Sonoma County

  • A Note From Home: Hanging in There

    March 27, 2020 15:13

    A Note From Home: Hanging in There

     Are you hanging in there? What are some surprises you’ve found (and I don’t mean the dust bunny under the sofa)? Have you discovered the next million-dollar idea? Have you found more or less time to get those projects done or have you developed your Zoom family and see you need to clean up the clutter behind you? Zoom has become the way people are reaching out these days whether via a Virtual Cocktail Party or playing a game with family members who are physically distanced. I visited with Joe Glunz Jr the other day. He is the President of our Illinois based distributor Louis Glunz Inc. talked about his family gathering virtually this Sunday. They will all make the same dish at the same time for dinner. Not a big deal?  He has 9 siblings and his parents spread from the west to east coast. What a fun thing to do!

     

    Thanks to all who responded after checking in with you last week. I heard from at least 16 states, multiples from each, as far away as Vermont and as close to home as one of our growers and neighbor Larry Giovannoni. I can see Larry’s house from my office window by the way. I learned what some of you do for a living (a book editor, a nurse & fellow introvert, a first responder and one of our longtime retailers to mention just a few) and you all are hanging in there with an abundance of stories to tell once this is over.

    I was trying to come up with some wine tips to offer during this time as we are all hanging out. While wine isn’t the best hand sanitizer (maybe a little Chardonnay but no Zinfandel-those telltale stains would give it away) it certainly can be used in cooking. I have used wine since I began experimenting in the kitchen. In the beginning I didn’t ‘cook off’ the alcohol in the wine and it gave dishes a ‘raw’ taste. One of my first experiments was mushrooms sauteed in red wine '#kitchenfail', they were inedible. I have learned to take time. When adding wine to a pan sauce and cooked for a few minutes it will do the trick, or if making a ragu the hour or more on the stove-mission accomplished. Wine does add a different level of flavor, different than herbs and spices. If you have a few ounces left in a bottle keep it around-you never know what recipe will inspire you and adding a bit of white or red wine will make the flavors fuller. Ed added a splash of Sauvignon Blanc to his Turkey Stroganoff the other night-that little something extra enhanced this dish.

    So, hang in there. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, most likely in a few more weeks.  Right now summer is looking pretty good. Warmer days, gardens beginning to give up their first fruits, family get togethers and the biggest St. Patrick’s Day/Easter/Mother’s Day/Memorial Day celebration ever.

    Update on the tasting room and curbside pick-up: Are you a local? We can fulfill online and telephone orders with curbside pick-up. We’ll be open for limited days and hours for now. Visit here for more information.

     

  • Budbreak & Bottling Go On

    March 25, 2020 11:46

    Budbreak & Bottling Go On

    We are all living in unusual times. The Shelter in Place order is active and most of the staff in the office is working from home-all except Jim who checks in every day. It is fitting since this is his childhood home. Our vineyards and winery come under the Food and Agriculture Sector critical infrastructure plan. Agriculture is considered essential, so the vineyard and cellar crews are kept busy at this time by finishing up pruning in the vineyards and bottling up the red wines scheduled for production.

    Winter turned officially to spring on March 19 and the vineyards are beginning to shake off dormancy and head into budbreak-the moment when the buds on the vine begin to soften. So, what does this mean? Let’s start with the importance of pruning and what it means to budbreak: when the vines are pruned in late fall and winter each cane produced is trimmed back to typically two buds-which are the production for the next vintage. There are several canes stemming (pardon the pun) from the vine. Those two buds begin to soften and develop as warmer weather comes along and here in Dry Creek Valley that usually happens by mid-March.

    Looking back at the beginning of vintage 2020, which begins with the rainy season, we had several inches of rain between November and January. February brought spring-like weather and not a drop of rain. As we see this month ending there is more rain on the way but likely totaling just about 2 inches. Mitch Blakeley, Vineyard Assistant (among other things-he’s family) told me we could use another 5-7 inches of rain so the vineyards, having had a dry spell, would get the necessary push to begin the growth cycle and invigorate the vines. It remains to be seen what we will receive in April or even May.

    Budbreak has begun in the younger vineyards-go figure, a growth spurt from the teenagers. Mitch also reported, “The venerable Mother Clone blocks, which are in their late 30s, are taking their time to begin the season. For instance, in the younger vines they are seeing 1-3 inches of growth-first leaf, shoots but very minimal changes in the established vines. Larger and deeper root zones for these allow them to access water and nutrients in a larger area which means the vines don’t have to push until later when groundwater depletes.”

    friends.red bottling

    In the cellar the 2018 red wines like our Mother Clone Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and friends.red are among the first of that vintage to be bottled up. Winemaker Montse Reece is very happy with the quality of the wines and recalls the vintage in her fact sheet notes: The winter brought plenty of rain to the vineyards. Perfect growing conditions followed during summer with even heat and a great environment providing extended ripening. Once harvested, the vintage brought medium tannins as well as higher levels of aromatics and flavors. We all look forward to sharing them upon release later this year.

  • A Note From Home: How Are You Doing?

    March 21, 2020 09:25

    A Note from Home

    JasperSo how are you doing? I hope this finds you coping with the new restrictions in our lives-! I know many, many things have been cancelled or rescheduled for another time. Are you catching up on personal correspondence? Tackling those household projects you’ve put off like painting the bathrooms or adding a she shed? Homeschooling your kids? I personally will be reading more, walking more with #JasperWineDog-who by the way loves us working from home-he thinks we are on vacation and totally ignores the virus thing. I’ll do more home cooking while also supporting our local restaurants for take-out and of course enjoy a glass of wine or two while kicking back in the evenings.

    How are you? This simple phrase seems so much more important now as we are physically distanced from each other and our daily lives. I typically write this note from my office, my former bedroom in my childhood home, which overlooks our Mother Clone zinfandel vineyard. Today I am writing from my own home in Healdsburg with a view of spring burgeoning in the new leaves on the oak trees and birds singing just outside.

    For me yesterday was a wonderful day because two things happened: I have a new grandson and my niece Sarah (Lisa & Lance’s daughter) was married-in Brazil of all places-they watched the ceremony at 6am that morning from their home. Galen Kurt Edwin Rule was born a few hours later. 3/20/20 will be remembered with joy amidst such a time and I look forward to hugging him once this is over-I am thankful for our ease of communication so I can see all the fingers and toes and make sure mom Adrienne is okay and dad Jason is holding the baby correctly.Baby Galen

    Home AloneWhile we hunker down with loved ones I know there are many challenges ahead. Those parents with kids home for the long term-I received an email yesterday from a mom who had our wine at their wedding and now, 9 years later, has kids home and needed a case of wine to smooth the rough edges! (pretty sure my own parents would have gone crazy with the four of us girls bouncing off the walls). Work and the interruption of regular life is a challenge and a change. If you are at home alone reach out to neighbors who might also feel alone-keeping your distance of course! You know Wilson had it right by visiting over the back fence. If we keep socially connected in our age of technology we’ll know we are not alone.Wilson over the Fence

    How are we doing at the winery? The Governor of California has put the whole state from tip to top in a Stay at Home order. Our trade group Wine Institute just confirmed that, while our tasting room remains closed, the new order allows winery and vineyard operations to continue under the Food and Agriculture Sector critical infrastructure plan. We can keep things going in the vineyard and cellar! Probably more important to you is that we are still processing and shipping orders. While we can’t offer tastings, we are working on how to do “take-out” at the winery. Stay tuned for developments. Meanwhile we wouldn’t want our friends and neighbors to run out of wine. If you’d like us to ship you some wine click here.

    Until the next time, keep healthy, stay inside and reach out even if just an email or call! julie@pedroncelli.com or 707-857-3531.

    Stay well and don’t forget the vino. Julie

  • The People Tell The Story (1)

    January 27, 2020 12:14

    The People Tell The Story (1)

    While I tell my grandparent’s story often I also tell the story of second gen members John and Jim. Both generations are deeply entwined in the story of Pedroncelli. John grew up in the vineyard and winery helping his parents (along with two sisters and a younger brother) make a go of it in our little corner of Dry Creek Valley.

    John’s story begins when he was just 2 years old. His parents purchased the vineyard, shuttered winery and a home in 1927. He grew up working with his family in the vineyard and cellar. One of the stories he told often was the time when he was 7 years old and helping his father deliver grapes to Redding (quite a distance from home especially in those days) in the Model A truck. The axle broke, he stayed with the truck while his father went into town to get help-basically being left for a few hours, found safe and sound with the truck.

    John with sisters Margaret and Marianne

    He served in World War Two in the Coast Guard and once back home he took up his work at the winery becoming winemaker in 1948. He was in charge of the vineyard planting as the family bought up property to expand from the original 25 acres to 100 acres today. John quietly went about crafting the wines, the house style and finding which grape best suited each site. We had Pinot Noir and Chardonnay planted in those early days and they soon gave way to Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon as the better varietal candidates. John expressed himself through his wines.

    Johns with brother Jim in the vineyard circa 1970

    Like his father he was very close to the earth, to the vines and vineyards he had laid out. Making the wines from these vineyards was his pride and joy. When I was growing up and hanging around the winery you would often hear him whistling as he went about his many tasks in the cellar. He loved to travel with wife Christine and in fact went on forays to learn more about wine including a famed trip to Portugal where he learned the finer points of port making. Our Four Grapes Port remains a testament to his willingness to experiment and go beyond the norm. From 1948 to 2014 he either made the wines or oversaw them with Montse Reece who is our current winemaker. He always called it a team effort and included cellarmaster Polo Cano and Vineyard Manager Lance Blakeley. When I say he took great pride in his wines he did, and enjoyed wine for nearly 90 years before passing away in 2015. He lived and worked where he loved-what better story than this.

    Winemaking team: Polo, John, Montse & Lance

  • Varietal of the Year: Cabernet Sauvignon

    January 27, 2020 12:13

    Varietal of the Year: Cabernet Sauvignon

    Zinfandel is our 'first' flagship and was featured last year. I’ll focus on our ‘other’ flagship for 2020—Varietal of the Year: Cabernet Sauvignon. Over 50 years ago we first planted Cabernet Sauvignon in Dry Creek Valley and continue to this day. Our Dry Creek Valley appellation is well suited to growing this grape and the climate gets the best out of the varietal.

    The origin of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape via modern DNA tests indicate the parents are Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. It does bring the best of both to the forefront and has become one of the most popular wines on the planet. It is the most widely planted red wine grape in California with over 93,000 acres planted (want to guess which is the number one white wine grape?). The varietal is Sonoma County's second most planted wine grape with 12,478 acres and the most widely planted in Dry Creek Valley with just over 3000 acres. Pedroncelli has 32 acres planted (out of 100).

    Wisdom Vineyard

    Of important note: John Pedroncelli was the first grower in the valley to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in the mid-1960s. That first five acres of Cab was replanted 40 years later and John chose the Mendoza clone (Clone 4). It was such a success they named it Wisdom in honor of the knowledge gained over 50 years farming the same varietal. The main part of theestate acreage is in the Three Vineyards location where John also planted Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Planted in 1992-1994, these vineyards are all situated in lower benches or valley floor where the soil, the trellising and careful vineyard management brings out the great qualities of this noble grape. Block 007, our 100% Cabernet offering, is located on this piece as well.

    A few Cab stats: How much is that Cabernet Sauvignon per ton? $3114 is the top end market price from the 2018 Sonoma County Grape Crush report. Total crushed in tons was 60,000 county wide. The total crushed in CA equals 15.1% of all wine grapes crushed in the state with a whopping 680,000 tons. Now that is a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon! It is good to be the king.

    1968 Cabernet

  • Bottling Up the Vintages

    January 27, 2020 12:03

    Bottling Up the Vintages

    The 2019 harvest seems like it just happened yesterday but here we are in February bottling up the Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. The 2018 harvest is a bit more distant in memory but now the red wines have had their year in the barrel and are being bottled up. Join me in finding out more as we are Bottling Up the Vintages.

    I asked winemaker Montse Reece to jot down some notes on each of the vintages. Well 2019 was a late start harvest. We started picking Sauvignon Blanc September 4th, about one week later than previous years. In 2019 everything matured slowly and that is good news for highly aromatic varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and early pick Zinfandel for Rosé. This is a very aromatic and full favored vintage. The reason is because during this harvest, we didn’t have any major heat wave challenges and temperatures were cool at night. This kept acids on track and added extra freshness to the wines. Very nice vintage overall.

    The 2018 vintage was a little warmer than the 2019, but without major heat spikes or other weather challenges from previous years. Here is the link to the blog post on the harvest wrap up. The 2018 wines coming out from their time in barrel are showing nicely, with high concentration of fruit flavors and spices in all reds while keeping the acids and alcohols in balance. Bottling up vintages and coming to you soon with the 2018 reds releasing later this year and the 2019 whites and rosé making their way in the next couple of months.

    Note: The photo at the head of this post is of a temperature controlled stainless steel tank. One of the final stops on the way to bottling white wine is the chill down as seen here. Those bands are frozen for a reason-it drops tartaric acid out of white wine and Rosé so that you have a clear glass of wine in front of you, and no ‘wine diamonds’ get in the way of your first or last sip.

  • The People Tell the Story

    December 20, 2019 16:41

    The People Tell the Story

    A few of my earlier posts focused on how some part of our grapes or wine tells the story. As we wrap up the year and look forward to 2020 I’ll focus on a few of The People Who Tell The Story.

    Our story always begins with my grandparents Giovanni & Julia, who founded the winery in 1927. It came with a shuttered winery, a farm and a home. They brought with them their three young children Margaret, Marianne and John and put down roots in what would become known as the Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area. My dad Jim was born 5 years later and completed the family. They all worked together to grow and sell the grapes during Prohibition and once it was over they began to make wine. Their story is very similar to many immigrants of the time. They worked hard especially as the Great Depression started just two years after they bought the property. The farm sustained them. My grandmother made cheese, butter, canned vegetables and created a dynasty of wonderful dishes. My grandfather and uncle hunted or managed the animals on the farm to feed the family. Everyone chipped in even if they didn’t want to like my dad milking the cow every day before school. He finally convinced his parents, once he was 18, that he didn’t need milk anymore. They made it through the lean times by working the land themselves. Stories like John waiting by the Model A full of grapes while his father went into town to find help; Marianne and Margaret both working in the vineyard or plowing with the horse, Jim chipping off tartrates from the redwood tanks in order to support the munitions during the war and Margaret becoming a grape grower with husband Al Pedroni. These are just a few from the family lore which shaped the future of the family business.

    Hard work paid off of course and the story continued. Surviving the 1930s and 1940s, where there were some bleak years, only made them stronger and more resilient. Word grew about the wines being made and soon Giovanni was purchasing more land to expand the business. He created many choices by introducing a varietal Zinfandel in 1948 and soon a Rosé along with Riesling and Pinot Noir. He was most comfortable out in the vineyard working among his beloved vines. My grandmother was known for her hospitality but she also was the bookkeeper for many years. They retired in 1963 and sons John and Jim took the reins. Their story is next, the second generation.

    Giovanni & Julia with Margaret

    Margaret, John and Marianne circa 1927

    Young Jim and his trusty companion

    Father and son in the cellar

    A marvelous alfresco family dinner circa 1950s

  • Come Home to Sonoma County

    December 20, 2019 16:38

    Come Home to Sonoma County

    There was a full court press of articles immediately following the Kincade Fire that took place over a week in late October 2019. Sonoma County did not in fact burn down again. Even now we hear of people wondering what really happened to Wine Country. There are many organizations getting behind the #GatherInSonoma and #SipSonoma in order to get the word out that the area is generally unfazed. Won’t you Come Home to Sonoma County with me?

    I was born and raised in Sonoma County. College took me out of the county for a time but soon I was back, the siren call was strong especially since I lived in the East Bay right near the BART tracks. I began working in the tasting room on weekends and a few months later made the move back when my father Jim offered a full time job. That was 35 years ago this year. Coming home to the county after the time away gave me a new appreciation for all the area has to offer. Once I began networking with other winery people I began to explore the county in new ways. When I think about it there is so much to do! The Russian River makes the wide swath from the north end to the west into the Pacific Ocean-where there are many great beaches offering their own views. How about Lake Sonoma which, besides the water, offers great trails to hike. We have our own museums, ice arena, redwoods, county parks, wonderful restaurants and of course tasting rooms all along the way.

    We carry a book in the tasting room called The Down Low: Things to do in Sonoma County (A local’s guide to the Provence of the U.S.). The author, Barbara Barielle, is an entrepreneur: a travel writer, publicist, actress, producer and more. Her book includes all the best about Sonoma County because it is so much more than wine country. It is her home (and mine!) and her enthusiasm about each place beckons us all to explore this great county.

    The Kincade Fire, while large, singed the corners of Alexander and Knights Valley and a tiny bit of the Russian River Valley to the east and didn’t touch the other 15 appellations. Sometimes it is hard to remember it is much larger and that only 6% of the county is planted to grapes. Think about the other 94%! Other organizations like the Wine Road and the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley along with the Sonoma County Tourism group have pulled together two programs: #GatherInSonoma and #SipSonoma. You don't even have to be here to be a part of #SipSonoma-pick up a bottle of your favorite juice and take a photo & post. Come home to Sonoma County-I'd love to share all of it with you. And don't forget the hashtags!

  • The Top Nine of 2019

    December 20, 2019 16:31

    The Top Nine of 2019

    As we begin the New Year reflecting on what took place last year is a good place to start. The Top Nine of 2019 covers many accomplishments and challenges, which is how a year typically goes. Just like life!

    9 We celebrated 92 years in July-marking the anniversary of the day my grandfather Giovanni Pedroncelli signed the papers for this special place in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County.

    8 The Smithsonian connection. Over 10 years ago we had one of our photos in an exhibit at the Museo Italiano in San Francisco. That connection led the curators at the American History Museum to seek us out so they could include that photo in their Food Transforming America exhibit-still going strong after 10 years. In fact they just refreshed the exhibit and included items the family had loaned to the museum-captured in the title photo of this post. Visit Food Transforming America when you are in Washington DC-wine is indeed a part of the transformation.

    7 Our Mission-we crafted our thoughts into a statement capturing the past, present and future: We are a Sonoma County farming family, founded in 1927, sharing our legacy through sustainably-produced exceptional wines.

    6 My parents Jim & Phyllis celebrated 60 years together last February-you wouldn’t know it by looking at them but they are over 60 years old. While my dad grew up here and has worked in the winery from the ground up (literally) my mom married into the family in 1959. She was in integral part of the business as my dad and his brother bought the winery from their parents in 1963. Mom helped out in the office and during harvest as well as kept tabs on me and my sisters-station wagons, after school activities, weekend outings and more kept us all in line. Cheers to many more as 60 years is quite an accomplishment!

    5 The 2019 harvest was the fifth for Montse Reece as winemaker-she was first hired in 2007 as assistant winemaker and worked with John Pedroncelli. She became winemaker in early 2015. Did you know that only 11% of the winemakers in California are women? Cheers to many more vintages and women joining the ranks!

    4 Four generations of one family calling this corner of Dry Creek Valley our home. We continue to strive for excellence with fourth generation member Mitch Blakeley heading up our Sustainability program, leading the way for future generations to call this home as well.

    3 The king of red wine grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, has quite the presence on our estate vineyards at one third of the acreage planted. I consider it our ‘2nd’ flagship grape as we were the first to plant and maintain it in Dry Creek Valley. The varietal is now the top planted red wine grape in the valley-coincidence? I think not.

    2 We are celebrating the 2nd year of our Gratitude Vine displayed in our Tasting Room. So many people have added their thanks for a wide variety of subjects-family, friends, pets and kids and good health. A toast to another year of gratitude for all of our friends both new and old.

    1 Zinfandel is always number one with us. It is an iconic grape here in Dry Creek Valley and our flagship. We received some nice accolades for all three of our red Zins as well as our Rosé on our recent releases. We are dedicated to this iconic grape and wine-cheers to 2020!

  • Repealed!

    December 3, 2019 16:11

    Repealed!

    December 5 marks the anniversary of the end of a long dry time in America. Each year, especially in wine country, we celebrate the end of Prohibition by raising a glass or two on the anniversary of Repeal of the 18th Ammendment-December 5, 1933. Prohibition itself played an important role in how we got into winegrowing. In fact, if Prohibition hadn’t happened I’m not sure we’d be in the wine business today.

    The tale has been lost to history as to why my grandparents bought 90 acres in 1927. I think it is because my grandfather, who arrived to the U.S. from Italy as a teenager, wanted a piece of land he could call his own after working on other farms. The property included 25 acres of vineyard, a home and a shuttered winery. It was sold by the Canata family who could no longer shoulder the debt of owning the land-and there may have been more to the story there as well, also lost to history. Even though Prohibition began in 1919 if you still owned vineyard you could sell grapes to home winemakers if they were a ‘head of household’ and obtained the permit from the federal government. Each household could make 200 gallons of wine per year.

    Now let’s think about this for a moment: this totals 84 cases or about 4 gallons per week. 20 bottles a week, or just shy of 3 bottles per day. Big families? Tradition? Thirsty? Many of these home winemakers had wine in their DNA-or at least were accustomed to enjoying wine with their meals every day. These were families from the old country with traditions which included wine on the table. Thanks to these home winemakers who bought grapes they also kept some vineyards growing through this period—and helped wineries reboot once Repeal rolled around. Statistically, the story is a sad one for Dry Creek Valley. Before 1919 there were 17 wineries making just over 1 million gallons of wine. Business was booming and then the hammer came down. Many of the vineyards were taken out and planted to prunes and other orchard crops. While there was still a market for wine grapes the bottom fell out by 1925 or so and part of the reason for the sale of the property. Gratefully December 5, 1933 ended this nationwide dry spell and we were poised at the right time to enter the winemaking business. Only 2 other wineries survived the next decade and it wasn’t until the 1970s when our county and valley saw a resurgence of wineries. Raise your glass, enjoy a bit of history and be thankful we are a nation that believes we should have wine on our tables.

    For those who love details I found this blog post from the Consitution Center and National Archives is a blog post on the 21st Ammendment and 5 things you may not have known!