March 26, 2019 14:07
A year or so ago when talking to winemaker Montse Reece about our Zinfandel she summed it all up in one phrase: Zinfandel tells the story of every vintage. She said the wine, as it is poured into the glass and tasted, reflects what happened in the particular year from the growing season to the harvest season with the challenges and opportunities each one brings. Three of our recent vintages, 2015, 2016 and 2017, tell their own stories too. I’ll recapture what was going on in each of them and hope you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the road from budbreak to grapes to wine.
2015 This was at the apex of the drought which began in 2012 and finally ended in 2017. The years in between saw the vines beginning to be stressed especially since 2014 had very little rain-less than half of the average amount. 2015 didn’t see much more. The vintage was defined by the drought with an early and fast growing season. We had early bud break followed by a warm growing season which turned hot and sped up the picking of the grapes-we finished harvest before September was over-typically we finish in October. Now this is the background of the vintage and a prelude of the fruit we took in that year. Vines were producing less of a crop-somewhere between 20-40% less. What this meant to the quality of the grapes and ensuing wine is a higher concentration of fruit because of the lower yields. Montse notes in her background on the vintage, “Mild acids, round tannins and high intensity of color and flavors dominate in this vintage.”
2016 We see the beginning of the end of the drought in this vintage’s story. The winter brought enough rain to give the vineyards a good soaking and their recovery from the stress of the drought was apparent in the yields which were considered average. The wet spring gave way to an even growing season over the summer followed by an early start to harvest-because of a warm end of summer. Notes from Montse encapsulate it best: “Excellent quality, high intensity of aromas and bright acids.” In a nutshell 2016, while less concentrated, gained the development from a good amount of rain, an even growing season and the resulting wines reflect great character and depth of fruit.
2017 Begins its’ story with double the average rainfall in the winter leading to a stress free growing season with vineyards being revitalized and nutrition restored. Montse wrote: “Rains during winter and the growing season helped restore the normal acid levels in the grapes.” She also wraps up the harvest and vintage in three words, “Concentration, Good and Heatwave”. We did get hit over Labor Day weekend just as harvest was moving along and some vineyards, not yet picked, were subject to high temperatures over three days. The race was on to make room in the cellar and pull in the grapes as they ripened and were ready for harvest. Overall this vintages’ story is one of extremes from an abundance of rain to the heatwave. The wine’s character, says Montse, has “deep aromatics, soft tannins and high acidity”. Hallmarks of a tasty vintage just waiting to be explored.
October 29, 2018 13:39
We completed this year’s harvest on October 9th with a final load of estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Our vintage wrap up includes comments from winemaker Montse Reece and Vineyard Manager Lance Blakeley. Get the harvest scoop from the people who know.
I will begin by saying there is one word that describes this harvest perfectly: abundance. This coming from an abundance of fruit and an abundance of good weather to bring in the fruit-yes a little rain fell in September and timing was good-we only had a few of red wine varietals on the vine including our Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah still hanging and these grapes are built for this type of challenge! We began with Sauvignon Blanc on August 30 and finished on October 9 with Cabernet Sauvignon. It was quick and chaotic at times and when it cooled down mid-September the weather extended hang time nicely.
From Lance Blakeley comes his comments as the Vineyard Manager. In production all varietals were above average anywhere from 5% to 15% stemming from spring and summer growing conditions that led to a great crop set. Labor went fairly well as we teamed up with some other local growers to share some of their pickers. We machine harvested 15 acres and all went well in quality. The younger cabernet sauvignon blocks really stood out to me this year as did the merlot which got plenty of hang time and tasted outstanding. Our wine yields were good too as we had full bunches with very little, if any, shrivel or raisining.
From Montse Reece her comments as Winemaker. This harvest we had more consistent weather without extreme heat spikes like last year. That reflects on the quality of Zinfandel which was exceptional and also the wine yields that were up by 20% over all varietals with respect to last year’s. We did see some challenges especially accommodating the bigger crop across the board but do note the Zinfandel came in at normal tonnage as we had less in 2017. This harvest all grapes, but in particular Zinfandel, were back to a normal cycle of ripening with mild to hot days and cool nights, that translated into a slowing ripening and a better retaining of the acids and phenols. This year I see impressive balanced wines with moderate alcohols and beautiful integrated acids.
As with Zinfandel the good weather cycle this year elevated the acid, flavor and aromatic profile of the grapes. Cabernets had an extended hang time to reach their maturity and as a result we’ll see more concentrate flavors, colors and bright acidities. A vintage to look forward to.
And with these comments we close the book on Vintage 2018. I, for one, am looking forward to tasting the first wines released from this harvest early next year.
September 28, 2017 07:07
Harvest for us started on August 25 with Pinot Noir from one of our growers. Estate harvesting began on August 28 for our Sauvignon Blanc. The last grapes in were Cabernet Sauvignon from the Three Vineyards block on September 28. Just over 5 weeks and we crammed quite a few grapes into tanks during that time. I asked Montse Reece to sum up this year-her 11th harvest at Pedroncelli, in three words. "Heatwave, concentration, and good." She continued, “The rain during the growing season helped restore nutrients in the vines, so I am seeing intense colors and aromatics across all varieties. The heatwave on the Labor Day weekend only affected our zinfandels, lowering yields but concentrating the already high phenols (color+aromas). Overall a good harvest season.” We have seen many harvests here at Pedroncelli. Our goal is to showcase the best of the vintage. This year had its challenges and we met them as they came along. It’s what farmers do. Now onto the next stage of the wine's journey as they ferment and settle in the cellar. The vines will rest now and enter their dormant phase readying themselves for what the next growing season will bring. I'll celebrate with a splash of Mother Clone Zinfandel in my Dino!
May 26, 2017 11:06
The other day when taking guests on a tour of the cellar and other winery buildings we walked by a display of older vintages and labels from the 1960s through 1980s in our case goods warehouse. Since vintages are a part of my everyday life I tossed off a few points about the label changes over the years and the vintages themselves recalling if a particular vintage was considered ‘great’ or otherwise.
I also pointed out the first year we vintage dated our wine which was 1965. Before this year we didn’t use vintages on our labels. The question came up ‘why is it important to feature the year on the label’? I pointed out it is tradition in the larger world of wine. We’ll often read about the great vintage years of (fill in the blank) or the bad years of… A few hundred years ago the first wines were vintage dated. Now we rely on this information to indicate a years' influence like the drought in 2015 or rain in 1989. Portugal declares 'vintage years' to signal exceptional quality. As a general rule, with a little digging on the internet, you can find out more about the growing and harvest conditions of each year which in turn will let you know what went on while the grapes were developing or being picked.
There are a couple of reasons why we didn’t date our wines before this point. One was we were making generic wines in gallons and half gallons and people were drinking these right away and not aging them. Going back even farther there wasn’t a need to vintage date as my grandfather literally bottled up the wine for them upon arrival-no vintage necessary as it was from the latest harvest and the label consisted of the name of the winery, the cellar number 113 and the town/state. We began dating our wines when the second generation, John and Jim, began the transition from jug wines to bottling our wines in cork finished bottles. It was with the idea that they would possibly be aged and, I suppose, it became more in vogue to put the vintage on the label making our wine more upscale as the U.S. market became educated about wine and labels.
A toast in my Dino with a splash of 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon-a very good year!
October 21, 2014 14:59
We were at an event a month ago when two people, unrelated, walked up to the table-the woman spoke to my husband Ed and the fellow struck up a conversation with me. It was about hospitality in our tasting room the two experienced that spanned 40 years between them. Her story: she was in town a few days before the event visiting tasting rooms in Sonoma County and she found herself in ours. Her experience here was capped by a very friendly tasting room staffer, Juliette. She sought us out at the event because of her very positive and educational visit just to share her delight in our welcoming atmosphere. His story: He told me he found our tasting room in the early 1970s, which in my opinion wasn’t too hard to do as we were one of the few operating in Dry Creek Valley at the time. He was a student just out of college and was going into the restaurant business in South Lake Tahoe. Because of his experience with John Soule, who was our tasting room host during the early 1970s, he never forgot his first wines or John. In fact he included Pedroncelli wines on his wine list because of this encounter. I would have a hard time coming up with the number of people who have walked through the doors of our tasting room but I am sure of this: we’ll continue to pour our wines and have great conversations while you visit! Here is John Soule, Tasting Room Host extraordinaire, in 1971. From my dino to yours, cheers.
October 9, 2014 15:14
We don’t replant too often on our home ranch. Our 20-year-old Petite Sirah vineyard had come to an end because of an extensive virus and was pulled up last year to make way for a new planting. Before we pulled up the old fading vineyard (which was really quite lovely in the fall with its' scarlet leaves) we had already replanted a section equal in size across Canyon Creek to this grape. We now have a very healthy five year old vineyard producing some great fruit. So what do we do with this bare hillside? First we let the soil rest for over a year. Shortly after this year’s harvest, our Vineyard Manager Lance says he’ll be planting rootstock, the foundation of all vineyards. He chose St. George rootstock because it is a more vigorous one for hillsides—which can be tough on vine growth. Next we’ll have to decide what varietal we’ll want to plant. The budwood will be grafted onto the rootstock next year. We won’t expect a full crop off of this vineyard for 4-5 years and it will reach maturity in 7. Leave a comment below, and if you guess the correct varietal when the vines are planted I’ll send you a little memento.
In the photo below, the old Petite Sirah is below the yellow vines (Sangiovese) on the left. A toast to new plantings in my Dino!
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