Dry Creek Valley

  • 88th Anniversary of Repeal

    December 3, 2021 16:24

    88th Anniversary of Repeal

    Each year we celebrate the anniversary the 21st Amendment—Repeal of the 18th amendment or the very long dry time known as Prohibition (1919-1933). Since my grandparents bought a distressed property mid-Prohibition (and probably hoped the end would come sooner than it did) this act began my families' legacy of making wine for nine decades and counting. Cheers to the 88th anniversary by toasting with Mother Clone Zinfandel which would be appropriate. For more on the history and how this period changed the way we drink, this TIME article with Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition is a good read. https://time.com/5469508/prohibition-repeal-anniversary-history/

  • The Vines Tell Their Story

    November 27, 2021 13:27

    The Vines Tell Their Story

    Mother Clone View Pruned 3The vineyard crew took advantage of the good weather to begin pruning the Mother Clone Vineyard this month. This is all part of the cycle a vine goes through and is the official entry into dormancy. We have had cool crisp fall mornings and the time is right to begin the process of pruning the 115 acres of vineyard  by spring. Rainfall will delay some of those days and weeks so getting a head start is important.

    Ever since I was young I have watched these vines with each season bringing something different-the new leaves of spring, the canopy of summer and harvest in the fall. Now winter is coming and they will take their dormancy seriously, stocking up on water and nutrients to get ready for another vintage. These head-pruned Zinfandel blocks have been through this for four decades. You can see it on their wizened arms.

    When you look at a pruned vine you see the story it has to tell.MCZin Close Up 2021 2From the placement of the arms to the whorls, knots and holes which are the scars of past pruning. These remind me of the rings of a tree in a way—they don’t tell the age of the vine but they certainly are the badges of age. Pruning shapes the vine in order to get the best direction for future shoots (which become canes and the canopy) so arm placement is key. The pruner comes through and clips away the old wood, the long canes that bore last year’s crop, and leaves two ‘buds’ on each arm-the 2022 vintage-in-waiting.

    Mother Clone FingerA few years ago we hosted a media group and Sara Lehman, SommInTheCity, was visiting the dormant vineyard. She remarked that each vine seemed to have its’ own personality. (The one to the left seems to have a lot of personality.) They are as individual as our own fingerprints, each one pruned to open up and help ripen the future fruit. Vines are like people as I have written before. They wilt a little under the heat of summer or grow in leaps and bounds in the youth of spring. And seeing is believing. This one has seen nearly 40 years and has survived. They are a lot like you and me. We are tough, flexible when needed and produce good fruit year after year.

  • That (Wine) Time of Year

    November 22, 2021 15:07

    That (Wine) Time of Year

    It will come as no surprise to you that fall is my favorite season. I revel in the changes all around me. The colors in our Mother Clone vineyard outside my office window are muted by the clouds, which are due to bring rain soon. It seems to be the right time to reflect on the year so far, with just six weeks until the New Year, and it’s as good a time as any for wine.

    This week National Zinfandel Day has come and gone, Nouveau Beaujolais had its’ day and Cabernet Franc will soon be celebrated in December. Did you know there are 15 National Wine Days throughout the year and another 35 International Days set aside for everything from Chardonnay to Xinomavro? Sometimes I feel like the kid in the proverbial candy store. There are so many wines out there to try and we have 18 of our own currently released as of this note. A wine for every table and palate.

    Thinking of all the ways wine is part of this time of year includes gifting for the holidays (I’d like Santa to add a bottle of wine to my stocking), featuring a favorite wine or two on the table, and don't forget the midweek meal choice amidst the busyness of wrapping up gifts or the year. This brings holiday menus to mind. The age old question of which wines goes with the bird or roast beast comes around again. Long ago when I worked in the Tasting Room, learning the ropes, I would tout our Rosé as the Thanksgiving wine: it goes with everything from the turkey to the cranberry sauce, maybe even pumpkin pie-give it a try.

    And if you go ask Google you’ll find wine and food pairing lists for the holidays nearly as long as the circumference of the earth. What do we do? I’ll make it easy for you. Go with the wine you love best-why not have your favorite wine on the table? I would only make a few adjustments to the food. Watch the salt (not just because Ed and I are doing a lot of that lately) but because, like anything else, too much will throw the pairing out of balance. Other things like fat, usually a wine’s best pairing friend, will ease the concerns whether a wine is right or not. Enter gravy, buttered rolls, roasted veggies.

    This time of year I think less complication is better. Dig into your cellar/coat closet/wine rack and pull out a wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Bubbly always has a spot somewhere on the table at our house and of course dessert and Port go hand in hand (now pumpkin pie is a great pairing with Port!). No matter what, I believe we all will make the right choice

    Reflecting on the past months I, for one, am glad harvest came through without a hitch, and although we are experiencing supply issues we are working on solutions. The virus continues as well as the ebb and flow of pandemic rules. In the middle of it all sometimes a pause in our daily routine to enjoy time with friends or family feels good, especially when there is a glass of something tasty to go along with the conversation.

  • Every Day Should Be National Zinfandel Day

    November 15, 2021 08:29

    Every Day Should Be National Zinfandel Day

    We are looking forward to celebrating National Zinfandel Day on November 17. I put together a retrospective on this flagship grape and the lineage it has at Pedroncelli and in Dry Creek Valley. Our family’s legacy has been intertwined with this variety for 94 years.

    The first family who owned the property, the Canatas, were the first to plant Zinfandel here. They built a small winery and made the wine for their store in North Beach, San Francisco. They operated from about 1906 to 1919 when Prohibition put a halt to all winemaking and began a 14 year moratorium on commercial winemaking. There was hope however for this family-they were able to sell grapes to head of households who obtained a federal permit and could make up to 200 gallons of wine (that’s about 84 cases). Needless to say there was a high demand in the early years of the dry time but soon the bottom dropped out of the grape market.

    My grandparents bought the distressed property from the family in 1927 by putting together a Veteran’s loan and cash for a total of $11,000. The 90 acres of land had a thriving 25 acres of Zinfandel and a home for Giovanni, Julie and their children. They continued to farm the grapes and sell them to home winemakers. I imagine my grandfather, who was not a winemaker at the time of the purchase, had the next 7 years to learn and hone his craft.

    Enter Repeal and the beginning of Zinfandel as our focus wine, since it was the main variety planted at the time. Blends were the common way to make wine It remained so until the 1940s when expansion of vineyard began and we branched out. In 1948 we first used Zinfandel on the label instead of Claret. By the 1950s Rose label1950s we were making a Rose out of Zinfandel (and continue to make it after more than 65 vintages).
    The ensuing years brought many changes to the market but we continued with our focus on this flagship wine. The Renaissance of wine in Sonoma County began in the 1970s and the grape of choice for Dry Creek Valley became Zinfandel with Cabernet close on its heels. Today half of all Zinfandel planted in Sonoma County is in Dry Creek Valley-2500 acres.

    Replanting of our Mother vineyard on the Home Ranch began in 1980 and took about 5 years. The blocks were cloned back into place with St. George rootstock, same vine spacing, head-pruned (or goblet shape) using budwood from our own and also sourced from neighbors.

    The 1990s brought a change in how we shaped our portfolio and we went from a main Zinfandel bottling to introducing our Mother Clone and Pedroni-Bushnell Vineyard selections. This highlighted specific vineyards 1997 Bushnell Zinfandeland styles. Our Mother Clone Zin carries the long tradition of blending Petite Sirah to bring structure and depth-going back decades as our house style. Our Pedroni-Bushnell honored three generations of family ownership beginning with my grandfather who owned the property and then sold it to his daughter Margaret and son-in-law Al Pedroni. Daughter Carol Bushnell and husband Jim took the reins in 1992. Today we simplified the name to Bushnell and it is a specially selected block that brings true spice and berry to your glass.

    Steady as she goes defined the first 15 years of the 21st century. In 2016 winemaker Montse Reece assessed the 2016 Courageexcellent fruit from the Faloni Ranch, a 3 generation grape growing family, and wanted to make another single vineyard. Named Courage, as in it takes a lot of courage to not only farm Zinfandel but to make it as well.  At about this time a portion of the Home Ranch was replanted with the Rockpile Clone which has a history of doing well on hillsides. We dedicated the vineyard at our 90th Anniversary Celebration in 2017. For now the fruit is part of the Mother Clone blend. We'll see where the future takes us as we refine and perhaps redefine Zinfandel.

    This lineage which has wound its’ way throughout the history of Pedroncelli is one we can be proud of and share with our friends. On National Zinfandel Day raise a toast and, as I said in the subject line, every day should be a celebration of America’s grape.

  • Short and Sweet...Sort Of

    November 3, 2021 09:35

    Short and Sweet...Sort Of

    Earlier this month my dad Jim asked me to write about the current state of supply and demand along with how it is affecting our operations. With his over 65 years of seeing the ins and outs of the business it would be like him to have me make note of the current situation. He has seen his share of challenges.

    Boats WaitingBy now, you’ve most likely seen the image of boats floating on the ocean outside of the Los Angeles port filled with items ranging from holiday merchandise to toys for said holidays, construction, office, and household supplies. The slowdown at the port is causing concern throughout the nation because businesses can’t get to the products they need. And the demand has outstripped supply with many companies who stock the needed items to package our wines. Bottles for our upcoming releases, barrels for aging the wine and many other pieces of the puzzle are all compromised.

    And the cost of all of this? Higher prices in all corners of the marketplace. For instance, the price of glass to bottle our 2020 and 2021 vintages doubled in two years. Doubled. The whole situation has a pandemic feel like when the world ran short of toilet paper and hand sanitzer.

    Timeliness is another problem we are facing. The time it takes to get wine from our warehouse to our distributor’s warehouse on the East Coast has more than doubled in the last few years-from two weeks to a month-if we are lucky. I recently spoke to our broker in New Hampshire and she told me wine that was shipped from here in early August had an arrival date of October 18! Lack of drivers and consolidation of orders all played into the delay. Let's not even mention the USPS and there are many examples of UPS and Fed Ex taking more time compared to a few years ago to get packages delivered.

    Now to the heart of the matter. Wine and the supply from the last two vintages. These growing seasons have been framed by drought and, in 2020 the possibility of smoke damage. What does this mean to you? It means first and foremost we made sure to focus on quality. We had to make some tough decisions when it came to some of our growers. The drought had started to take hold which led up to 40% loss of production. In the 2021 harvest we had textbook perfect weather and a smaller crop as a result of the drought. The loss in fruit was the same as the previous vintage with heightened quality. The upshot for 2020 included not making some of our wines like friends.white, F. Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay, Courage or Wisdom. However the 2021 vintage will have all of these restored!

    Don’t we see these patterns in other businesses? For instance, we have all been asked to have patience while we transition from pandemic times to the current time when it comes to services, waiting for a table, or getting a reservation. I can’t imagine being in the shoes of a store manager or restaurant owner depending on the supplies they need to make a living. The good news is somehow we’ll get the glass we need to bottle, the wine will eventually make it's destination, and you'll get to enjoy the wine...when it finally gets to your table.

    So taking a page from Jim's book, we take the short and the sweet of every year in stride, inviting you to come along with us.

  • Pair It With Ped with Heart Healthy Recipes

    October 26, 2021 09:24

    Pair It With Ped with Heart Healthy Recipes

    My husband Ed is doing great these days-and appreciates all the follow up emails, texts, cards and phone calls following his bypass surgery in August. When he was in the hospital people would joke with him about how bad the food must be. Maybe it was because he was in the Cardiac Care unit but I’ll let you in on a little secret-he loved it. It was Heart Healthy and also very tasty, even without the extra salt. He was there so long he rotated through the menu a few times and proudly hacked the choices when realizing he could add extra fruit or extra veggies for his midday snacks. And he lost weight even while mostly immobile with all of his IVs and monitors.

    Once released from the hospital I had some trepidation about what I would be cooking for him. Would it be tasteless, salt free, boring? How would I keep him healthy while still enjoying our usual Spice Road inspired and full flavored meals? The upshot from his cardiologist was to eat low fat, use little added salt, to watch sodium overall and to include low fat or fat free dairy. So farewell to Parmeggiano Reggiano, arrivaderci charcuterie, au revoir Brie, so long chips and crackers and goodbye to canned and processed foods high in sodium. Hmm, what was a wife to do?

    The good news is while Ed was recovering he went online to help out with the menus and found an abundance of great recipes with lots of flavor. I went through our cupboard and refrigerator and began assessing what we had that needed to go. Not much really. We don’t eat a lot of processed or pre-prepared foods as we do like to cook. A couple of friends sent us vegan cookbooks (thank you Betsy and Nestor) and they have some very good spice road flavors which we love-not sure we are going plant based just yet but happy to have such a deep well to draw from in the way of choices.

    Then there was the lingering question-does he get to drink wine?? The answer is yes, in moderation. So pairing up our wines with his heart healthy food isn’t much different than before-just less fat, salt and healthier meals.

    When planning the week we are now adding one or two plant based options and for two meals with fish (we are fans of the frozen Mahi Mahi filets from Costco because they defrost quickly and are very easy to flavor up). Boneless skinless chicken breasts and lean pork and a little beef here and there fill out the menus. Here are some of our favorite recipes for your kitchen:

    Tomato & Olive Stuffed Portobello Caps
    Serve with our friends.red

    Spicy Tunisian Grilled Chicken
    Serve with our Mother Clone Zinfandel

    Apple & Fennel Roasted Pork Tenderloin
    Serve with our Merlot

    Baked Curried Brown Rice & Lentil Pilaf
    Serve with our Sonoma Classico

    Poached Salmon with Creamy Piccata Sauce
    Serve with our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

    Mahi Mahi with Orange Shallot Sauce
    Serve with our Signature Selection Chardonnay

    I'll continue to add more to the new section in our Recipe page as we continue our health conscious journey.

  • Are You in the 95%?

    October 18, 2021 09:07

    Are You in the 95%?

    An urban legend has existed for years in the wine world. Article upon article, blog post upon blog post, and many more words have been written about how quickly we consume the bottle of wine we just purchased. Along the way the numbers people published their take on how much wine is drunk upon arrival and how much is stored or cellared away for future enjoyment. I am not sure if it is true but ‘they say’ it is something like 95%. Wow. Drink up people.

    I suppose if all of us drank the wine we bought and consumed immediately upon arrival at home we’d be out of wine--worldwide. So there is something fishy about those assumptions, I mean numbers.

    So I put together this poll for you.
    When I buy wine I:
    a-drink it within 0-48 hours
    b-wait a bit-I am saving it for a dinner party next week
    c-put it away for a time-out of sight, out of mind etc
    d-I collect so I save every bottle I get and cellar for 10 or more years
    e-all of the above

    Here’s the sticking point. We really don’t know how soon everyone does drink the wine they buy. I do know the numbers were up during the pandemic year 2020 and have maintained somewhat in 2021. As evidenced by many re-orders of Pedroncelli wine during the pandemic-beyond the usual direct to consumer numbers. So, if you chose ‘e’ as your answer I think this is more in line with what we all do with our wine purchases.

    There is no greater joy than opening up a bottle within minutes of arriving home after a long day at work or opening a treasure years after purchase, beautifully aged, all shared with friends. Choosing wines for a party or for an upcoming holiday can be fun and an adventure. There isn't much difference on the joy meter which category you find yourself in-unless you waited too long to open that bottle.

    At Pedroncelli you have it both ways really. You can enjoy a glass tonight or enjoy it 10 years hence-you won’t be disappointed. I had the opportunity to try a 2017 friends.white the other night-a 5 year old white wine blend. The color was amazing because it hadn't changed and the taste was fresh and lively-it was as if it was in a time capsule. 

    Let's join the 95% tonight and open a bottle up-from today's purchase or something tucked away for a special occasion. Either way we'll be joining in with millions around the world.

  • Tying Up Loose Ends

    October 11, 2021 08:39

    Tying Up Loose Ends

    I feel like Fall sometimes mirrors spring. This week, the first full week of October, I am tying up loose ends just like cleaning out the fridge or the garage is spring cleaning. These loose ends coincide with national market work, the weather, the cellar and vineyard as well as at home.

    Tying up loose ends with the weather report: The rain season starts October 1 and runs to September 30-which seems odd when we start the new year in January or ususally start our fiscal year in July. It makes sense when it comes to the weather cycle and when we typically see rain. It looks like in just 10 days we are in for some precipitation, fingers crossed. This month, so far, has been what I call picture perfect fall weather-cool mornings with heavy fog burning off late, a bit of sun and then back to the cool evenings. We turned our heater on this week! Love it, love it, love it. And as far as the predictions for our newly minted rain season it looks like we may have more than last year and, while we aren’t pulling out of the drought just yet, every little bit helps.

    Tying up loose ends out in the vineyard. The vines are getting a sip of water here and there to give them their post-harvest boost as the vineyards get pretty thirsty after all those grapes were harvested. Other tasks include spreading the pomace, aging it, adding it back to the soil. Pomace is what we have left after pressing off the red wines-made up of the skins and seeds removed after fermentation. Part of life here has always included a big pile of pomace there for the taking as it is great for gardens too. The gondolas are put away for another year and other harvest related equipment is cleaned and stored. I hear a couple of our vineyard crew are going hunting this month-wishing Mitch and Lance well.

    Tying up loose ends in the cellar. Cellarmaster Polo is finishing up fermentations in the cellar and transferring the new wine to holding tanks until ready for barrel aging. Winemaker Montse is watching over the tank of Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel (which takes its’ time every year) to finish fermenting as well as other small lot wines like our Wisdom Cabernet and Courage Zinfandel. And the barrels of our F. Johnson Vineyard Chardonnay are aging away sur lies-that is on dead yeast cells which, while aging, impart added complexity. Ahhh, and the wonderful fermenting wine aromas in the air-as I drive the 9 miles to work the aromas penetrate my closed windows because there are many wineries between home and the office. If only there were scratch and sniff newsletters.

    Tying up loose ends in the market. Final meetings with brokers as we are smack dab in the middle of OND-which covers October/November/December and the fourth quarter of the year. AKA the selling season. Samples have been sent out for consideration by media, wine competitions are winding down for the year. 

    Tying up loose ends in the tasting room. Prepping and planning for events we hope to host next year like Winter Wineland and Passport to Dry Creek Valley. Rearranging the main tasting room area because most of our visitors have been enjoying their tasting experiences on our deck. Since the cold weather will be here in a few weeks Gina and Lizzy are moving things around in order to help our guests get the most out of their visit, indoors or out.

    Tying up loose ends in our homes. Putting away the outdoor furniture, and perhaps the BBQ in some areas of the country. Bringing out slow cookers and going through recipes for said cooker. Turning on the heater for the first time (true story-just this week). Assessing your sweater and coat wardrobe. Planning your winter getaway spot where it is nice and warm while chilly and cold at home. 

    One big loose end I am hoping will be tied up is the pandemic, with an end sooner rather than later. What loose ends have you been tying up this month? Whatever it is I hope you find yourself taking the time to relish the change in seasons and enjoy life with family, friends and a little vino.

  • An Early Finish for Harvest 2021

    September 28, 2021 08:12

    An Early Finish for Harvest 2021

    The hardworking vineyard and cellar crew have completed vintage 2021 in what has to be one of the fastest harvests in our 94 years here. What began on August 25 ended on September 23, 30 days! It brought to mind previous vintages and was very reminiscent of 2014 (September 24) and 2015 (September 23) which were also drought influenced years at Pedroncelli.

    The overview of the harvest this year starts with the growing season which was in the normal range without too much heat or other challenges along the way. The lack of water for a second year impacted the vineyards and the results are a bit lower in production in varieties overall.  During harvest Mother Nature stayed even for the most part, just a few days in the high 90s, which of course sped things along as the vineyard blocks ripened and the grapes were ready to pick and waiting for their tank space in the cellar.

    Winemaker Montse Reece gave a few of her comments on the vintage:
    “This harvest is a pleasant surprise. We had good weather so far with just a few hot days but not as intense as in past harvests. The grapes matured at their own pace without rushing. Each of the grape varieties came in on their usual timing once harvest began, just a more compressed cycle as compared to other vintage years.

    Because it’s a drought year our yields are down between 20-30% depending on the varieties. Berries are also smaller so volumes are lower. Because of the smaller yields and berries, we are having high concentration of phenols. The aromatics this year are fantastic, I‘m very much looking forward to tasting the final wines from this vintage.”

    The winemaking team creates the tagline for the harvest shirts each year. For 2021 it was Pronti? Via! (Ready? Let’s Go!). To give you an inside look at what goes on during harvest I had Marcus Cano do a short video on a recent harvest day. You'll see many familiar faces including winemaker Montse Reece, cellarmaster Polo Cano, Vineyard Foreman Manuel Diaz with his crew along with Mitch Blakeley, Vineyard Assistant, talking us through the process.

    For now fermentations will continue over the next couple of weeks and, once finished, the new wines will take their place in the cellar until aging in barrels or bottling in the case of the Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. I’ll finish by tweaking the phrase slightly by saying Pronti? Beviamo! (Ready? Let’s drink!).

    The final load of grapes for vintage 2021 was from our Block 007 estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 Block 07

  • Reflections: 9 11 21

    September 20, 2021 13:10

    Reflections: 9 11 21
    Pausing to reflect as we go along in life is important. Remembering a time, a place, people. We pause to gather our thoughts even amidst something like harvest here in Wine Country, the beginning of a college semester, or in the middle of a busy life. Today I couldn’t write this note without reflecting on something that changed our nation 20 years ago.

    If you are 25-30 years old and older I am pretty sure you remember where you were. I sure do because Ed was traveling and I was home with Adrienne and Joe. Ed called me as he was in upstate New York and told me about what had happened before I had a chance to see for myself. It took him three days to get home. First by car then, along about Nebraska, he saw the planes moving and bailed on his cross country trip with his boss and co-workers and hopped on a plane to complete his return trip home. Ours is one in a million stories about this time and I know you have yours as well.

    Travel is on my mind because it changed so much two decades ago. And these days, with the pandemic, travel has changed again. This isn’t the only thing that is on my mind of course. I remember two years ago I was in New York for a series of events. Ed and I took some time to take in the sights including the 9/11 memorial for the first time and the musical Come From Away, based on the true story about 7000 people landing in a small Newfoundland town as planes were rerouted away from the U.S. to clear air space. We came away with a sense of awe, thankfulness and appreciation of what had taken place. Strangers lending aid to thousands of souls who took an unplanned trip to a far away place at a very unsettled time. Remembering and reflecting on the events of those days helps us to process and to keep hope alive.
    9 11 in 2019 2

    In May 2019 we walked around the memorial. Appropriately it was a rainy day. 

    I also reflect on what takes place on this day over the last 20 years here at the winery. This is the time of year we harvest grapes and, as each September rolls around, we are deep into the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the vintage. 20 harvests telling the story from the growing season to the first pick. Reflecting on each one, whether framed by weather variations, production large or small, fires, or the pandemic we finish yet another year, another grape harvest. The timelessness of nature seems to cross all boundaries and life goes on even as we take time to remember and honor this solemn day.