Vino In My Dino
March 30, 2021 16:06
Tuesday, March 16, marked the one year anniversary of the pandemic for us. We closed our Tasting Room, battened down the hatches, followed the news very closely and here we are a year later. We started off not knowing how all of this would go, how many weeks we'd have to wait. And I think many of us thought it would all be over soon and never considered a full year of opening, closing and opening back up again in our tasting room as well as restaurants, hair salons and hotels and beyond. Who could have predicted all of this?
In a recent zoom session one of my friends, who lives in California, rattled off the colors of our COVID tiers in a sing-song voice and it stuck with me, hence the title. The colors Purple, Red, Orange, and Yellow are assigned to the tiers by the state of California with differing levels of COVID statistics. Purple is the most impacted and of course yellow signals better days ahead. The tiers determine how we operate as a tasting room and how restaurants and retail can operate as well-masks and physical distancing are still part of this time. I hear a Green tier is being develped as the final color for giving us all a go ahead-I for one am looking forward to that.
On Sunday as we spring forward the county will go from the Purple to the Red tier. At this time there is no difference in how we operate-still outside tasting by reservation. Moving into the Orange tier means we'll have inside tasting again. Our state and county officials continue to work toward reopening the schools and other businesses so hard hit by the shutdown and the colors will shift slowly from Red, to Orange then Yellow.
All along the cellar and vineyard staff kept going because agricultural work is considered essential. They worked together to keep safe and are now on their first and second vaccinations thanks to county trade groups like the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission being at the forefront of providing the vaccination information. In fact I just heard the town of Geyserville has the most vaccinations per person than anywhere else in our county.
COVID operations continue and include maintaining and keeping areas of use clean, very clean. Sanitizer now complements the soap dispenser and there is a bottle in every possible spot to keep on sanitizing. Gary has become an expert with these guidelines and the tasting room crew continue to welcome guests and keep them comfortable as they take in the refreshing outdoors and taste through a flight of wine.
What did we learn from this time?
Did you know that the common cold and flu has been cut back by some 85% because of the masks, sanitizing and social distancing? That speaks volumes.
People like to order Pedroncelli wine! We have seen surges at different times over the year but overall we are seeing a large number of orders even today via online and phone-this avenue of ordering has become the norm.
You really want to come back to visit. Our virtual events were popular but don’t replace the ‘real’ thing of being in each other’s presence. There is nothing like sitting down to an experience here at the winery and tasting wine at the source.
I learned I could visit with different accounts in my markets through Zoom and it was just as fun talking to folks and tasting through the wines with me in Healdsburg and them in their stores or restaurants. I learned how things are going in each of their cities or towns across the country.
What did you learn? My inbox is open, as always, to hear from you email@example.com By this time next year I'll look forward to seeing many of you in person.
March 8, 2021 14:22
A while ago I took part in a seminar entitled “Growing up Among the Vines” and one of the stories I told was about my sisters and I building vine houses under head pruned Chenin Blanc vines. I remember it was cool inside the canopy of long canes and large leaves in the days just before harvest. We had our own vine village. This and many other memories are with me as I reflect on four generations of family ownership.
March is Women’s History Month designated each year by proclamation from the President. Women’s History Month is chosen each year to celebrate the achievements and contributions made to our great nation. We have been quietly working in our corner of Dry Creek Valley with women in every generation contributing to the success of the winery.
As a third generation member and the oldest of four Pedroncelli daughters my experience is filled with many memories of growing up side by side with the family business. My grandmother Julia, matriarch of the first generation, kept the books, entertained many visitors with her cooking and hospitality, and helped our family business blossom. Daughters Margaret and Marianne, sisters to John and Jim, took part in the early years out in the vineyard and farm. Later Margaret, along with husband Al Pedroni, became a longtime grower of Zinfandel, an extension now of our estate vineyards farmed by daughter Carol.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, dad and cousin celebrating Sunday dinner.
Also from the second generation, my mom Phyllis took over bookkeeping when my parents moved to the family home at the winery in the mid1960’s. She weighed in grape trucks, managed the office and later went on marketing trips with my dad doing all she could to help the winery go forward. Christine, uncle John’s wife, worked side by side to further the business as well. Her interests took her into the world of politics with many community and civic activities including the first woman president of the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees, appointed by Sonoma County on the Dry Creek Zoning Committee, part of the committee to build the Geyserville Educational Park, Chairman of the Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees and many other accomplishments. While no longer with us she blazed her own trails.
Christine, Jim and Phyllis partners from the second generation.
In the third generation, my sisters Cathy, Lisa and Joanna all have made great contributions throughout the years as well as cousin Maureen, who is a board member of JPW Inc, is also know for her singular talent as chef. Fourth generation member Denise is our graphics designer. Our daughter Adrienne is a winemaker in her own right down in the Central Coast of California. To this day we work side by side here at the winery each of us using our own talents like the previous generations to shepherd our interests forward. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of such great examples and strive to do more and be more in the coming years. A toast with Rosé in my glass to generations of women in our family-93 years and counting!
The Pedroncelli sisters Joanna, Julie Lisa and Cathy.
March 2, 2021 15:29
Soup is always welcome in our house-from Minestrone to French Onion Soup and everything in between. In my house we are a year round soup family. Of course there are changes in types and vegetables as the seasons and temperature outside comes into play. Pairing wines with soup is as easy as pairing with any other dish. I have so many to choose from among the recipes posted on our site-but these are some of my favorites.
The other day my dad had a hankering for Split Pea Soup. Ed is a fan of this soup as well so away I went gathering the ingredients. It is one of those hearty winter-time choices with the wonderful aromas of the herbs and the ham filling the air. Nice and thick with tender chunks of carrot and smoky ham this soup calls for our Rosé or on of our red blends-friends.red or Sonoma Classico. And sharing the pot of soup with my parents made me happy.
Another favorite of many is Classic French Onion Soup. I often think this takes sooo much time but it really is just a matter of cooking down the onions and then letting the herbs and beef broth do their magic. Toasting slices from a local bakery’s French bread and then piling some Gruyere on top and melting it all over the soup gives such depth of flavor and richness. Pair with our Wisdom Cabernet or try our Chardonnay if you want something lighter.
Minestrone is much loved and a hearty soup all on its own-just add bread. And you don’t have to be Italian-American to enjoy it. I had read about using parmesan rind in a soup as it cooks-it adds a depth of parm-deliciousness. If you have some pesto handy that will perk up the flavors in this soup even more. Paired with Sangiovese or Sonoma Classico you are set.
With a swirl of pistou (or pesto) you have a tasty vegetable-based soup. Soup Au Pistou is a great combination of veggies and herbs with the piquant flavors of pistou. Paired with our Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay you have a winning combination.
I have made this one for a very long time-I found it in a newspaper so the clipping is well used and now I can make it from memory. I have brought my Turkey Sausage Vegetable Soup to church soup night and found many fans of the flavor-especially our friend Barb. I’d make this once a week for 9 months of the year if I could-and you can never have too much chard! Pair up with our Mother Clone Zinfandel for a treat.
March 1, 2021 15:51
This year Open That Bottle Night, founded by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, is February 27, always the last Saturday of the month. In celebration I’ll be opening up a bottle or two (for sure the 2009 Mother Clone Zinfandel) along with a couple of other surprises-from a trip Ed and I took 30 years ago.
As I wrote about in my last note from home the wine to open on this special night doesn’t have to be aged-it could be a recent vintage or one with a story behind it. Either way looking through your stash is a great way to keep up on what you may have tucked away for a special occasion and now can enjoy along with thousands of other folks around the world.
Over the years here at my desk I have received many emails asking if one of our wines is still drinkable. These cellar treasures have come from intentional or accidental cellars: the back of the closet, given as a gift or found in their parents’ or grandparent’s cellar. The first question I get: Is it okay to drink this wine?
If the writer didn’t include a photo with the message I ask some follow up questions before answering: what does the bottle look like? Is the fill level low or high; check for leaks-if the capsule/cork has evidence of leakage it might have spoiled. Do they know how the wine was stored overall? An even cool cellar temperature of 55-60 degrees tends to be the best for long term cellaring. And of course if the wine is a gift this would be difficult to determine.
On the other hand I have received notes from many people who have opened that bottle and want to share their findings. The oldest vintage was from Mike K who opened a bottle of our 1968 Cabernet a couple of years ago. Overall the experience, as told by the messages, was good as our wines had held. Our longevity, having vintage dated our wines from 1965, allows quite a few of these stories to make their way to me.
So what is the difference between a current release wine and an aged one? You might notice the first difference is the color between the two. A young wine is almost jewel like in appearance and the aged one starts to get reddish brown around the edges. The aromas between the two include ripe berry and toasted oak in one and dried fruit with cedar and tobacco notes. Flavor is deeper in the new wine and more delicate in the aged version. It sometimes boils down to preference in flavor and I frankly prefer a younger wine but tasting a wine that is 30 or 40 years old is both an education and experience for the palate.
Here are some of the notes sent to me over the years and a couple of blog posts and a video from Gabe Sasso covering even more:
Your cab (1982 Reserve) was terrific, fresh, no brown rim around the glass and tasty. In a blind tasting no one would have guessed it was 38 years old. Jud R.
This evening we enjoyed pan-seared lamb stew meat, oven-roasted potatoes and carrots, and Pedroncelli Zinfandel Mother Clone 2011. The wine was quintessential Dry Creek Valley claret. Flawless. Sublime. Heavenly. Bob B.
Vintage Report: 1968 Cabernet Sauvignon
Aging Wine: The Good, The Ugly, The Bad
Gabe Sasso on 3 Vintages of Mother Clone Zin
These messages from the bottle tell some of us we need to dig deep and find those treasures to enjoy them before it is too late. And keep in mind, when the 2020 wines are released it would be a good thing to buy them from this memorable pandemic vintage. When the time comes you’ll open, share and remember your vintage story.
Our trip to Paso Robles in 1990 was filled with visits to the wineries along Hwy 46-and Estrella River was one of them. Their Muscat Canelli held very nicely with honeyed notes and caramel popcorn flavors. It was the first road trip we took after we were married.
February 25, 2021 10:56
There are milestones in our lives that warrant opening a bottle of wine. Many are celebrations and others are mid-week dinners waiting to have them enhanced by a special bottle of wine. The wine could be a long-aged friend or a new addition-maybe one picked up on your last visit to wine country or recommended by your favorite retail store. This weekend my parents are celebrating their 62nd anniversary! We’ll be enjoying the occasion over the weekend and opening a bottle or two. While we don’t have a 1959 vintage of anything there will be some others that bring back memories.
They saved a bottle of sparkling wine from their wedding day and over the years it moved with them from house to house, refrigerator to refrigerator. I am fairly certain the wine is no longer drinkable but the bottle has always held the memory of their special day.
Sometimes we wait too long and find a bottle that should have been enjoyed earlier from our stash. Much like my mom and dad’s bottle of bubbly. In order to change that there is an annual celebration ‘just because’. Open That Bottle Night (OBTN) is the last Saturday of February so this is a heads up in order to prepare. This tradition was started by Dorothy (Dottie) J. Gaiter and John Brecher who conceived and wrote The Wall Street Journal's wine column, "Tastings," from 1998 to 2010. Dorothy and John have been tasting and studying wine since 1973. Dottie has had a distinguished career in journalism as a reporter, editor, columnist and editorial writer at The Miami Herald, The New York Times, and at The Journal. John was Page One Editor of The Journal, City Editor of The Miami Herald and a senior editor at Bloomberg News. They are well-known from their books and many television appearances, and as the creators of the annual, international "OTBN" celebration of wine and friendship. The first bottle they shared was André Cold Duck.
According to Dottie, “John and I invented OTBN to provide an impetus for people to enjoy a wine they had been keeping for a special occasion that never arrived. Weddings, births, anniversaries, all manner of special milestones had come but those corks remained intact. We knew this happened because readers told us about bottles like that and we have many ourselves.”
“While we urge people to open them as often as possible, and we try to do that because no one is promised tomorrow, there are still some bottles that we just haven’t brought ourselves to open. Some are rather young, but special to us, still. The point is to open these gems with someone you care about and celebrate the memories that are in that bottle. Make them the occasion. Recognizing that sometimes it takes a village to do something difficult, we set a date, the last Saturday in February, for this global celebration of friendship, love and wine.”
My Note from Home in May, What’s Your Vintage Story, reminds us to consider the vintage on the bottle. As you take a look at the wines you have saved for a rainy (snowy or sunny) day, take a moment to recollect what happened in that particular year when you Open That Bottle Night next week. And like Dottie & John asked me, I would love to hear of your plans or what you thought of the wine you opened! When I sought permission to share the OTBN information and recent articles Dottie said, “Open That Bottle Night is always special but this year's, we hope, will be celebrated with deeper feelings of gratitude, love, and reflection.” I have my eye on a 2009 Mother Clone Zinfandel-how about you?
February 16, 2021 14:37
In this post we take a closer look at the barrel room and what goes on during the year. If you have visited our tasting room you would see we have a window looking into the process-at different times of the year the view is of the cellar crew taking down each and every barrel about every three months-whether it is to empty them out of the previous vintage, top them off or fill them up with the latest harvest.
Barrels at Rest
Quietly aging away, these barrels are at rest. Incremental changes happen over the cellar year. There is quite a bit of work that goes into ensuring each barrel is checked several times throughout the aging process. We have up to 2000 barrels at any given time during the year either being filled or being emptied of their contents.
There are some fancy words in the world of wine, some of them borrowed from the French winemaking tradition: Bâtonnage, Ullage, Sur Lie. In this photo of cellarmaster Polo Cano and his crew you’ll see them in action as I describe some of these terms:
We use the word ullage to describe the loss of wine due to evaporation while the wine ages in barrel or bottle. In a bottle you can see the fill line (or ullage) and if there has been too much loss over time then the wine may have had too much oxygen and, in some cases the wine might be bad. The same happens in the barrel but to a larger degree-larger container more loss, meaning a gallon or three over the year. This is often referred to as the angel’s share-the portion evaporating away while slowly oxygenating the wine. This concentration of barrel contents brings a slow softening of the raw red wine. In the case of barrels they are topped up 3 times in the course of their year in barrel and this maintains quality with no spoilage.
Bâtonnage is the stirring of the barrel. Each time the barrels are taken down for topping the barrels are stirred with a long baton, incorporating the lees and enriching the wine. Sur Lie means the wine in the barrel is aged with the ‘lees’ or dregs, if you will. It is made up of the dead yeast cells and perhaps bits of skin and seeds-small bits. When a wine is aged ‘sur lie’ it is all the better for it, adding flavor components, texture and bouquet. As the wine makes it way to bottling the lees are left behind, having done their job.
In the photo below you’ll see a barrel being emptied of the lees.
The act of ‘thieving’ wine and tasting young wine is an educational process. Using a wine thief, checking on the progress a few times during the year as it matures gives the winemaker a window into how the wine is progressing-does it need more time? Less? The wine thief itself, pictured above, is nothing more than a glass tube for syphoning out a small sample of the wine. If you are trying a wine from the recent harvest be prepared-the tannins are pretty harsh but the silver lining is you get a glimpse of things to come—the fruit components, the acidity, the body—and some of the characteristics will dominate the others. It boils down to a matter of time and winemakers are a patient lot. This equals a nicely aged wine ready to be bottled with many of the rough edges seasoned by time and the barrel itself.
February 1, 2021 14:54
Part three, Open/Close/Open/Close/Open, or here we go again. Earlier this week the State and County allowed us to reopen outdoor tasting. It reminds me of movie sequels: the third iteration is almost always filled with over the top shenanigans or huge groans--Little Fockers, Highlander III or Daddy Day Camp anyone? I can guarantee we won’t be having any of those shenanigans and will keep the groans to a minimum. We’ll offer great wine selections served on our deck surrounded by Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard vistas.
Along with the re-opening of our Tasting Room there is more good news this week here in Sonoma County. Rain and lots of it thanks to an atmospheric river which is drenching the entire state and states around us. They are counting several feet of snow in the mountains and flash flood warnings are being sent to us in the lowlands. The irony of the reopening to only outside tasting now? It happened right in the middle of our first major rainstorm. We’ll take it! And the hills are wearing their winter green giving visitors gorgeous views.
We take on challenges like this all the time. As I have said before we are all in this together and I know how this has turned our lives upside down. The good news is we have come out of the latest stretch of sheltering in place and businesses are being able to function again. The opening of operations is slow-pretty sure slow and steady will win the virus race. We'll look to future months (summer? fall?) as we hope for indoor tasting to open up. Large gatherings are still a big no but even the Wine Road, our trade group, is planning some of their signature events for later in the year, pandemic proofed of course.
I for one am looking forward to dining outside at our great local restaurants. I am aware that other states, with lighter guidelines, have already been doing this but here in California we are in for a treat after waiting and wondering when we can go out again-and so many of our local restaurants have invested in outdoor seating. You can bet many of us will be making our reservations and bundling up if it's cold. Like our winemaker Montse Reece said the other day “I can’t wait to go out to eat and have the food fixed and served at the restaurant itself-no more take out!”
February 1, 2021 14:36
Just like vineyards there are seasons in the cellar too. Barrels are the focus of wintertime. Harvest begins the cycle each year and a couple of months later the process begins. Barrels are emptied of the previous vintage and makes room for the new one, typically called barreling down. Let’s take a look at what aging does to wine.
Why do we barrel age wine at all? Think about it in this way. If you have a raw piece of wood that needs the edge taken off and you’d like to use it as a frame, you’d start sanding and shaping it. The same thing happens in barrel-the wine is raw and rough when it is transferred. Aging for an average of one year helps to smooth out those rough edges and provides the framing of flavor and body.
This is a part of a wine’s journey where it seems like there isn’t anything going on but you and I know there is. Oxygenation is the process and takes time to slowly change the wine from its’ youthful and raw exuberance to a more refined and drinkable one. The barrel itself isn’t airtight and allows a very small amount of oxygen in to soften the wine. And it exhales too-sometimes referred to as the ‘angel’s share’ and why the cellar and barrel room smell so wonderful, the bouquet of wine in its’ many states. Another benefit is concentration. With evaporation of water and even alcohol you get concentrated flavors, enhancing the fruit profile of the wine.
Each barrel is taken down three times during the course of aging to replace the wine lost to oxygenation thereby preventing any possible spoilage-this is called topping the barrels. The photo I included above features this process and our Cellarmaster Polo Cano knows each barrel and wine like the back of his hand. The time spent in oak not only slowly ages the wine it also steeps in the oak, which imparts the element of toast, vanilla and nut aromas often detected in the bouquet of barrel aged wines. This adds another level of complexity and plays an important role in quality, aroma and taste of the finished wine. Our winemaking style calls for 25 to 30% new oak blended with seasoned barrels. This helps us keep a balance between the fruit and the oak components for a ‘just right’ taste in your glass. The give and take during the aging process from the first moment in barrel to the last as the wine is prepared for bottling provides a canvas for the variety. Some of our wines are aged less than a year (Pinot Noir and Sonoma Classico) and others like our Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon spend nearly two years. It is determining what is best for the grape that makes these wines so well crafted.
February 1, 2021 14:29
My sister Joanna has been a vegetarian for many years. I love the challenge of coming up with dishes she likes when we gather together for meals. Many of the recipes I have collected are either vegetarian or sometimes can easily be made vegetarian. The good news is these all go well with wine-who said being vegetarian is boring!
The funny thing is she doesn’t like mushrooms and eggplant-which are usually the foundation of many vegetarian dishes. Having a family member who prefers this world of food definitely expanded my recipe horizons. When you consider the term vegetarian you could go down one of two roads: One can be uninspired and dull or the other full of creativity and layers of flavors.
For me, one of the first ‘a ha’ moments in wine and food pairing happened when I made carrots with dill-butter sauce for dinner and paired it with our Sauvignon Blanc. This was more than 30 years ago and I still remember the moment when the wine and food synergy really came together-the herbaceous part of the Sauvignon Blanc matching so well with the earthy carrots and dill. Wine knows no boundaries when it comes to matching with vegetables-even artichoke and asparagus can be tamed with butter or olive oil and spices.
Meatless meals have become very popular in the last few years and we aim for one a week. One of our favorite weeknight meals is a pizza made with lots of vegetables-in fact Ed prefers this to other offerings with sausage or pepperoni. There really isn't a 'recipe'. We pick up an already made pizza dough (Costeaux is our favorite-a bakery here in Healdsburg) but there are many alternatives in stores. The sauce is simply tomato sauce with fried shallot or onion and herbs like oregano and basil. You can give it a spoonful of pesto if you have some on hand and make sure to cook it down (15 minutes or so) with a splash of red wine. Prepare the dough, spread the sauce and add sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and Kalamata olives along with parmegiano and mozzarella. Bake in a 400 degree oven on a pizza stone or baking sheet. Pairing with our Mother Clone Zin or Sonoma Classico is perfect.
While there is such a diverse vegetable world out there-including winter squash, root veggies, and tomatoes it takes a recipe to pull things together to match them with wine. Long cooked stews, borrowing from world cuisines, using starches like potatoes or pasta bring the flavors together for hearty meals. Eggs in frittatas are wonderful ways to add lots of veggies and flavor. How about grilled cheese 'frichi' with tomato soup.
I linked a few recipes above and there are many more of my favorites under the new addition to my recipe website with the inspired title of Vegetarian. Dive into the world of veggies and don’t forget the vino!
January 27, 2021 07:49
My monthly catch up with Mitch Blakeley, 4th generation family and Vineyard Assistant (as well as our Sustainability Certification Manager).
We started off with rain as the subject-or lack thereof so far this month (as of 1/22/21 and we only have receive 6 inches of rain for the last three months). I had been reading the headlines and seeing more concern about a drought year ahead. The weather watchers had already declared this a La Nina year (meaning we shouldn’t expect a huge amount of rain). The headlines were declaring higher than normal temperatures at the beginning of the week-it was 80 degrees here over Monday and Tuesday. And I almost always say we need to wait before we say the sky is falling and have two more months of winter. So I was curious about what Mitch would say about all of this.
I’ll note here that one thing left out of the headlines last year was there was very little rainfall (about 20 inches which is 60% of normal rainfall) and during the pandemic we didn’t have time to pay close attention to what is now considered a drought year. The good news is the previous two years over-delivered and left plenty of water underground. Our harvest was not affected by low water. Like Mitch said, “You can get by with reserves from the previous year’s bounty.”
Moving on to the work being done in the vineyard he reported they are making some changes in pruning times in hopes that by pruning earlier we have an earlier budbreak which will lead to an earlier harvest. It has become obvious we have to think about fires in years to come and mitigate any possible smoke damage. Pruning earlier isn’t driven by the drought. He said earlier budbreak is a gamble when you have to consider the possibility of an early spring frost. The Home Ranch is more protected from frost damage when compared to East Side and Wisdom vineyards. The most we have lost is 15% of the crop down on the valley floor. In mitigating the loss you can choose to train suckers and make up for some of the loss. When you weigh the consequences between earlier harvest (frost threat) or later harvest (possible smoke damage) you can see we need to weigh the odds. You try to base your judgement on a whole year of weather and other circumstances.
Mitch continued: Right now we are in a situation where the weather is great and gives opportunity to get ahead of the game. Only thing that changed with hot and dry spell; 6 inches will germinate the grasses; no false budbreak; not too much has been affected. Still deep in winter. We’ll see the effects of lack of water in June/July. Perhaps we’ll have a larger spring rain; then the water table is re-established; irrigate more or less based on the amount of rainfall.
One thing we are seeing is saving us time: having to heal up as many wounds-no water transfer and the vines aren’t full of water-Eutypa spores-cuts are dry and they don’t have to come back and paint them over (think surgical glue); so the vineyard crew doesn’t have to go back over an entire vineyard vine by vine. The good weather has also allowed the crew to clean up brush as we go and chopping.
Update: This conversation took place on January 22-and a week later we are blessed with 2 inches of rain overnight with more promised as the current weather systems takes California by storm-literally from one end of the state to the other!
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