• Cellar know-how: Wine Diamonds and how to prevent them

    October 23, 2015 13:45

    More cellar know-how continues in my posts this month along with other vineyard matters. Today I am focusing on cold stabilization and how important it is to white wine production.

    Cold stabilization is the only method we use for our white wines, rosé and even our Pinot Noir in order to prevent a certain type of sediment. This procedure is to make sure you don’t get potassium bitartrates, commonly referred to as tartrates (and wine diamonds), in your wine once it has been refrigerated or caught on a shipment in the deep freeze north or perhaps thrown in your freezer for a quick chill and you forgot to take it out in 30 minutes. This means the temperature controlled stainless steel tanks are brought down to 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the harmless wine diamonds drop and are filtered out. Simple as that-a toast to cellar work post-harvest with a splash of Chardonnay in my Dino.

    Frosty 2015 Sauvignon Blanc during the cold stabilization period to remove tartrates.

    Cold Stabilization

  • More harvest know-how: The Cellar

    September 25, 2015 14:08

    Pressing matters. Literally. Once the red wine tank is done with its’ primary fermentation it is time to put the young wine through the press which separates the skins and seeds from the newly fermented grape juice. The skins and seeds are conveyed away and are now known as pomace. The pomace will be spread around the vineyards in a year, after it has taken the cure under a tarp.

    Once the pressing is done the wine is transferred to another tank for its’ secondary fermentation. This is known as malolactic fermentation and turns a somewhat harsh acid to a milder one. Think tart green apple (malic acid) turned to softer butter-like acid (lactic) by introducing lactic acid bacteria. If you have heard of ‘buttery’ Chardonnay it is likely it underwent malolactic fermentation. In red wine the process is there to do its’ job of making the wine more palatable. How long does all of this fermenting take? 2-3 weeks typically. We’ll be finished soon-and then the wine will rest before being transferred to barrels in January. A toast to the harvest and all the people who made it happen!

    This is a shot from harvest in 2006 of Humberto De La O (now retired) is pictured here overseeing the pressing of one of our red wines. Photo credit: Hipolito Cano, Cellar Master.

    2006 Humberto pressing wine

  • Making history: A new winemaker

    March 31, 2015 14:35

    Changes don’t happen too often here. We are a family-owned three generation business. When you lose someone like John Pedroncelli it has a deep and lasting effect on us all. His strength as a quiet leader as well as his depth of knowledge cannot be replaced. I was looking through our website and ran across a photo of John Pedroncelli and ‘his team’. I was reminded of the last few years whenever he was asked about who made the wine, he’d answer “the team, of course”. His years of experience combined with his team of Lance, Polo and Montse created consistently remarkable wines. While one legacy has come to an end, we, as a family, need to take the next step and announce that Montse has been promoted to winemaker.

    Having worked in wineries from the Penedes and Montblanc regions of her native Spain, Montse earned her degree in enology from the Rovira I Virgili University in Tarragona. Once finished with college she came to California and joined the harvest crew at Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves in Sonoma in 1998. After that she was hooked and held positions at both Ferrari-Carano and Rodney Strong Vineyards. She joined the winemaking team at Pedroncelli Winery in 2007.

    She considers it an honor to have worked with John for 7 years and says he truly was an icon. In an earlier interview for a local wine writer, she was asked what she has learned from him. Having learned about the valley, the grapes and his style, her answer was, “to keep it simple”. In fact she has taken John’s expertise and created her own stamp on the wines through her focus on detail, by zeroing in on the unique qualities of each vineyard block and creating singular small lots. She has the continuity of vineyards, staff and the team behind her. We've begun to see her passion and style in the 2014 vintage. It gives us great comfort and pleasure to know that John's legacy, and ours, is in good hands. Join me for a toast to Montse and all the women winemakers around the world!

    Montse Reece winemaker


  • Cellar Jewels

    February 17, 2015 17:16

    One of the fun parts of my desk job is receiving an email message or two every month about a wine someone has found or opened after it spent 20-30-40 years aging away. Here is one of the recent posts, read it and then I’ll discuss the finer points of aging red wine. From Robert Fakundiny, “On Monday I popped one of my two remaining bottles of your 1974 Cab. What a delight!  The cork broke in two but was still clean and dry on the end. I double decanted it and filtered the dregs. It opened with a good cab nose, was purple with a garnet tinge, still had some fruit, and acid and body were still there, even some tannins. (I bought them from the winery and carted them home on the plane, wrapped in a box of clothes. You could still do things like that back then.) Last night I had the rest. It had lost some of its charm by then. The fruit had fled. I suggest consuming the whole bottle within a few hours of opening, especially with knowledgeable friends. Thank you for those old, great cabs that were made in the "old" style. Now the only question is: when do I open the other?”

    Thank you Robert for sending not only your experience of tasting the wine but a photo as well. I figure he bought this wine in 1977 or 1978. We had aged it for two years, first in a redwood tank and then oak barrels. It also received a full year of bottle aging before release. Robert took it home and stored his cache, opening a bottle every now and again. As you can tell by his comments this wine is slipping just a bit but notice his comments about acid, tannin, a bit of fruit that frankly wafts away minute by minute, urging one to open, decant and immediately, without pause, drink the wine. 40 year old Cabernets aren’t for the faint-hearted, their characteristics are completely different because of the length of time aging it. Our style, which Robert refers to as ‘old’, is one of the reasons the wine is still enjoyable. I must note that not everyone is so lucky when it comes to opening a wine which has decades in the cellar-sometimes the cork has deteriorated and allowed too much oxygen and has leaked thereby spoiling the wine. There are also wines that have had to overcome great odds, being stored in a garage where temperatures fluctuate beyond the preferred constant environment of 55 degrees or so. And to answer his question of when to open his last bottle? Soon, very soon because the risk of aging it much longer will outlast the drink-ability of this 40 year old Cab. A toast as we work our way to Open That Bottle Night the last Saturday of this month-what are you waiting for?

     For more about OTBN click here.

    1974 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Going through hoops

    January 20, 2015 17:44

    Cellar activity comes alive in January as we transfer the previous vintage, 2013, out of barrels and then fill them back up with the 2014 wines. There are two activities which help age our young wines. One is the container and the second one is the atmosphere found within the barrel aging room itself. We didn’t install air conditioning in this large building but the temperature here is regulated by vents that open to the night air, close in the morning and maintain a steady temperature throughout the year-on average 55-60 degrees. Each of our red wines are aged for 12 months. As the year progresses, the barrels are ‘topped off’ with additional wine every three months because, as it ages, a portion evaporates. Even when we are keeping the barrel room at a cool temperature we have loss, which is the reason behind aging wine in a porous container like an oak barrel. Slow oxidation over time concentrates flavor, adds character, and gives more structure through acidity-the less water and alcohol the resulting wine has, the more these shape and define the wine. There is a tipping point however because with too much evaporation, there is a chance of spoilage. With air getting to the wine there is a chance that it will turn bad, in a word vinegar. Another way of alleviating rapid loss is humidifying the room. In California the humidity level is rather low. By using these two relatively simple steps makes the wine in your glass much more complex, tastes better and is easier to drink upon release. Now where is my glass-I’m ready for some nicely aged Merlot.

    The sight glass is a gauge used when emptying barrels, letting the cellar crew know when they have reached the bottom-more air, less wine and it keeps the lees at the bottom of the barrel.

    Barrel Sightglass

  • Weighing Grapes

    September 19, 2014 15:47

    Our weigh station is the first stop our grapes make after they are harvested. It is one of the many requirements by the government to report tonnage since we are in the business of making wine, an alcoholic beverage—we call it part of everyday life. We are meticulous in sending the correct information, nevertheless. My dad Jim remembers the scale was installed in the late 1940s to weigh in trucks loaded with grape boxes and later gondolas overflowing with fruit. The building has expanded a bit, like the other parts of the winery, to make room for our growing production. During the early years, it was the epicenter of the winery with side-by-side offices for both Jim and John (the building is about 100 square feet!) and has played an important role in both marketing and winemaking over the years. I remember when my mom used to weigh in the trucks and gondolas as she balanced (pun intended) raising my three sisters and me. Our home, now our marketing offices, was just steps away. You can see our former home through the window! My Uncle John’s office and wine lab that he shares with Montse is now across the yard. The weigh station also contains our Cellarmaster Polo’s office today. As you can see, this is no digital scale--we prefer the ‘hands on’ method even when weighing our grapes.

    Montse, associate winemaker, is at the ready for another load of grapes in the photo below. I can see we’ll have some delicious vino for my Dino in the next year or so.

    Montse at Scale


  • Barking up the right tree

    September 11, 2014 15:51

    I am taking a moment, a bit of a breather so to speak, during harvest to bring you this blurb on just where corks come from. We bottle two thirds of our wine with them. Wine corks have been around for a long time, shortly after the goat skin and right around the time winemakers wanted to securely stopper the containers. They are harvested from the bark of the Quercus suber or Cork Oak Tree. In the photo you will see how the corks are punched from the bark. It takes about 9 years for the bark to attain the right thickness to produce a 1 ¾” cork. A lot of patience goes into these cork forests mostly planted in Portugal, the multi-tasking country that also brings you Port, and Spain. It is akin to waiting for a fine Cabernet Sauvignon to age. For all kinds of background on cork oak and the harvesting of them please check the Cork Quality Council’s website here

    While you peruse the pages, I’ll pull a cork on some vino and enjoy!

    Corks Display