August 7, 2020 14:55
Earlier this year I chose Cabernet Sauvignon as the varietal of the year and have posted a few thoughts on them (here). Yes it is the king of red wine grapes worldwide, it is made in almost every region and its’ distinctive traits come from the personality of the site: climate, soil, how it is planted, clonal selection. What makes this of all the red wines the ‘one to plant’?
In 1965 John and Jim Pedroncelli bought 5 acres of land just off of the corner of West Dry Creek Road and Yoakim Bridge Road. It was planted to prunes at the time-no old vine story here. Jim and John had purchased the winery from their parents in 1963 so I consider this their first venture following the ownership change. The varietal they chose? Cabernet Sauvignon. Up until now we had the acreage planted on the Home Ranch (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir!, Chenin Blanc) and this was a momentous decision-it meant we were adding a wine that would one day become equal to production of our Zinfandel, and the now the most widely planted red wine grape in California.
Why did they plant this particular variety? There weren’t many vineyards along the valley floor at the time or anywhere for that matter-the area was just on the brink of a wine Renaissance in the 1970s. Like this land most of the valley floor had been turned over to prune and other orchards when Prohibition set in and the thriving vineyards were pulled up and other crops were set in their place. It was time to reclaim the soil for wine grapes!
Why Cabernet Sauvignon? Let’s look at how wine reentered the scene first of all. Following Prohibition, the Great Depression and World War II, which were all challenges to what was once a burgeoning wine industry in the area, we needed people to re-engage with wine. One of the outcomes of this war, which sent troops abroad, was the experience tasting European wines. They came back with a thirst for wines similar to what they had tasted there and Cabernet was among those.
In the first years of production, while waiting on the estate vineyard to mature and produce, John and Jim bought from Alexander Valley grape growers Robert Young and Harry Wetzel, both of whom had started growing Cabernet a few years earlier. Sometimes there was even a bit of Zinfandel blended in by John to stretch the production in those early vintages. Our first release of Cabernet Sauvignon was in 1966.
Today the entire production comes from estate vineyards which encompasses 32 acres-our Three Vineyards, Block 007 and Wisdom. The great growing conditions of northern Dry Creek Valley, with the right climate and gravelly soils, gave us the ability to grow and make great Cabernet. We replanted that first vineyard on West Dry Creek Road around 2005-it was 40 years old. Trying to maintain an old Cabernet vineyard was becoming far too difficult. I previously mentioned clonal selection and when the new vineyard was planted, now named Wisdom, John chose the Mendoza clone or Clone 4 to plant there. Four vintages of Wisdom prove he was right in selecting it-and this wine is the expression of the wisdom gained by planting one variety of grape in one place and showcases the distinctive fruit of this clone. The torch is now carried forward by winemaker Montse Reece who honors the memory of John with each vintage produced.
Time to time I have been fortunate to taste the wines from those early years. I also have received notes from friends who have pulled a bottle from their library and truly enjoyed the wine, sending glowing reports and photos-each one a time capsule of its own. They continue to tell the story of my family farming the king of red wine grapes for 55 years.
July 28, 2020 16:13
#PairitwithPed is an idea from our son Joe St. John-who texted me one day from Whole Foods where he had found our Mother Clone Zinfandel on the shelves. He was inspired and suggested I write about pairing wine and food. I added experiences and put them all under this hashtag. They have become a regular feature now.
This month the food is mascarpone cheese-and how the memory of this simple dessert accompaniment has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. I was reminded of it when I was reading Janet Fletcher's Planet Cheese newsletter (Janet is also a prolific cookbook author besides being a cheese maven). She was talking about making ice cream with mascarpone and it brought back memories of the dessert I had at a restaurant in McMinnville OR all those years ago-it was that delicious!
Setting the stage for the experience: It was this time of year when Ed and I traveled to Oregon to work the market. Back in those days I was representing the winery and he was selling cork and winery equipment for fp Packaging. Once our work days were done we would meet for dinner at a local restaurant. We were in McMinnville and had heard that Nick’s was the place to go. After a wonderful meal the dessert list was brought out and the waiter announced a seasonal choice of ripe summer fruits over mascarpone cheese. We ordered it and we LOVED it-with perfectly ripened peaches, nectarines, blackberries, marionberries and raspberries. All topped over freshly made mascarpone in a parfait glass-wow wow wow! We have eaten many meals out over the years and I can think of just one other dessert that topped this one-fresh peaches in Moscato d’Asti when we were visiting Piemonte Italy mid summer-there’s a theme here…
But let me set the record straight-mascarpone is not *really* cheese and when made fresh resembles whipped cream without the air-dense and rich.
The second part of the story is about a cookbook I happened upon just a year later entitled Dinner Party: The New Entertaining by Jane Freiman. While I was leafing through it I came across a recipe for Lemon Tirami Su which included a page on making mascarpone at home. Two ingredients: heavy cream and lemon juice. It does take some time for the whey to drain out and you need a few general kitchen items like a colander and cheesecloth/coffee filters. Sometimes it takes overnight until the whey drains out and makes a cream that is spreading consistency. The recipe for it is here.
Once I was reminded of this dessert gem I made the mascarpone and paired it with fresh peaches. Quite simple and captures summertime nicely. So we have the food, the experience and now for the wine. I would recommend our friends.white to go along with the summer fruits and rich mascarpone. This white wine blend is fruity and floral on its own. A perfect #PairitwithPed combination.
July 27, 2020 09:22
93 years ago (July 22, 1927) my grandfather signed the papers on the purchase of a home, vineyard and shuttered winery near the town of Geyserville in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. I often wonder what the day was like-did it hold trepidation for him and his young family? Were there hopes that Prohibition would end soon and they could make a living selling wine? Or would they move on to something else? The legacy they created that day spans four generations and 9 decades here in Dry Creek Valley!
My grandparents, both immigrants from northern Italy, came to the United States separately in the early 1900s. My grandfather arrived along with his sister Caterina (she later died in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic) and found work around the Placerville and later Redding area. My grandmother came with her mother and sister to meet my great-grandfather who had found a place in Redding CA.
My grandparents met, as the story goes, when my grandfather was selling vegetables to local businesses and met my grandmother when he called on their hotel-just about 10 years after they had arrived in the United States.
They married, settled in Dunsmuir, and a few years later they pulled up roots and moved to Geyserville leaving behind family and friends. Giovanni & Julia arrived at the new property with three children between the ages of 7 and 2 years old along with all of their worldly possessions. In light of history it was a challenging period with Prohibition in full swing and the Great Depression following just two years later.
During this COVID time of sheltering in place I have to imagine it was almost the same feeling as we have now: being cut off from family and friends, striking out into new territory, not knowing what will happen in the next weeks and months. There weren’t many neighbors to begin with, the town of Geyserville was three miles away and they didn’t have friends nearby.
The beauty of this story comes with the knowledge of the hard work it took to overcome the odds and to wait patiently for the times to change. It was another 6 years of Prohibition before it was Repealed and almost 10 years for the Depression to end. All the while supporting a young family which welcomed one more child in 1932, my dad Jim.
They started by first selling the grapes to head of households in the area and launched a new family business of making wine in 1934. The ensuing years saw many changes in the way the family worked the land and made wine. I stand in awe of what they were able to achieve from there. I must remember what it took to get through those times because, like all of us, I need the reminder of better days to come.
If you would like to take a trip down memory lane click here for our history gallery.
July 24, 2020 15:50
Another month into vintage 2020 and the next stage of the grape development is here: veraison. From here on out we can predict harvest dates by when the fruit begins the transition from hard green pea sized berries to a lighter softer green in the white varieties and shades of purple in the reds. I caught up with Mitch Blakely, fourth generation family member, as he was heading home for the day.
“We are watching the vines as the crop on each turns color-all but 11 acres of what we farm are red wine varieties and Merlot seems to be out ahead of the pack at 50% of the fruit turning color. Zinfandel isn’t too far behind at about 35%. Other varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon range from 5-15%. What that tells us is we’re looking at an average to slightly later harvest with mid-September for white grapes and lighter red wine grapes followed by Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah the first couple of weeks of October. This timing is typical of the past harvests from normal growing seasons. And of course this will change if the weather spikes higher as we get nearer to picking.”
“It’s been hot at the beginning of July so one of the other jobs I had was trying to find blocks needing water. The vines were getting slightly stressed, slowly development down because of heat although some of the days topped out at 100 degrees but tapered off as the late afternoon fog began to come in. While fairly early on in the season it is better to have the higher heat at this time. Varietals susceptible to damage during heat are Zinfandel, Merlot and Sangiovese on hillside or limited soils where they have a tough time bouncing back. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, can handle it. It was unseasonably cool at the last half of July which helped the vines out a lot."
He continued, "The crop size is fairly consistent, not as big of a year as last year. Not as many clusters and counts are down-which is a good thing because it is easier on the vines. We'll see COVID harvest protocols slow down harvesting with smaller crews and split crews for picking in order to keep our vineyard crew safe. Hoping for a nice even harvest with lots of time in between. Other projects include working on the vine blocks under the Scott Henry system where they are separating out the canes and pinching them down so the arms aren't snapped off during machine harvesting (Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc). There are 20-25 acres of the split system so it takes a while-7 acres done so far and there is time to get this done. Pulling leaves and dropping fruit (also known as green harvest) also has taken place in order to allow ripening of the clusters as well as lightening the load on the vine."
Thanks Mitch for the time and information-cheers to Vintage 2020 as it comes more into focus with each month. Follow our vineyard next month when we are in striking distance of harvest.
July 24, 2020 15:39
While I was on vacation I decided to put together some of the responses I have received from my 'Notes from Home' over May and June 2020. Some are how you have coped with working from home-or being retired and staying home. Some are about how you happened upon Pedroncelli in your travels. They warm my heart, make me laugh out loud and also make me think as I read over them. This compilation, while you were the authors, means so much to me, my family and staff. Thank you all for sharing! And by no means stop writing me vintage stories and notes from your homes!
From YOUR Vintage Story:
Doug & Jan, Circa 2007: “My wife, Jan and I found Pedroncelli on our cross country trip from our home in the Finger Lakes area of NYS to my brothers home in Fresno via Yellowstone, Portland beer scene. As we headed south I decided to pull off at the Geyserville exit and saw the signpost for Dry Creek Valley. We spotted you sign and said “Why not?” We arrived at opening and tasted with a couple of newly weds and enjoyed at great tasting including you 4-Grape Port with dark chocolate covered espresso beans. Way to start the day. We’ve been fans ever since. Love you guys and the wonderful food and wine pairings. When we want Calif. wine we trend to Sonoma and Dry Creek. We love your Bushnell Zin. Best wishes from Upstate NY.”
Bruce: “My story starts around the summer of 1980. A friend from Windsor took me wine tasting to your winery and that day the winemaker, John, was doing a 10yr vertical pouring and said it was very special. I was new to wine tasting and did not know that tasting vintages from 1979 down to 1969 was as special as it was. Also in those days, there were no charges for the tasting, the good ole days! After that day, Pedroncelli Zinfandel would be one of my favorite wines.
Part Two & Three of my story happens around 2013-14. On a trip south (from McKinnleyville CA) to see my daughter, I stopped in to do a tasting. The lady that was working there was a local. We started chatting about wine and I casually said, "I see you have a new tasting room". And she said,"No it’s been here a long time". I replied it's been 23 or 24 years since I was here. I joined the wine club that day.
On the return trip from my daughter's place. I stopped in on the way back. Again, around 11:00 clock, middle of the week, same employee working, I'm tasting some wine, looking out a window towards the parking lot, when a couple of old guys get out of the shiny black SL500 Mercedes and come into the tasting room. The employee tells the gentlemen that there is a 5.00 tasting fee, and they answer, no problem. Then the driver of the Mercedes says to lady, "is John in today" and she explains John has gone home for the day but can she say who asking? He says "Davis Bynum", and at this point the employee is visibly nervous and excited at the same time. She tells him that Jim is here and will call him and within a minute Jim arrives in the tasting room. At this point, the lady says,"Mr. Bynum there will be no charge for the tasting" and I said “with that Mercedes he could afford a 10.00 tasting”. Everybody laughs and Davis said, I like your style young man, (I was 58-59 at the time and he was well into his 80's. I had finished my tasting and bought a couple of bottles to offset the 5.00 fee and decided it was time to go. I wish I would have stayed a little longer to watch two icons of the wine industry discuss wines and life. A Pedroncelli fan 40 plus years and counting.”
Wesley, circa 2015: “I don’t think we’ve met, but we are big fans of Pedroncelli, having been introduced through wine.woot back in the day. We live in Rochester, NY, and have visited the winery twice- once Jon Brown gave us a great tour and we met Jim in the tasting room when he came in for a glass of Wisdom cab. The second time we met Colin and he showed us around. We have had good luck, at least for our first two kids, finding some birth year wines way late in the game. I remember calling Jon in 2015 when our oldest daughter, Brooke, was twenty, to see if you guys had any 1995 wines still in the cellar. I’m pretty sure that Ed walked through the whole warehouse and ended up finding a magnum of 1995 Three Vineyards Cabernet that he didn’t know was there. Jon sold it to me for $50. I was shocked! We opened it to celebrate Brooke’s 21st birthday on April 22, 2016. The wine was fabulous, and the empty bottle still lives up on a shelf in our wine cellar, reminding us of the wonder of bringing our first child into the world.”
From A View from 1985:
Mark: “Great reading about your experience in 1985. In 1985 I had just completed my first year of grad school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I had a summer job at Busch Gardens working up data for food service and rides at the theme park. My wife Catherine and I had a 2 year son and we had passes for the park for the summer, so I worked many hours compiling data for the park (pre-desktop computing) and the family could hang out in the park. A year later I graduated with a master's degree in business finance and off I ran to work in Washington, DC for several years. A lot has transpired in the last 35 years, some good and some bad, but hopefully we learn and appreciate the fact that we made it to June of 2020.”
John and Sheryl Allen: Well, in 1985 we (wife Sheryl and 5 yr old son Jamie and I) lived in Seiad Valley, in the home we still live in today. Jamie is 40, has a nice wife Emily and 3 wonderful children, and they live 3 miles from us. They have a creek on their property about the size of Dry Creek with a swimming hole to keep us all cool. I was beginning my career with the US Forest Service performing forest inventory (measuring trees) and fighting forest fires. We made frequent trips to Healdsburg to visit my dad, Bob Allen on S. Fitch Mtn. Rd., since my mom Ruth passed away in 1983. We often came to your tasting room to taste and buy wine. Our trips are less frequent now, but every now and then we come down and see our friend Tom H. and stay at Geyserville Inn and eat at Catelli's. I've been retired for 7 years, and now we tend our garden and orchard on 4 acres, make my mom’s raviolis (original recipe from northern Italy), drink your good zin and enjoy living in the woods! Before COVID, we used to travel and golf, and stay at our second home in Ashland Or. I hope we can do that again soon! We love your Sonoma Co. and our Siskiyou Co. ----- Take care and enjoy and wish for better times!
Richard V.: “Our first visit to Pedroncelli Winery was to the barn tasting room. Two older gentlemen were pouring the wine and talking and telling stories. It had to be more than thirty-eight years ago because our daughter had not been born yet. In later years we visited with her at about age 10 or 11. At that time there was an art exhibit in the room off the new tasting room. Our daughter was really enthused for some of the art and wrote a note to the artist. The artist answered her little note and she was so totally excited to hear back from the artist! My wife and I still try to stop by the winery when we are in the area. Also, we are now members of the wine club. Good luck and keep up the good work!”
Steve: “Early 80’s was the time of our first visit to Pedroncelli. First purchase was either Mother Clone or a Cabernet, I’m not sure. I remember one year on a Celebrity Cruise we were excited to find a Pedroncelli on a Celebrity Cruise and got them to save enough bottles for us to have one each night at dinner. It is still difficult to find your wines in our Des Moines stores but we order regularly online to keep our stock current. My personal favorite is the Port with chocolate dessert. Dr. doesn’t want me to eat desserts so haven’t had any in a while. It’s a Pedroncelli chilling right now (Chardonnay) for dinner tonight. Keep up the good work and keep the great old favorites as many wineries are following the trendy wine of the month path.”
“It’s Judy, the healthcare worker from Washington State. I’m the one who was looking forward to visiting and having some Friends Red on my trip in June. Thankfully we are making progress in these challenging times and I’m so happy things worked out! We were able to visit last Sunday and Gary did a wonderful job with our tasting. We were so glad to visit as “Life Opens Up” in Sonoma County. I just received my shipment and look forward to enjoying each and every bottle. Stay well.”
Mark: “My wife and I are club members and have been for a few years now. I can tell you that we treasure your wines. I’m originally from CA but we’ve been in Texas for 25 years. We consider your wines the best quality for the price and we’ve visited many wineries all over the world. When we receive a club shipment, or a case we have ordered it brightens our day (and month) in many ways. During these times we have certainly enjoyed many a glass of Pedroncelli wine on our back porch. We live way out in the country and quarantining at home has not been a huge chore for us. Your wine has certainly made that easier to deal with. Things in Texas are opening up a bit but being where we are, we would pretty much like to spend our time here anyway. My wife can work from home and I am retired so we are certainly not complaining. I also realize that not all are as lucky and I hope for their sakes that things improve quickly. We wish you the best and please keep doing what you do.”
Dean: “All is well here in Omaha, NE. Luckily we have an acreage about 10 miles from mid town Omaha so have the ability to get out to garden, etc. Always lots to do. Is nice to be a “semi hermit”. The garden is responding well to the warmer weather but still need to rain. Tomatoes have set on and even the parsnips are growing. Last year that did not happen as we had lots of rain and not a lot of warm weather. Been eating fresh asparagus daily from our garden for the past month or so. It is getting to the point that Ann and I look at each other and say “what are we going to have with asparagus tonight.” We have an English couple in their mid to late 80s who live up the road so share asparagus and rhubarb with them on a weekly basis. They are very much concerned about the virus so are homebound on their acreage. Otherwise, no complaints as of this date. Just finished reading an interesting book, American Harvest. Saw a review of it in The New Yorker and thought it was one to read. I found it rather fascinating. Since your family is in agriculture, you might find the book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery interesting. At the ranch we have various meadows and sloughs that are virgin prairies. We are working on a number of conservation projects including the removal of eastern red cedar trees, the bane of pastures. Time to head up there tomorrow to check things out. Need a long drive to get away for a bit. Hope all is well with you. Keep smiling and remember, it could be worse! (My uplifting thought for the day). (Grin).”
June 30, 2020 09:50
I received a text from our son Joe last month-he was excited because 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 second in a series of pairing wine, food and experiences.
The first hot day of June rolled around on the second day-95 degrees and it was time to take out the boat and go to Lake Sonoma. This year we had to wait for the public boat ramp to open—COVID19 etc which took place toward the end of May. Our 'dinner cruises' are something Ed and I do every year during the spring, summer and fall. We plan at least one day during the week when we would prepare a picnic dinner, pick up the boat from storage and launch at the lake in northern Dry Creek Valley.
There were some firsts however-Jasper had never been to the lake or on a boat before. I am recreating recipes from our website and had chosen a Grilled Chicken Salad with Mint, Feta and Toasted Pita Bread. We had a guest along too-my sis-in-law Carol who was staying with us and is from Maui. And of course there is the first time to put the boat in and remember all the details that go along with it-fan on, pump the gas a couple of times, remember to put the motor down all the way and the like. The lake was beckoning and it was time to go relax in the cool!
We brought along a bottle of our Sauvignon Blanc which always pairs well with dinner on the boat, especially with this recipe. With a lemon-cumin marinade & dressing with kalamata olives and feta the wine and food pairing was perfect-plus did I mention we were on the boat? Carol commented that she typically didn’t like mint but in this salad it worked with the lemon zest in the dressing and the tomatoes. I used a locally made Feta which was delicate not salty and chalky-it made a difference. And grilling the chicken ahead of time helped this to become an easy midweek meal that was also easy to transport.
Jasper, seen here post-excursion over and out in the boat, had a blast zooming along the shore, trying to get sticks out of the water, barking and listening to his ‘counterpart’ bark back from across the cove, bothering a squirrel that was outraged at the idea of a dog running below his tree, chirping aggressively. It was our evening's entertainment besides the chorus of birds, the gaggle of geese swimming along and the occasional splash of a fish hitting the surface-the big on that got away.
Our evening ended as the sun set and it became noticeably cooler (and darker). Sometimes on our way back in-we are typically about 10 miles from the ramp-I need to dig out our sweatshirts to keep warm. But not this time-the bands of cool and hot air as we took the boat in at 45 miles per hour were sensational. An experience which filled all our senses from the wine to the food to the views.
Each month I'll have a new #PairitwithPed story. If you send me your stories (and many of you have) I’ll share them here in an upcoming post.
June 29, 2020 11:27
Where were you in 1985? This year marks my 35th at Pedroncelli Winery so June is a special month for me as it is the anniversary of the start of my career in the family business. 35 years ago…more than half my life and the other half was spent growing up here. I did move away to attend college in Marin County (go Penguins) but always came home to visit with family and it is how my path back home began.
Post college, as I drove back and forth from the East Bay to Geyserville, I was missing Sonoma County quite a bit (by the way the place I lived in was right next to the Del Norte BART station and the track ran above the fence). After the invitation from my father Jim (actually a meeting in the case goods warehouse), I agreed to make the move back home and work for the family. Once home, I supplemented my liberal arts education with classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College where I learned from the greats-Richard Thomas (vineyard) and Bill Traverso (wine marketing) among others.
As I eased into the business of wine I began in the Tasting Room working with cousin Richard. I eventually made my way into the office and began doing administrative work. Writing fact sheets and then the newsletter was a natural extension of my education as an English major. 2020 also marks the 30th anniversary of writing newsletters in various formats over the years. 10 years ago I switched from printing the newsletter to the electronic version. My blog posts on Vino in my Dino began 6 years ago. Those projects represent thousands of words about the winery, our history and family as well as musings and opinions over the years.
In light of this year and all the COVID 19 sheltering in place, wearing of masks, and physically distancing ourselves helps me put some of these things in perspective: my grandparents started from scratch in 1927. Two years later the Great Depression began. They made it through and I have realized by talking to my late uncle John and dad Jim and hearing their stories of the early years made me realize it wasn’t a ‘fun’ time. I imagine it must have been hard for my grandparents to make a living and to feed the family. But because of the land they bought, they were able to have a farm, to sell grapes to support the family and learn a new way of life that would span 9 decades and four generations.
In the time I have worked for the family business I have seen huge swings and changes in how wine is sold and talked about. The internet, of course, is the biggest change in how we communicate our story and messages-website, social media channels, email and newsletters. Marketing wine nationally and globally are now par for the course. My newsletters have always communicated what was going on and where we were headed.
Reflections on my first newsletter-dated Spring 1990, Vol.1 No.1 (by clicking here you'll go to our gallery for the rest.)
The format here is the typical four-page newsletter with the information in order of importance-front page with news, the middle pages featuring varietals and new releases and the back panel reserved for the shorter messages of signing up to receive the newsletter and information on upcoming events-in this case it was for the Passport to Dry Creek Valley which many of you are familiar with as the trademark event of our area.
As I read through it some things remain the same because of who we are-can’t change the beginnings or the middle. The history of the first and second generations are in place. You’ll see we made 12 wines at the time including Chenin Blanc, Gamay Beaujolais and Riesling. Today there are other varietals planted in their place (Syrah instead of Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Riesling). Wisdom comes with farming a variety and finding out another one does even better in its’ place or is an answer to what our friends like to drink. Palates were evolving from lighter sweeter wines to more complex wines. We were also known as a ‘best value’ winery. This stand the test of time-this week Dan Berger wrote about our wines and included here his thoughts on the value our wines represent.
The next pages were a bit of a mish mash-I was learning the ropes obviously. Interestingly the new releases for that time of year include three wines we no longer produce-White Zinfandel, Dry Chenin Blanc and Gamay Beaujolais. I gave an update on the cellar as well as talked about how long we had grown and produced Cabernet Sauvignon-and how long to age it with the suggestion of buying a case of our 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
What have I learned? To tell the story-even if it is from my perspective and to tell it in a way that reflects who I am and who we are. I enjoy being a storyteller what with our rich history, generations of farming wine grapes and making wine allows for many opportunities to see things from all angles. Those stories, like the newsletters, create a timeline of the Pedroncelli family and what we have accomplished over 9 decades-and 5 generations.
How about you? I bet a lot of things have changed in that time. 35 years ago Back to the Future was the number one movie, the KC Royals won the World Series (remember baseball?) and the 49ers won the Superbowl. Memories of Live Aid, The Cosby Show and, fittingly, Aretha Franklin’s voice was named a natural resource of Michigan. Tell me-did you have a bottle of our Gamay or Chenin Blanc back then? Did you buy a case of the 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and do you have any in your cellar? Did you visit the tasting room when it was in the case goods warehouse (which is where I began)? Or earlier did you meet my grandfather who welcomed people in to taste in the 1950s/1960s? I look forward to hearing your stories as always and won’t be resting on my laurels as I have even more to write about in the coming years.
June 26, 2020 13:42
Following the vineyard was supposed to be a monthly event series that we had planned out for the tasting room. We envisioned guests coming to the winery each month to follow our Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard from budbreak through harvest and beyond. Well COVID19 put a stop to that as the first Saturday (Bud Break) was set for March 21st. Here we are in June with the vineyard well on it’s way to vintage 2020 having been on a growing spurt ever since. Nature hasn’t recognized our sheltering in place and the growth of summer will soon be harvested in the fall.
I checked in with Mitch Blakeley, fourth generation family member, who works alongside his father Lance Blakeley and is our Vineyard & Operations Manager. I was curious how things were going and he filled me in with the latest.
The bloom phase was over by the first week of June and the crop set began. It has been busy as the vineyard crew works to finish the last of the suckering before the shoots become too hardened and difficult to remove easily. A vine likes to grow and sometimes overdoes it. Suckering or taking off the shoots and extra growth allows the vine to focus its’ energy on the crop at hand rather than all the extra foliage and fruit-think of it as managing expectations.
Managing the vineyard also includes clean-up work, like weeding, disking, trimming and tucking, pinching down the canes to guard against sunburn. The new bunches forming, as seen above, are susceptible to burning if the leaves don’t cover them. Irrigation has begun due to the high heat experienced over the month and the vines are given just enough water to sustain them. Crop thinning is also taking place in some of the Zinfandel blocks-leaving a good sized crop that will also ripen more evenly with less fruit on the vines.
Mitch mentioned it was unusually hot this month with many days topping out at the mid-high 90s. I remember June as a cooler month and we have had the challenge of rain during bloom and crop set (2011) as well as what is known as June gloom (2005 for instance). I also wanted to see if we had experienced high heat and found a blog post from June 2017. Here is what we experienced then:
“What happens in the vineyard when summer hasn’t even begun and we have one of the hottest days on record? On Sunday June 18th the temperature hit 110 degrees in our little corner of Dry Creek Valley. The days that followed were not much better and the mercury wavered between the mid 90s to over 100 degrees again on Thursday.
It isn’t the first time the month of June has seen this heat and it does some good to know the following week we had our fog back in the evenings with pleasant temps in the low 80s. I asked our Vineyard Manager Lance Blakeley to explain a few things to me. How does he prepare? What happens to the fruit? Was it a good time to have a heat wave?
First of all he was ready for the heat-farmers are always weather watchers and he and the crew prepared the vineyard for what was coming by drip irrigating the ranches, which totals 105 acres. This in and of itself helped the vines to survive the brutal heat which hit on the 18th. The fruit was protected by the canopy of canes and leaves. There was little to no scorching of the green berries. If there was a good time to have a heat wave this was it-if it had occurred during bloom time we would have a more drastic story to tell.
I learned something too. The leaves actually move to cover either the stem or the fruit, whichever is in danger of scorching. One way to test if the vine is keeping cool is to feel the leaves-if they are cool then they are safe. If they are warm to the touch then they need some help as they’ll begin to wilt and become overwhelmed by the heat. Kind of like people-we wilt when it becomes too hot and just want a cool drink of water. The good news is the vineyards become acclimated to the heat by this first wave.”
Getting back to vintage 2020, as the clusters size up over the next couple of weeks, July will bring the next stage-veraision-for now we’ll see what the next month brings in the form of weather and toast the coming harvest with a splash of vino in my dino.
June 24, 2020 11:46
Like the woman in the Mervyn’s ads so many years ago we eagerly awaited the reopening of our tasting room-the first time we have been closed to the public in our 9 decades of operation. We are thrilled to be open once again having first received the green light from the state and then about a week later the go ahead from Sonoma County. With some additional guidelines, of course, thanks to COVID19.
Since March 16 the ‘Plan C’ on how we would re-open and operate in the period following the mandated closure of wine tasting has been on our minds. What would be expected, how we’d keep everyone safe, what would tasting be like, all under consideration. We do know this new experience will be shared everywhere because similar guidelines were developed from dining in at restaurants to going to the grocery store-If you are going inside masks and physical distancing would be required. Not quite the same as wine tasting in 2019 for sure. After nearly three months and a few virtual tastings along the way we have thrown open the cellar door with what I’ll call the COVID19 twist.
We are taking reservations which is another first in our tasting room history-we have always been a ‘walk right in, step up to the tasting bar’ kind of place. Also, and this comes as no surprise to everyone during this time, masks are required of staff and visitors-at least for our guests they can take off the mask once seated at their table in order to enjoy the wine tasting experience. Physical distance between parties is also a requirement as well as monitoring visitor flow so we don’t get too crowded. Think of it as your own private tasting area replete with wine, friends and your own ‘table’.
Another new development is in the way we offer our wines for tasting, once you are here, in the form of wine flights. Wine flights were something we were thinking about before COVID19 and was kicked off by our tasting room manager Gary. It was a way to navigate our 20 wines by offering suggestions and putting together wines with a theme. Hence the name of today’s Note from Home: IpsumLoremPourSomeMoreum. Ed and I were working on the copy for the flights and most everyone is familiar with the IpsumLorem filler as a replacement when copy isn’t quite ready yet, right? He filled in with this phrase and I got a kick out of it.
But I digress. By organizing these flights into groups like The Burgundian (Chardonnays and Pinot Noir); Classic Dry Creek Valley (Flagship Zinfandels & Petite Sirah) or The Road Less Traveled (our small lot wines and unusual varieties) we felt it would be easier for our guests to make their way through the number of wines we make. We also offer Create Your Own Flight and left it up to you to choose your favorite wines-it’s how we roll here at Pedroncelli.
Nonetheless, we are determined to make your visit here a pleasant one, although there are things we ask of you!
- Make a reservation by sending an email or calling the tasting room 707-857-3531 option 1
We can take a few walk-in guests, but space is limited.
- Bring your favorite mask, and wear at at all times when you are away from your table.
- Sanitize your hands (you'll see the cool little dispensers as you enter.)
- Keep physically distant from other guests--at least six bottles of Zin laying end-to-end.
- And most of all please join us when you are feeling your best-or else we’ll have to take your temperature!
By the way, for those of you still homebound or far away and won’t be traveling soon we’ll be offering our tasting room flights virtually if you'd like to order your in-home version. We will be happy to connect with you to talk about the wines at a mutually convenient time of course! firstname.lastname@example.org is the way to reach us for those.
- Make a reservation by sending an email or calling the tasting room 707-857-3531 option 1
June 24, 2020 11:05
My notes from home over the last three months have included many topics during COVID19 and I’d like to revisit one of them and check back in with you-how are you? Or as Joey from the comedy series Friends said, How you doin’?
Day Ninety Whatever and 11 weeks into sheltering in place. Apologies for the reminder but we are all still here, summer is beckoning, things are opening up but the state and county here caution us all to remain vigilant. I don’t think it is the stay at home that gets me so much as it is being hyper-aware when I am out doing the necessary or usual things. I had an actual doctor’s appointment-not a virtual one. I was stopped at the door to have my temperature taken and asked a barrage of questions ending in did I know anyone who was ill with the coronavirus in my household. Personally, I’d lead with that question!
All things considered I am working through the stages of SIP: happy to work from home, overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, wondering why so and so has time on their hands to do puzzles, not know what day it actually is let alone the date, and finally forgetting to take my mask with me. I've learned to bring extras.
These days the eyes have it. Eye contact is key-has anyone realized how our eyes tell all when we have a mask on? While out the other day at the grocery store I was reminded of a memory from years ago by looking into the eyes of Jordan my checker (shout out to Big John’s Market and their checkers-all doing a wonderful job!). We took the kids to a Gold Rush place in Coloma CA and part of the experience was a stage coach ride. We were riding along when suddenly we were stopped and the door flew opened to reveal a bandit with a bandana mask, shades of SIP! My eyes locked with his-and I realized he wasn’t really into his role -perhaps an off day for this fellow. He continued with the “robbery” and we continued on our way saved by the sheriff, or the stage coach driver. The memory of how revealing his eyes were at that moment reminded me when I look at people today our eyes are the windows of our souls!
How are you doing? If I were to look into your eyes above your mask what would I see? I have heard from many of you and so far you are maintaining a healthy outlook on life at home/work at home/retirement at home/homeschooling at home and have made adjustments at this stage in the SIP game. While some of the states and counties are opening up earlier than California-lucky you-I am still waiting to throw open the doors of our tasting room and say directly to you, "how you doin'?"
- Lake Sonoma
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- Courage Zinfandel
- Bushnell Vineyard
- Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon
- Holding steady
- Heat wave
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Wine & Food
- Mother Clone
- cooking with wine
- Follow the Vineyard
- Vintage 2020
- Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
- Dry Creek Valley
- Wine Flights
- Sonoma County
- Crop set
- Tasting Room
- note from home
- Walbridge Fire
- Cabernet Sauvignon