Making Connections: Gary Gross
June 28, 2021 09:52
A few months ago my sister Lisa made a suggestion to write about our staff and their connections by using the PBS series “Finding Your Roots” as inspiration. I profiled Manuel Diaz and Polo Cano so far-both of these men have worked for Pedroncelli for a combined 60+ years.
Gary Gross, our Tasting Room Manager, is this month’s subject. Gary has worked with us for 20 years and this makes him one of our long-time employees-with a twist. He is retiring in July, July 4th to be exact. Independence Day takes on a whole new meaning for Gary this year.
His roots are Midwestern. He was born in a small farming town, the county seat, Princeton Illinois. With a population of 8000 he compares it to Santa Rosa as it was 50 years ago-a farming community and is the reason he ended up liking Sonoma County and later made it his home base later on in his career.
The reason for the move? He quipped, “Six months between October and February-that’s enough winter for me. Following college where he obtained a Voluntary Agency Administration degree he found a job in Pasadena, California with the Boy Scouts of America.
Gary already had history with the BSA-he and two brothers achieved Eagle Scout status in large part thanks to his parents who were stalwart Boy Scout supporters and leaders. One other brother didn’t make Eagle Scout-but that is a story for another day.
He met future wife Joy at a BSA training in Oregon but it wasn’t until 5 years later when they met again-she as an interviewer and he the interviewee-when interviewing for a position as District Director in Northern California.
He later teamed up with Joy to operate International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and was Western Regional Director where they marketed and administered an intern program and made the move to Tracy. Following this they ran Gourmet and Natural Foods Company for 10 years and left this company to work for one of their customers, G & G Specialty Foods, out of Santa Rosa.
They both had connections to Sonoma County: at one point Joy had lived in Sebastopol and Gary had visited Sonoma County on occasion as well as spent time at the BSA camp in Cazadero over a few summers. They loved their time in Sonoma County so it was a good fit when the G & G opportunity brought them here.
He shared the memory of his first visit to Pedroncelli, several years ago. He found the winery through his roommate's father who, at the time, was a Vice President at Wells Fargo. In the late 1950s the bank relocated him from the central valley to work on the burgeoning winery business in Napa and Sonoma because of his deep knowledge of agriculture. He sent Gary and his son winetasting in 1978 over Thanksgiving weekend because he had visited the wineries himself and knew almost every owner at the time. The family lived in San Rafael so it was easy to visit wine country from there.
Fittingly, while working for G & G, Gary also worked part time for events at Pedroncelli as well as filled in on the occasional weekend in the tasting room. When he left G & G he came to Pedroncelli as Tasting Room Manager.
Reminiscing, he says it has been fun to watch the changes in why people come to taste wine. Over the years he has seen the shift from people seeking out wine for wine’s sake to more of a social experience and the spike in the growth of wine country tourism has expanded the expectations. “We’ve been able to expose people to the wines who are new to wine; this place makes wine very approachable, it makes people feel comfortable and brings the wine experience into their life/dining experiences.
After 20 years of visiting with guests and sharing stories I asked if there was anything we don't know about him. He shared he is a NASCAR fan and has attending a race at Daytona on his bucket list.
His time in the tasting room will be remembered for his diligence duing the pandemic in making sure we welcomed guests appropriately while keeping staff safe as well. Among other things he is always dependable to map out and execute our events. Helpful, a storyteller, a foodie, with a deep knowledge of wine and a love for it as well. His Boy Scout sensibility has helped us through many times where a quick fix was needed-he always had the right tool or idea. Their motto is Prepared. For Life™. Quite fitting.
Just know he’ll be enjoying much deserved time with Joy and his extended family, including his 98 (!) year old mother. Do you have a story or memory of Gary? Share them so I can in turn put them together for him. We all wish you well as you enter retirement Gary!
COVID Operations, Part 3
February 1, 2021 14:54
Part three, Open/Close/Open/Close/Open, or here we go again. Earlier this week the State and County allowed us to reopen outdoor tasting. It reminds me of movie sequels: the third iteration is almost always filled with over the top shenanigans or huge groans--Little Fockers, Highlander III or Daddy Day Camp anyone? I can guarantee we won’t be having any of those shenanigans and will keep the groans to a minimum. We’ll offer great wine selections served on our deck surrounded by Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard vistas.
Along with the re-opening of our Tasting Room there is more good news this week here in Sonoma County. Rain and lots of it thanks to an atmospheric river which is drenching the entire state and states around us. They are counting several feet of snow in the mountains and flash flood warnings are being sent to us in the lowlands. The irony of the reopening to only outside tasting now? It happened right in the middle of our first major rainstorm. We’ll take it! And the hills are wearing their winter green giving visitors gorgeous views.
We take on challenges like this all the time. As I have said before we are all in this together and I know how this has turned our lives upside down. The good news is we have come out of the latest stretch of sheltering in place and businesses are being able to function again. The opening of operations is slow-pretty sure slow and steady will win the virus race. We'll look to future months (summer? fall?) as we hope for indoor tasting to open up. Large gatherings are still a big no but even the Wine Road, our trade group, is planning some of their signature events for later in the year, pandemic proofed of course.
I for one am looking forward to dining outside at our great local restaurants. I am aware that other states, with lighter guidelines, have already been doing this but here in California we are in for a treat after waiting and wondering when we can go out again-and so many of our local restaurants have invested in outdoor seating. You can bet many of us will be making our reservations and bundling up if it's cold. Like our winemaker Montse Reece said the other day “I can’t wait to go out to eat and have the food fixed and served at the restaurant itself-no more take out!”
COVID Operations Redux
September 28, 2020 16:17
Fall is my favorite time of year and the Mother Clone Zin vines are done with harvest and beginning to show their fall colors of red, yellow and orange. Six months into the pandemic and I thought I’d include an update on what we have been doing during COVID operations around the winery and vineyards. The seemingly mission impossible became possible because we found ways of running the family business in these times.
Harvest Ops: We are wrapping up Vintage 2020 as you read this note, the grapes are in and the fermentations will take a week or so to finish. The county and state guidelines slowed the vineyard crew down mostly at the beginning of the day-everything needed to be in order to keep everyone safe. The whole process took more time but the grapes were picked and the season came to an end on September 24 with the harvesting of our Cabernet Sauvignon. Everyone is clamoring to get answers about smoke damage. The truth is we have to wait for results from the very-overwhelmed labs. You can rest assured that we are doing everything we can to bring you the great wines you've come to expect from us.
Tasting Room Ops: Pandemic guidelines mean reservations for wine tasting are in order to keep our guests and staff safe. We reimagined how you would experience tasting in this new environment so we developed tasting flights and reserved seating along with a nominal tasting fee. Each flight captures a portion of our story and you have many to choose from including ‘choose your own’ flight. Plan ahead and let us know you are coming by sending an email to email@example.com. One of our friendly associates will get back to you with the details. Take a look and plan your next trip-we’ll reserve your spot and share our wines and stories.
Club Ops & Curbside Pick-up: Colin and crew kept up to date with you and shipped out our wines to all corners of the U.S. by offering themed specials of our favorites. We packed the wine club shipment in house again and in order to use less paper we included the vignettes and the recipes in the links below. Are you a will-call kind of club member? We have your September selection ready for pick up anytime during tasting room hours (10am to 4:30pm). We have continued with curb side-pick up throughout the pandemic and many people found pre-ordering wine for a touchless experience was very convenient—drive up, pick up and drive away. All you have to do is call the tasting room 707-857-3531 ext 1 or go online and place your order.
Virtually Yours: We Zoomed, we’ve FB’d, IG’d and IG’d Live all as a way of keeping in touch with you! I just appeared on a global Zoom with our retail partner in the UK—along with winery owners in Italy and South Africa. We talked and shared what is going on in our part of the globe and it was enlightening as we all share the same pandemic experience. We love to have conversations with our friends (that’s you Jack & Jo, Denny & Patsy, Becky & Cal among others) and we’d love to ‘see’ you. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know a good time to meet.
Note from Home: IpsumLoremPourSomeMoreum
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! email@example.com 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
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