July 21, 2022 12:34
UNDERSTANDING GRAPE VERAISON
Each summer, grapes begin to change color in our Dry Creek Valley zinfandel vineyards. Grape veraison is the beginning of ripening, when red grapes change from green to purple colors. Veraison usually begins in July during moderate weather years, but in cooler vintages, zinfandel grapes don’t start changing color until late July, even early August at times. During ideal weather conditions, the time from coloration to harvest is typically about forty-five days.
There’s much more to grape veraison than the fascinating color change we can see with our eyes. To allow vines to focus all their energy into the existing clusters hanging on their shoots, the grapes cease growing during this period of their lifecycle. This allows sugars to increase and acids to decrease.
WHY EVEN GRAPE VERAISON IS IMPORTANT
Winemakers want the grape clusters to go through veraison quickly, because the uniformity of coloring within the clusters equals uniform flavors at harvest time. Being able to harvest uniformly ripened grapes is one of the keys to making a velvety, balanced Pedroncelli Zinfandel. If some grapes in the clusters are under-ripe, some perfect and some overripe, the finished wine will express some combination of too dry, too fruity and even too hot or high in alcohol. Only uniformly colored zinfandel grapes can make a balanced, smooth wine.
ADDRESSING UNEVEN COLORS DURING VERAISON
The warmer the weather, the more likely the grapes will change colors swiftly and uniformly. So, what does a winemaker do when the grapes change color unevenly? At Pedroncelli, we wait until veraison has taken 80% effect on our zinfandel vineyards, then we’ll start to trim off the “wings” and clusters that are still green. This sacrifice ensures the remaining grapes on the vine develop consistent flavors which will translate later into the wine.
Here's an example of a cluster with a “wing.” A wing is a small bunch that shares the same shoot as a fuller cluster.
During ideal growing seasons, moderately warm temperatures help veraison happen at a perfect pace. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes start changing color in Dry Creek Valley during July and August, depending on when vineyard pruning occurred and the microclimate of each vineyard. In an average year, Pedroncelli’s Dry Creek vineyards complete veraison over two to three weeks.
DO GRAPES CHANGE COLOR AT DIFFERENT TIMES?
Different red grapes varieties go through veraison at different times. Just like during harvest, we don’t always pick the same grapes at the same time. It is spread out over several weeks. If Zinfandel is in veraison now, then we’ll be picking about the second week of September. Cabernet Sauvignon on the other hand has not even started veraison and we’ll expect to pick these grapes at the end of September or beginning of October. It always depends on the weather between now and then too.
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May 24, 2022 10:28
As I look across the way to our Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyards I can see they are growing quickly. Welcome to May which is the month our vineyards typically move into the next phase of growth. And yes vines do ‘bloom’ but they do it differently than your average daisy or rose. Those buds which began to grow through March and April are now ‘flowering’ from tight green pre-bunches to the phase where they open up or flower for a brief time and then crop set will follow and the future berries and bunches are formed. If you are into aroma therapy this is a good time to visit a vineyard just for the lovely sweet smell of bloom. It is a fleeting time so don’t delay!
Sometimes there are challenges during bloom time. What we don’t want is rain at this point-and it doesn’t look like we’ll have any as the days are ramping up into the 80s and 90s in our neck of the woods. This delicate phase also is vulnerable to frost (which happened a few weeks ago damaging some of the lower lying vineyards to the south and east of us) and high winds. All three are threats to the tender green shoots but especially to the future of the 2022 crop. And, of course, once the fruit has set following bloom our vineyard team will be able to predict the production for the upcoming harvest.
Each variety of grape grown on our estate grows at its’ own pace. The early bloomers tend to be Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese. Mother Clone Zinfandel sets its own pace as most of the vines are 40 years old and take their time with the season. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot will begin soon. The pace of the growing season mirrors when the grapes are picked-Sauvignon Blanc is always first in to the crushpad and Cabernet Sauvignon is our end of harvest grape.
We are anxious to see what this month brings to our vineyards and for the future harvest. The next stage is crop set followed by continued growth with veraison (the maturing and changing colors in the berries) around July and before you know it I’ll be talking about the first load of Sauvignon Blanc due in towards the end of August! The cycle of the growing season keeps everyone on their toes. Each year brings something unique to the vintage and the excitement to see what 2022 has in store for us is what keeps us going. 95 years and counting.
November 22, 2021 15:07
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.
November 15, 2021 08:29
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 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 and 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 excellent 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.
June 17, 2020 14:50
I received a text from our son Joe the other day-he had found our Mother Clone Zinfandel at the Whole Foods and had sent along a photo-he lives in Reno Nevada. He also included an idea for a blog post: #pairitwithPed. I loved it and this is the first in a series of pairing food, wine and experiences.
Our first pairing is from an opportunity for our Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel. We participate in media gatherings through one of our trade organizations named ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and this one focused on #LegendaryZinVineyards and #GrilllingWithZin. Bushnell Vineyard has been a source of fruit for 8 decades and has been in the family for three generations-and the grapes have always been part of our Zin bottlings. It is also the perfect time of year for the theme because Father’s Day is just around the corner and July is ‘THE’ grilling month. I found a recipe I had uploaded a while ago and it was the perfect one to pair with our legendary Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel. I chose the Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Red Wine, Garlic and Honey Glaze because I am a student of ingredients when it comes to choosing a recipe to pair with our wines. Beginning with lamb-which is a favorite pairing for Zinfandel-the oregano, the red wine, garlic and finally the honey all come together to heighten the pairing with layers of flavor and complement the wine.
The event was a Twitter Taste Up, scheduled for June 10, and was organized by Robert Larsen of The Larsen Projekt for ZAP. A bottle of our Bushnell was shipped along with the recipe to twelve wine writers and bloggers. I had my 15 minutes of fame along with three other wineries that evening. I highly recommend people joining this type of experience-an hour of time focused on a single variety and theme. The engagement factor is high when you know the writers and bloggers are from California to New Jersey, Texas to Iowa. When everyone is online across the nation at the same time it is fast paced and fun. Watching the posts, comments, photos of their pairings and questions all is quite a thrill. If you’d like to see all of the action type in #LegendaryZinVineyards and #GrillingWithZin and experience it yourself.
Here is the wrap up and some of the commentary from the evening.
Vindulge, Mary Cressler and Sean Martin, provided the beautiful photo above. They also just finished Fire and Wine: 75 Smoke Infused Recipes From the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings
From Dezel Quillen, @myvinespot , “Bushnell has been connected to the Pedroncelli family for over 50 years. This wine is full, robust & chewy, offering flavors of smoky plum, blackberry preserve, mocha, & spiced fruitcake. It begs for red meat. Bushnell Vineyard always hits a homerun!”
From Mysty, @RedWineCats, “Big, handsome fella at 16.1% Anyone try the lamb chops recipe? I don’t know... I think this one could just pair well with itself too?!?
From James Melendez, @JamesTheWineGuy, “nose of black cherry, dried herbs and violets; palate of cassis, baking spices, pepper and dried red floral notes.”
Joe Roberts, @1WineDude, “Another fun wine from Pedroncelli with the Bushnell Zin. So big and bold, but sooooo undeniably tasty.”
Gabe Sasso, Gabe’s View: http://www.gabesview.com/blogposts/2020/6/11/zinfandel-americas-favorite-grape-to-grill-with
Was it synchronicity or something else? The same week of the taste up I saw the blog post Grilling with Zin on Discover CA Wines with this great recipe-https://discovercaliforniawines.com/blog/up-your-bbq-game/
Something must be in the air or is the twitterverse and blogosphere recognizing something I have known all along: Zinfandel really is the best wine to pair with BBQ. Just a year ago I talked about it here. I think it is time for some Zin in my Dino to celebrate.
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