Vino In My Dino

  • Note from Home: When Life Gives You Lemons

    September 15, 2020 10:59

    As the saying goes-when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Years from now we’ll be telling our grandchildren or our friends at the old timers’ home about the wild times we lived through during the pandemic. It isn’t over yet, but it seems I’ve lived a lifetime in just 6 months. And how will vintage 2020 be remembered? 

    When the Shelter in Place orders were set in mid-March I was under the impression that these guidelines for COVID19 would end in a couple of months. Ha. 6 months later and we are still wearing our masks and waiting. Then came the heat wave followed by a fire, a brief evacuation at the winery and things became even more challenging.

    As you know, nature and the vineyards don’t wait for something like a worldwide virus. The road toward harvest, having begun in March along with the pandemic, ends here-the final moment of glory for a vine. The fruit is ready and the grape-filled gondolas are delivered to the crushpad to finish the journey. We have had a few wrinkles along the way what with the heat over Labor Day weekend which echoed the vintages in 2017 and 2010. Just a year ago we were picking the first fruit off our Sauvignon Blanc vineyard following a cooler growing season. Shortly before the first grapes were picked a fire broke out a few miles west of us causing a brief evacuation and the ensuing smoke (which remained high over the valley). The proof of vintage 2020 will come when we finish fermentations and check our wines for any trace of a problem. It is a wait and see kind of year.

    Each of these, even as a single event, would be noteworthy. How do I make lemonade out of this? Preferentially I’d make limoncello, but I’ll stick with the former for now. We continue to live our lives all the while trying to make sure our children are educated, we carry on with work either on the job as essential or remotely, making the best of the circumstances.

    Some parts of our Tasting Room are on hold and we wait for new guidelines allowing indoor winetasting as summer turns to fall along with cooler weather. Meanwhile, we are looking at ways of bringing the tasting room to you. And while we are unable to sell wine to most restaurants there have been inroads made selling wine online. Duly noted: Those of us who work from home apparently like to order wine more frequently than ever before (see Wark's Fermentation column: COVID-Driven Online Wine Sales).

    Change has been the common denominator of 2020.  Flexibility, looking forward, patience. These are the positive things we can hold onto. Wear the mask and smile with your eyes. Keep your distance but keep your humanity. Adapt and create something new. Amid all the emails about the fire, the virus and county updates come your messages checking in, updating me, sharing your story or sending notes about an older vintage you tried and just had to share because it was so good. All proving we are in this together.

    When we tell our vintage story of 2020, and how we made lemonade out of the lemons we were handed, I believe we will see how resilient we are and were. The stories will be both tart and sweet and, just like lemonade, will blend the two. As to the question of how the vintage will be remembered: for the challenges met and answered. 
     

  • Follow the Vineyard: Vintage 2020

    September 2, 2020 16:18

    Follow the Vineyard: Vintage 2020

    Our Sauvignon Blanc harvest kicked things off for us on August 24-seen above are the grapes as they arrived at the crushpad. Vintage 2020 begins!

    This post is a bit of a mix between talking to Mitch about following the vineyards on their road to harvest along with an update on our first week of harvest all the while with the Walbridge fire as background. The vineyards are ripe and ready to pick, the harvest waits for no one.

    August brought some challenges for sure. The dog days of summer heat ripened vineyards a bit faster than previously estimated. The early varieties like our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley were ready to pick, moved along after a relatively cool and uneventful July. The first day of harvest brought fruit in on time for a normal beginning of the vintage. To give you a reference point, the average first day of harvest over the last 10 years fell between the third and fourth week of August. I managed to catch up with Mitch, as I mentioned, to check in on August 21st, right before the big day. He was taking bunch samples of the Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel for our Rosé. It was a beautiful warm day in Dry Creek Valley while I talked to Mitch, he in the vineyard and me from a smokey parking lot in Soledad California-where I stopped to take notes along my way home from taking care of my grandson Galen. 

    Mitch shared the following: "The vineyards are holding up just fine through the heat. The vines didn't shut down because the vineyard crew made sure the vineyards were given a drink of water now and then through controlled drip irrigation. There was some evidence of shriveling in the Zinfandel bunches but overall not too much was lost. We'll move from picking Sauvignon Blanc early in the week to the Rosé and Pinot Noir. We'll finish the week by beginning to pick our Zinfandel and Merlot blocks. All the work we have been doing through the summer like dropping fruit where needed, getting water to where it was needed, readying equipment and doing the final bottling in order to make room in the cellar for the new vintage all came together right on time."

    He continued, addressing the smoke from the Walbridge fire. Editor's note: This fire began on August 17 due west of the winery and vineyards by several miles. As of September 1st it was under 74% containment and no longer was a threat to Dry Creek Valley. Mitch talked about the change in the weather with the arrival of the cooling marine layer which helped the fire fighters to contain the fire as well as bringing development to the grapes-acids and sugars balance out much better with warm days and cool nights. The smoke itself was to the west actually blowing south into the Bay Area and remained west and high above the valley floor. We'll see how things go as the vineyards are tested and we take things on a case by case basis. One other challenge to this year's harvest is COVID-and we have instituted and followed the guidelines set forth by the state and county when it comes to the safety of our vineyard crew. While it will slow things down we'll still get the grapes to the crushpad."

    There you have it, Vintage 2020 has begun. The excitement of our 93rd vintage has been tempered somewhat but we are hopeful as we look forward to the last load of grapes to come in and call it a year-what a year it has been.

  • #PairItWithPed: Chicken...Again?

    August 31, 2020 16:19

    #PairItWithPed: Chicken...Again?

    The recipe for the Moroccan Chicken with Roasted Lemons and Green Olives seen above was another effort to flavor up the bird.

    In the early years of our marriage, which came with a ready made family including two step-children, I became the cook. Ed and I worked full time and I needed to come up with recipes that were quick and on the table early enough to get everyone fed and into bed so they were ready for school the next day. Chicken typically played top billing in the weekly menus.

    First let me back up for a moment. These #pairitwithped posts are written with my son Joe in mind. He came up with the title that I now use each month when I share stories about food, wine and experiences. He is also the one who came up with "Chicken...again?" when he was a boy about his sons' age. While it was a joke in our house in those early days that we indeed ate too much chicken-boneless skinless chicken breasts to be exact, the refrain became common. I bought them by the score at Costco and, while we didn’t exactly have it EVERY night for dinner it was on the table frequently. And Joe would ask “Chicken….again?”

    In those early days I learned the finer points of flavoring up this bland protein mostly with garlic and onion. Chicken itself is a great vehicle for many different types of flavors from Chile Lime to Garam Masala to Five Spice. Marinating in white wine, garlic and rosemary is still Ed’s favorite way to fix it these days as well as his more recent Chile Lime concoction. I’ll have to admit we buy whole chickens or chicken thighs these days-our tastes have changed. Could it really have been too many boneless skinless chicken breasts? We prefer the flavor of the whole bird, skin and bones add flavor and keeps the chicken moist. On hectic evenings or boat nights I am known to pick up an already roasted chicken at the store-time saving and so convenient! But there is nothing like time on our hands these days during the pandemic to sharpen our culinary skills. Spatchcock anyone? Here are some of my favorite dishes including my notes on each recipe.

    Chicken Scallopini a la Phyllis

    Fast food--at home?  Sure you can do it—I love to find recipes that don’t take forever to fix—a meal in 30 minutes is my favorite type during the week.  And a glass of wine is the perfect match.  Here is one of my mom’s recipes—delicious with our Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

    Chicken with Prunes & Chiles

    Growing up "Dry Creek" means we knew what it was to be the "Buckle on the Prune Belt". Prunes were the major part of ag in Sonoma County, and none more than here in Dry Creek Valley. Yes, that wonderful, rich sweet flavor of a dried plum with chiles and chicken-you'll be so happy you made this and paired it with our Zinfandel or Merlot.

     Coq au Zin

    30 years ago the organization known as ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) was born because California's grape was unique and unknown to many outside of the state. Margaret Smith was the first executive director and she collaborated with Jan Nix to publish one of my favorite recipe collections: Zinfandel Cookbook: Food to go with California’s Heritage Wine. This recipe is a take on Coq au Vin-get it? Easy to fix, flavorful and a wine friendly combination. Pair it with any of our Zinfandels of course!

    Basilico Chicken

    Featuring those boneless skinless beauties this is a marinade packed with flavor in seven ingredients. Over the years we have developed many marinades yet they remain in our heads rather than on paper. This one is typical by using a combination of herbs and spices to flavor up the chicken. The fun of finding the right combination has tripled during COVID-cooking at home definitely challenges us to go beyond the usual suspects. Pair with our Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.

    There is a moral to the story or perhaps I'd call it karma. Joe mostly cooks chicken these days and his son Jordan ONLY eats chicken… And for more ideas on what to do with chicken visit my Recipe site here

     

  • Note from Home: It's Always Something

    August 31, 2020 16:14

    Note from Home: It's Always Something

    Roseanne Roseannadanna was one of my favorite Gilda Radner characters from Saturday Night Live. I thought this quote fits these times. Wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart while picking grapes during the threat of evacuation-'it’s always something'.

    The good news is our first week is complete, the 93rd vintage for us. The evacuation orders were lifted and our hardworking crew was able to bring in our Sauvignon Blanc fruit and start Vintage 2020. The weather cooperated by bringing cooling fog and relief to our little corner of the world-helping everyone from the vineyard crew picking grapes to the first responders working to contain the Walbridge Fire that is several miles to the west.

    Thank you to everyone who reached out to us knowing the fire was nearby. Your notes and phone calls mean so much. While it is west of us the authorities were cautious in calling for an evacuation which was then downgraded to a warning and lifted on Tuesday when the weather cooled down. Because of the break in the heat the dedicated first responders were able to begin containment. It is times like these that I am thankful for all the information received from our neighbors, from Supervisor James Gore (who is our man on the ground every time we have an emergency) as well as our community at large in northern Sonoma County.

    The word of the day is perspective. Seeing things through the last few decades brings things into focus. I thought I would put together some notes and comments about past vintages with the memorable, the nail-biters and the calm, cool and collected harvest years.

    Pick dates: The earliest we ever picked grapes was in 2014 on August 12 following a drought year as well as a warm growing season-we finished the earliest ever that year as well and were done by the third week of September. Early harvests were also experienced in 1981,1988, and 1996. Latest pick dates are part of the history as well with 1999 and 1975 standing out among them because of the cool harvest weather.

    Speaking of rain: Precipitation came into the picture in 1989-while this wasn’t the first time during harvest it was memorable because of the hype around it-there were less wineries and wine press in the 1960s and 1970s and rain almost always made an appearance before the last grapes were in to the crushpad. This vintage it came during mid-September and we were experiencing one of the larger crops growers had seen lately. Many believed it ruined the vintage. We made our first and only late harvest Johannisberg Riesling from our estate vineyard-making lemonade from lemons! Another memorable year was 2010 which had early October rain that halted harvest until the vineyard dried out-with Cabernet Sauvignon still waiting to be harvested. It was called ‘a European’ vintage because it gave red wines cool climate characteristics.

    Heat: 2010 had the honor of being a double whammy vintage. A heat spike at the end of August caught us unaware and we lost 40% of our Zinfandel. The year had already been a cool and slow growing season and we, like many of the other growers in the valley, had pulled leaves in order to help ripen the grapes as much as possible. I remember this was also the first time we paid the vineyard crew by the hour rather than by the bucket-they had to pick around the bunches that had turned to raisins. Heat spikes in 2017 came along and moved things at a rapid pace as well as 2004 as mentioned above.

    It is the vintages without any problems that almost go unnoticed. These are the textbook perfect growing seasons followed by a harvest with no rain, heat spikes or other challenges like drought. Nothing to write about, kind of boring. 2018 & 2019 are among those going down as the easiest of vintages. Both years developed nicely and words like ‘even handed’ ‘steady’ and ‘uneventful’ were bandied about. Montse declared 2018 her favorite of the 11 vintages she had seen at the winery. 1978, 1985, 2007 all created great wines without many challenges.

    We are farmers after all, as I mentioned in a prior post, and harvest tells the tale of the season. Our wines tell the story of the vintage-some are eloquent, some are quiet, some are brassy, and some are just right.
     
    Credit where credit is due: 
    The vintage information is all with help from man named Bruce Cass, who passed away in 2016 but ran the Wine Lab and taught wine classes at Stanford among other roles. The information I collected in 2012 from his now defunct website with information on California vintages from 1970 to 2011 is a treasure trove of facts and great opinions on the vintages from a man who shared his vast knowledge.
     

  • Note from Home: We Are Farmers After All

    August 31, 2020 16:08

    Note from Home: We Are Farmers After All

    This is our 93rd harvest at Pedroncelli Winery. The last five months are marked with head-shaking challenges including COVID, sheltering in place, and now fires. We have seen a lot in these last nine decades. No one, including my 88-year-old father Jim, has seen anything like this. The kicker? The vines are doing their thing just like any other vintage and surviving the slings and arrows of Mother Nature. We are farmers after all, and harvest isn’t going to wait.

    The vineyards marched toward the day of harvest from the very start of this pandemic. Some of those slings and arrows in the past included rain or heat, too much fruit ready to be picked and not enough space, an early harvest or one that seemed to stretch on forever. We came out of July ready to harvest after Labor Day weekend-marking this as a cooler growing season. The change came when the weather warmed up and sped ripening. Regarding vineyards and warm weather, I learned some great information from our vineyard manager Lance Blakeley a couple of years ago. “Vines are like people” he said, “and they actually shield the fruit by slightly moving the leaves into a protective position, providing much needed shade from the sweltering heat.” Kind of like using an umbrella to shade us on the beach-we’ll survive with some shade and relief from the sun.

    So the results are in--we are picking on Monday August 24! Things are moving ahead quickly as the development in the vineyard leaves no doubt the grapes are ready to pick. Samples have been taken, analysis performed and the first grapes to pick are, drumroll please, our Sauvignon Blanc. Looking at past harvest dates this is right on par with the two previous years, not too early and not too late. We had large production in the 2018/2019 vintages, so this year is looking a little lighter in comparison but overall, about average. Of course, there are other extenuating circumstances: the virus, labor shortage, the COVID rules of keeping everyone safe and healthy which will also take away some of the time spent picking grapes so progress will be a bit slower. Harvest will go on however even under these adjustments.

    Then there are the fires. Thunder and lightning came to our area (which reminded people of the weather you usually see in other parts of the U.S). Started by lightning strikes earlier this week the fires are active all over northern California as far south as Monterey County to northern Sonoma County. The Wallbridge/Skaggs Fire is about 4 miles away from the winery behind the ridge line above the valley floor. Dry Creek Valley covers a huge area with just a part of it planted to 9000 acres of vineyards. The bulk of the land to the west is forested and largely uninhabited. Through the powerful images seen on television, in newspapers and social media many of you have seen the results of the fires here in the state and valley. Like the other fire years of 2017 and 2019 we are not in the midst of them but are associated with them and so far are safe. We are keeping all of our neighbors, friends, family and staff in mind hoping all remain out of harm's way as well.

    We are farmers and join the legions of other farmers across this land as we watch and wait for the weather, the challenges, the preparation and finally the harvest. Like the generations before, we must have patience, fortitude and hope. I have no doubt whatsoever that the harvest of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging and exceptional vintage stories ever.

     

  • The Waiting (Is the Hardest Part)

    August 10, 2020 10:29

    The Waiting (Is the Hardest Part)

    One of my favorite bands is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom always seemed to sing straight to me with his lyrics and style. The song, The Waiting, in the title of this post is from one of my favorites (although I think I have about 20 of their songs on my list of best loved tunes).

    So-how is the waiting? How are things going? Have those habits been formed? Have you taken a mental vacation or a real one? Have you had enough of forgetting your mask like I do—and I have at least five of them right now? These restrictions, in order to keep us safe, make me feel like life is now on hold.  And waiting. It really is the hardest part because patience, for me, is not one of my strong suits. How about you?

    Recently I wrote about our 93rd anniversary and the times my grandparents lived through: Prohibition and the Great Depression. Together they started their own venture that would become my family’s multi-generation business. While the world feels prohibitive right now I think during my grandparent’s days and these we do find a way forward.

    We’re still waiting this out at the winery too. Like many of you I search through articles or emails to find the latest County and State guidelines and wait for the regulations to be lifted or changed-sometimes it seems daily or weekly. Harvest is looming, labor has been and will be more difficult to come by and there will be changes in the way we handle harvest this year to keep everyone safe. The tasting room has been open by reservaion per those guidelines requiring us to do tastings outside. We may have to close when the weather cools down because it will be too cold for you all to enjoy tasting outside. We’ll switch back to curbside pick up as part of our COVID Plan ‘C’.

    Life does go on because it must. Grapes ripen so we move forward with vintage 2020. While we are experiencing interruptions to daily life there are life events happening because, like nature, we all do go on. Babies are born and, thanks to technology, family and friends all have access and rejoice with the new parents. Marriages are taking place albeit in much smaller groups of close family with the BIG celebration planned later. School will continue in the format parents had to deal with in the spring and teachers are scrambling on how best to educate. 

    I recently saw an article written by Rick Steves, the world traveler and TV host of many shows, in The Atlantic, “For the past 30 years, I’ve spent every summer abroad in Europe. Now I’ve realized that traveling isn’t just a pastime—it’s a mindset.” And he goes on to talk about how he has adapted his life to the pandemic with a traveler’s spirit.

    Prohibition ended, harvest will be over before we know it, and this pandemic will end. Looking at history and what has taken place over the years gives me hope of a better, new world ahead. I would love to wait it out with you-we've enjoyed virtually connecting with many different friends (shout out to Florida and Alaska among others-you know who you are!) and our visits make us more connected and less lonely. Wine is what we have in common and brings us together. I can't wait until we can, virtually or in person, visit over a glass of vino! Contact us at virtaste@pedroncelli.com or send me a note to julie@pedroncelli.com

    Due diligence:
    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Lyrics from “The Waiting.” Genius, 2020, https://genius.com/Tom-petty-and-the-heartbreakers-the-waiting-lyrics

  • Why Cabernet Sauvignon?

    August 7, 2020 14:55

    Why Cabernet Sauvignon?

    Earlier this year I chose Cabernet Sauvignon as the varietal of the year and have posted a few thoughts on them (here). Yes it is the king of red wine grapes worldwide, it is made in almost every region and its’ distinctive traits come from the personality of the site: climate, soil, how it is planted, clonal selection. What makes this of all the red wines the ‘one to plant’?

    In 1965 John and Jim Pedroncelli bought 5 acres of land just off of the corner of West Dry Creek Road and Yoakim Bridge Road. It was planted to prunes at the time-no old vine story here. Jim and John had purchased the winery from their parents in 1963 so I consider this their first venture following the ownership change. The varietal they chose? Cabernet Sauvignon. Up until now we had the acreage planted on the Home Ranch (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir!, Chenin Blanc) and this was a momentous decision-it meant we were adding a wine that would one day become equal to production of our Zinfandel, and the now the most widely planted red wine grape in California.

    Why did they plant this particular variety? There weren’t many vineyards along the valley floor at the time or anywhere for that matter-the area was just on the brink of a wine Renaissance in the 1970s. Like this land most of the valley floor had been turned over to prune and other orchards when Prohibition set in and the thriving vineyards were pulled up and other crops were set in their place. It was time to reclaim the soil for wine grapes!

    Why Cabernet Sauvignon? Let’s look at how wine reentered the scene first of all. Following Prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II, which were all challenges to what was once a burgeoning wine industry in the area, we needed people to re-engage with wine. One of the outcomes of this war, which sent troops abroad, was the experience tasting European wines. They came back with a thirst for wines similar to what they had tasted there and Cabernet was among those.

    In the first years of production, while waiting on the estate vineyard to mature and produce, John and Jim bought from Alexander Valley grape growers Robert Young and Harry Wetzel, both of whom had started growing Cabernet a few years earlier. Sometimes there was even a bit of Zinfandel blended in by John to stretch the production in those early vintages. Our first release of Cabernet Sauvignon was in 1966.

    Today the entire production comes from estate vineyards which encompasses 32 acres-our Three Vineyards, Block 007 and Wisdom. The great growing conditions of northern Dry Creek Valley, with the right climate and gravelly soils, gave us the ability to grow and make great Cabernet. We replanted that first vineyard on West Dry Creek Road around 2005-it was 40 years old. Trying to maintain an old Cabernet vineyard was becoming far too difficult. I previously mentioned clonal selection and when the new vineyard was planted, now named Wisdom, John chose the Mendoza clone or Clone 4 to plant there. Four vintages of Wisdom prove he was right in selecting it-and this wine is the expression of the wisdom gained by planting one variety of grape in one place and showcases the distinctive fruit of this clone. The torch is now carried forward by winemaker Montse Reece who honors the memory of John with each vintage produced.

    Time to time I have been fortunate to taste the wines from those early years. I also have received notes from friends who have pulled a bottle from their library and truly enjoyed the wine, sending glowing reports and photos-each one a time capsule of its own. They continue to tell the story of my family farming the king of red wine grapes for 55 years. 

    Cabernet Sauvignon Three Vineyards

     

  • PairitwithPed: Mascarpone & Summertime

    July 28, 2020 16:13

    PairitwithPed: Mascarpone & Summertime

    #PairitwithPed is an idea from our son Joe St. John-who texted me one day from Whole Foods where he had found our Mother Clone Zinfandel on the shelves. He was inspired and suggested I write about pairing wine and food. I added experiences and put them all under this hashtag. They have become a regular feature now.

    This month the food is mascarpone cheese-and how the memory of this simple dessert accompaniment has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. I was reminded of it when I was reading Janet Fletcher's Planet Cheese newsletter (Janet is also a prolific cookbook author besides being a cheese maven).  She was talking about making ice cream with mascarpone and it brought back memories of the dessert I had at a restaurant in McMinnville OR all those years ago-it was that delicious!

    Setting the stage for the experience: It was this time of year when Ed and I traveled to Oregon to work the market. Back in those days I was representing the winery and he was selling cork and winery equipment for fp Packaging. Once our work days were done we would meet for dinner at a local restaurant. We were in McMinnville and had heard that Nick’s was the place to go. After a wonderful meal the dessert list was brought out and the waiter announced a seasonal choice of ripe summer fruits over mascarpone cheese. We ordered it and we LOVED it-with perfectly ripened peaches, nectarines, blackberries, marionberries and raspberries. All topped over freshly made mascarpone in a parfait glass-wow wow wow! We have eaten many meals out over the years and I can think of just one other dessert that topped this one-fresh peaches in Moscato d’Asti when we were visiting Piemonte Italy mid summer-there’s a theme here…

    But let me set the record straight-mascarpone is not *really* cheese and when made fresh resembles whipped cream without the air-dense and rich.

    The second part of the story is about a cookbook I happened upon just a year later entitled Dinner Party: The New Entertaining by Jane Freiman. While I was leafing through it I came across a recipe for Lemon Tirami Su which included a page on making mascarpone at home. Two ingredients: heavy cream and lemon juice. It does take some time for the whey to drain out and you need a few general kitchen items like a colander and cheesecloth/coffee filters. Sometimes it takes overnight until the whey drains out and makes a cream that is spreading consistency. The recipe for it is here.

    Once I was reminded of this dessert gem I made the mascarpone and paired it with fresh peaches. Quite simple and captures summertime nicely. So we have the food, the experience and now for the wine. I would recommend our friends.white to go along with the summer fruits and rich mascarpone. This white wine blend is fruity and floral on its own. A perfect #PairitwithPed combination. 

  • Note from Home: Celebrating Our Legacy

    July 27, 2020 09:22

    Note from Home: Celebrating Our Legacy

    93 years ago (July 22, 1927) my grandfather signed the papers on the purchase of a home, vineyard and shuttered winery near the town of Geyserville in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. I often wonder what the day was like-did it hold trepidation for him and his young family? Were there hopes that Prohibition would end soon and they could make a living selling wine? Or would they move on to something else? The legacy they created that day spans four generations and 9 decades here in Dry Creek Valley!

    My grandparents, both immigrants from northern Italy, came to the United States separately in the early 1900s. My grandfather arrived along with his sister Caterina (she later died in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic) and found work around the Placerville and later Redding area. My grandmother came with her mother and sister to meet my great-grandfather who had found a place in Redding CA.

    My grandparents met, as the story goes, when my grandfather was selling vegetables to local businesses and met my grandmother when he called on their hotel-just about 10 years after they had arrived in the United States.

    They married, settled in Dunsmuir, and a few years later they pulled up roots and moved to Geyserville leaving behind family and friends. Giovanni & Julia arrived at the new property with three children between the ages of 7 and 2 years old along with all of their worldly possessions. In light of history it was a challenging period with Prohibition in full swing and the Great Depression following just two years later. 

    During this COVID time of sheltering in place I have to imagine it was almost the same feeling as we have now:  being cut off from family and friends, striking out into new territory, not knowing what will happen in the next weeks and months. There weren’t many neighbors to begin with, the town of Geyserville was three miles away and they didn’t have friends nearby. 

    The beauty of this story comes with the knowledge of the hard work it took to overcome the odds and to wait patiently for the times to change. It was another 6 years of Prohibition before it was Repealed and almost 10 years for the Depression to end.  All the while supporting a young family which welcomed one more child in 1932, my dad Jim.

    They started by first selling the grapes to head of households in the area and launched a new family business of making wine in 1934. The ensuing years saw many changes in the way the family worked the land and made wine. I stand in awe of what they were able to achieve from there. I must remember what it took to get through those times because, like all of us, I need the reminder of better days to come.

    If you would like to take a trip down memory lane click here for our history gallery.
     

  • Follow the Vineyard: Veraison

    July 24, 2020 15:50

    Follow the Vineyard: Veraison

    Another month into vintage 2020 and the next stage of the grape development is here: veraison. From here on out we can predict harvest dates by when the fruit begins the transition from hard green pea sized berries to a lighter softer green in the white varieties and shades of purple in the reds. I caught up with Mitch Blakely, fourth generation family member, as he was heading home for the day.

    “We are watching the vines as the crop on each turns color-all but 11 acres of what we farm are red wine varieties and Merlot seems to be out ahead of the pack at 50% of the fruit turning color. Zinfandel isn’t too far behind at about 35%. Other varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon range from 5-15%. What that tells us is we’re looking at an average to slightly later harvest with mid-September for white grapes and lighter red wine grapes followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah the first couple of weeks of October. This timing is typical of the past harvests from normal growing seasons. And of course this will change if the weather spikes higher as we get nearer to picking.”

    “It’s been hot at the beginning of July so one of the other jobs I had was trying to find blocks needing water. The vines were getting slightly stressed, slowly development down because of heat although some of the days topped out at 100 degrees but tapered off as the late afternoon fog began to come in. While fairly early on in the season it is better to have the higher heat at this time. Varietals susceptible to damage during heat are Zinfandel, Merlot and Sangiovese on hillside or limited soils where they have a tough time bouncing back. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, can handle it. It was unseasonably cool at the last half of July which helped the vines out a lot."

    He continued, "The crop size is fairly consistent, not as big of a year as last year. Not as many clusters and counts are down-which is a good thing because it is easier on the vines. We'll see COVID harvest protocols slow down harvesting with smaller crews and split crews for picking in order to keep our vineyard crew safe. Hoping for a nice even harvest with lots of time in between. Other projects include working on the vine blocks under the Scott Henry system where they are separating out the canes and pinching them down so the arms aren't snapped off during machine harvesting (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc).  There are 20-25 acres of the split system so it takes a while-7 acres done so far and there is time to get this done.  Pulling leaves and dropping fruit (also known as green harvest) also has taken place in order to allow ripening of the clusters as well as lightening the load on the vine."

    Thanks Mitch for the time and information-cheers to Vintage 2020 as it comes more into focus with each month. Follow our vineyard next month when we are in striking distance of harvest.