard manager, went out and gathered grape samples to assess the brix (sugar) and acid.

    The most important part of harvest preparation is how we go about deciding when to pick. Between the grape samples brought in and their analysis winemaker Montse works with Lance to decide the best time to bring in the grapes. Montse’s focus is on the acidity and pH rather than the sugar. Our style has always leaned to higher acidity rather than overly ripe fruit, balancing all of it to bring out the best in each varietal.

    Harvest means the first grapes coming are indeed the first wave. It doesn’t mean every grape we grow or buy comes in one right after the other. It means sometimes there are pauses between varietals. After Sauvignon Blanc, the first grape in, comes the Zinfandel for our Rosé program (early pick to give us lower alcohol and higher acidity) followed by Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Depending on the weather (you know us farmers-always at the mercy of what Mother Nature gives us) and as the individual blocks ripen more red varietals will make their way to the crushpad.

    We began on August 30 and will likely take in our last grapes six weeks from now. That is if all the right pieces fall into place as we turn from August to September and beyond.

  • 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.