Note from Home: COVID Operations
May 21, 2020 08:17
*Cue Mission Impossible theme music: da da da, da da da, da da: We are on a mission today to discover COVID Operations in and around the winery and out in the market. We are all working under challenging guidelines while we try to operate as normally as possible. This brings out the creativity in all of us-especially here at Pedroncelli.
Spring Ops: The vineyards continue their march toward harvest 2020 and May is the growth spurt the vines need to get going-the phrase April showers bring May flowers isn’t lost on the vines. Budbreak back in March progressed through warm days in April to push the growth forward and now we are seeing the clusters forming and this month they begin their flowering phase-the next step toward crop set. The vineyard crew is busy with their list of things to do while being aware of the current social distancing and sanitizing protocols.
Bottle Ops: Bottling continues through this month as the wines are unaware of the current situation. Winemaker Montse Reece and cellarmaster Polo Cano prep the wines and make sure the bottling room is set up so the cellar crew can remain safe and apart. A cellar is one of the most sanitized areas at any time so rest assured our wines have always been and always will be produced in the safest of ways.
Think Different: It matters when you are a mid-sized winery selling wine across many channels and some of them are compromised (restaurants for one). Jim, Ed and I are busy working with our wholesalers and exporters to fill in the gaps while we all stay at home. Virtual tastings with some of our retail accounts and their customers have become a regular occurrence rather than travel into the market. Zoom sessions with our national sales team-either one on one or in a group-are the norm for now. This doesn’t replace the personal touch and we are working on different ways to connect.
At Your Service: Colin Sinclair, Club Ped’s manager, successfully worked with Ed to get the May club shipment out and we even packed this one in house and we made the decision not to include any printed materials-in order to be as 'touchless' as possible. Colin, Gary and Lizzy are connecting with our friends-you may have received a call or email from them. We have curbside service for our neighbors-something we have been doing since my grandparents opened the cellar door.
Reach out and touch someone, virtually: Unless you are living under a rock without a computer you know the world of the internet has taken on a whole new mission: connecting us during this time of separation. Personally we’ve had cousin zooms, grand and great grand kid zooms with my parents, cocktail parties, birthday celebrations, COVID Coffee Chats and, as previously mentioned, virtual meet ups with wine stores and their customers in several states. Sharing our stories, reminiscing, making new friends and visiting old ones are done in a different way but ultimately we are reaching out and remaining safe in this way.
Making these operations possible is what we are immersed in at the moment-and we are preparing for what will come once shelter in place is removed. What that will look like is currently being shaped by government but also with an eye to adapting to a new way of visiting with you. And you can bet, even though we have to maintain a safe distance, our hospitality will be as welcoming and engaging as it has been since my grandfather’s time. We may need to be physically distanced and our goal is to be socially connected with you.
Gather Round a Glass
May 15, 2020 10:45
Welcome to the virtual world of wine chats. Chat rooms and virtual meetings were already in place before this-I wish I had stock in Zoom! Other platforms have their place but lately this is a way to have a direct conversation and talk to people face to face (virtually because we are sheltering in place and practicing our social distancing). Gathering around a glass of wine and your screen of choice while sitting at home-what could be more fun?
Back in the days (seems like so long ago now) I traveled to national markets the wholesalers would set up what we call ‘work withs’, a way for me to meet with retail and restuarant accounts. Each day I’d work with one sales representative and they would take me to appointments they had set up prior to my arrival. I would get in a car each day with a new person-who up until this point were complete strangers. Almost sounds like the making of a thriller movie right? We’d chat a bit about what was coming up for the day-how many appointments, who I would meet as I presented the wines and what they were interested in for their customers, where the day would end. I’d update them on what was going on at the winery and vineyards at the moment or fill them in on the background of the wines we’d be pouring. After a few minutes, in order to learn more about the person I was riding with, I’d start to ask general questions-did you attend college? How did you get into wine? When was your first ‘ah ha’ moment and what wine started the journey they were on? Conversation typically flowed because, hey, we’re in a car driving 20 minutes or more to our first appointment and we learned a bit about each other. I rode with people who love some of the same things I do (besides wine) like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, favorite authors or genres, chocolate, and travel. While we weren’t gathered around a glass of wine we certainly shared great conversations about many interests.
So how about turning that experience into one I can have with you? We'll sip and savor the moment, we don’t need a car-we just need a communication platform. I do better when I can see people and share a conversation that way. Let’s gather, share some stories and find out what we have in common-wine being the first thing. There are many platforms on which we can have a chat-we’ll find one that works for both of us. We are at home, relaxed, maybe with a glass of wine in hand, ready to chat about your hobbies, your family, your pets, favorite movies or books. The world of topics is pretty vast.
Who’s Zoomin Who?
Zoom is the appointment oriented platform-we set up the time and day and send you the link. Skype is available anytime but it would be wise to schedule a time so we are at our computer and ready for you. Facebook Live schedules events at a certain time and allows you to type in questions to the speakers (it helps to have someone else there to read over the questions and call attention to those that didn’t get answered) and Instagram Live is a format where we talk to the audience about specific things and questions can be sent but it is mostly a one way conversation. Which one works for you? As we make our way toward new ways of reaching out, this is an alternative to a tasting room visit. So let's gather around a glass no matter where you are-it is the new wine adventure-one where you don't have to hop in a car or on a plane. We'll bring the adventure to you!
Pandemic Pantry: Julie and Julia
April 30, 2020 13:29
A picture is worth a thousand yums don’t you think? How many of us take photos of our beautifully plated dinners in a restaurant? Or at home we’ve made something special and want to show it off? There are many examples across social media when it comes to showing off our creations. I realized there were just a handful of photos included in my recipe section of the website-how interesting is that? So I made a goal starting during this pandemic and working from home to recreate a few recipes a week and photograph them in order to be included alongside the recipe. Kind of a riff off of the Julie/Julia movie.
In fact some of you might remember how we have been connected to Julia Child over the years. The weekly magazine, Parade, featured photos of celebrities and their refrigerators. Julia is standing in front of her door-lo and behold our Chardonnay is there and the only wine in her fridge! We are also part of the National Museum of American History’s Food Transforming America where many of my family’s artifacts (including my grandmother’s polenta pot) are in the same exhibit near the recreation of Julia’s kitchen. And here we are replicating many of the recipes from the website just like the movie. For a refresher, this is what I wrote 4 years ago: https://www.pedroncelli.com/vino-in-my-dino/post/womens-history-month-julia-child/
Now onto the recipes!
Braised Pork Shoulder with Butternut Squash and Prunes
Notes: When I tried this I immediately regretted not doubling the recipe. Such a subtle sweetness that complements the braised pork. Paired very well with our Mother Clone Zinfandel, the fruity notes from the Zin making this a zen meal.
Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Soy Glaze
Notes: For a quicker turn around you can make the glaze ahead of time and marinate overnight, then just brown it in the pan and roast in oven-or grill it-either way this is a very tasty combination. It packs some heat and we liked it with our Sonoma Classico or you might even try our friends.red with it.
Notes: This is a side dish which we paired with steak and roasted creamer potatoes. I suggest pairing the veggies with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc but with the steak we paired up with our Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and it worked. This would be a great side dish for simply prepared chicken or fish.
Moroccan Chicken with Roasted Lemons and Green Olives
Notes: This one was a delicious surprise-it was very easy with it all being made in one pan. Browning the lemon wedges and then roasting with the chicken-so tasty. Paired up with our Sauvignon Blanc it was the perfect ending to our busy shelter in place work at home week.
Notes: A crowd pleaser and kid pleaser all in one-from our daughter’s cookbook 30 years ago and we have been making them ever since. You can use beef for Sloppy Joes but we like the taste of the ground turkey. Use your favorite form of bun and dig in along with a bottle of our friends.red or Sonoma Classico.
While the Julie in the movie took a year to make all the recipes in Julia’s Art of French Cooking this might take a little longer. If you make one of the recipes, tell me how it turned out, which wine you paired it with and how you first came to know Pedroncelli. I'll make it worth your while... All you need to do is send to my email address firstname.lastname@example.org and as Julia would say Bon Apetit!
A Note from Home: Learning Curves
April 24, 2020 10:53
It is day 43 of sheltering in place and the original predictions of this time ending May 3 in Sonoma County have been extended to June. Batten down the hatches for another month of staying home and keeping everyone safe. While we flatten the curve what are the learning curves we have faced? What have we learned about ourselves, our town, or our work habits? Getting better at time management or bread baking? How about our kids/grandkids, entertaining ourselves or our resilience in getting through these times?
The other day we talked to some folks in Kansas & Missouri (via Zoom) about those changes and what they mean to our current lives. Among them were enjoying not having to be somewhere at an exact time, more freedom, more productivity, having the time to learn new things like managing your inbox or taking an additional online class to educate oneself, more creativity, challenges of having kids at home-keeping them focused and busy without too much screen time/device time. Limitations set before COVID have loosened up because screen time on devices has never looked so good to the parents working from home. Just think how much we’ll all look forward to school back in session along with a regular routine!
I received many responses in the last week with updates on home life and how you are doing-really. Here are other ways you are learning:
John from Florida responded: “I just bought a new Fender Telecaster to add to the collection so that’s how I have been passing the hours and days of this awful hunker-down. I download blues backing tracks and jam along to those. Love playin the blues.”
Kellie sent a thoughtful note: “Well this past week I would say I had a "ho hum" attitude. Deep in my mind I couldn't find hope or anything positive to look forward to. My cooking spirit was flat lining. My clothes closet was getting stale. My hair felt limp and lack of luster. My habit of washing, drying, folding and putting away in the same day waned and the crocheting on the couch ceased.
I am realizing that I function much better if there are plans for the day, week and even months ahead. With this virus it has derailed some of my focus. And then I realized I have Grace and Grit. Hearty stock. Thrive and survive attitude. An optimist constitution. All these realizations emerged right after I got real with my thoughts and spoke them out loud to some of my family.
So you asked how am I really? In this moment on this Sunday morning sitting in my breakfast nook, I feel optimistic, light hearted, ready to take my dog on a walk on the golf course, then exercise on my stationary bike and then sit down and attend an online David Whyte poetry session titled "Courage in Poetry. "
We are all learning something new about ourselves and our situation. I’m learning to really like the Zoom meetings I am hosting and participating in these days. Since I am staying home from travel I find the time afforded me makes writing more of a habit. (I also enjoy not having to get up at 3:30am to get ready for a trip.) Also, learning how to prepare for the 'afterCOVID' life and the new normal we'll experience brings to mind other learning curves. Air travel following 9-11-it was forever changed and is now considered a part of the airport experience. Learning curves are everywhere in our lives-vaccinations developed, historic changes, even the small things like forming a habit.
What are we learning? We can do it. We can get through it. Try something like a wave and a smile. And we’ll get through it together, six feet apart.
A Conversation on Sustainability
April 21, 2020 09:47
April is Down to Earth Month and today is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day so no time like the present to talk sustainability. Our vineyards were certified sustainable on our 90th anniversary 3 years ago and the winery the following year. Let’s see how we are doing in the vineyard and winery by checking in with Mitch Blakeley, fourth generation family member, who led the certification process. He knows the vineyard and cellar very well as he has worked with his dad Lance, who is Vice President of Operations and Vineyard Manager, since he was in eighth grade.
For starters, here is some background on the meaning of sustainability. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance was formed to help grape growers and wineries practice sustainable winegrowing by following these tenets: good for the environment, good for the community and good for grapes and wine. To start the certification process Mitch filled out a few hundred answers to questions ranging from energy efficiency to packaging, vineyard practices and water use among others. Once finished we are audited and, since everything was in good order, we were certified. One of the reasons I like the sustainability program is it encourages doing better as we go forward. Each year we pick a project and work at getting better or smarter in both the vineyard and winery. Each year the auditor reviews the progress and approves another year of certification.
Why is the process so important to us? It put a pin in what we have been doing for 90 years-being good stewards of the land. Our responsibility is to the environment, to those who work for us as well as our community at large and the continuous improvement gives us higher quality in our wines. For the greater good don’t we all recyle, use alternatives to plastic, walk if we can avoid driving hence causing less pollution? It is a collective action both as an industry and as a family that spurs us on to do better.
Mitch updated me on the latest audit and certification and the efforts we have made. “I’ll start with the winery. In the last few years we have made changes in better lighting efficiency, the barrel program, and water use. For last year’s project we focused on glass. Our glass was imported from China for many years. We made the decision to source as close as we could to the winery and chose a northern California company. To give you an idea of our scope, we produce 55,000 cases or 660,000 bottles.” (Editor’s note: We have also stayed away from the ‘heavy’ bottles knowing these add more to the carbon footprint.)
“Last year our vineyard project focused on decreasing the use of pesticides in the vineyard. The most consistent pest we treat for every year are the sharpshooters-they are devastating to our vineyard. Using approved preventatives, we treat early and often to suppress whatever the vineyard may be exposed to and so far we have seen about the same level of success in the past few years by cutting rates and at longer intervals. This helps with operating costs and overall health for the vineyard. Our project this year is to replace our tractors with new models that are more fuel efficient as well as put out less emissions. We are going to apply for the Carl Moyer Grant from the state of California to help fund the replacement of the old tractors.”
I asked him if he has noticed any changes since becoming certified, “In my opinion I have seen an increase in quality in the vineyard which shows in the wines; in the vineyard it is the new plantings where we are changing the way we farm and they are showing very good quality; our Wisdom and Three Vineyards are recent projects and we have been more aggressive to stay on top of diseases. One of the new practices includes using rope to tie vines as compared to plastic ties; the rope or twine disintegrates over a couple of years. The plastic constrict the vine to the wire which we found created an open wound for disease to enter-with just this one small change it is helping overall quality and health of the vine.”
Thank you Mitch-I enjoyed our conversation. If you have any questions or need more information about our program please let us know by sending an email to email@example.com Until next Earth Day keep up the good work.
A Note from Home: How are you doing? Really.
April 18, 2020 10:35
Well, how are you doing a month into our sheltering in place? No, really. How are you doing? We'd love to hear. Over the past ninety three years we've come to know so many people in so many places. And we feel cut off. So, really: How are you?
Are you pining for the ‘old’ days? What freedom (!) we had in February. We could go for lunch without giving a thought to spreading germs-now masking up and ordering curbside is the way to go; how about stopping to talk to a neighbor in the street-we are now keeping 6 feet or more away from each other; perhaps a drive to the coast or mountains for some fresh air and now, due to current orders, you are hitting the streets. I’ve started to categorize yards-they have olive trees, they have dogwood trees, they have the most beautiful hedges etc
Obviously here in Wine Country spring has fully evolved into blooming trees, flowers, birds nesting and the grapevines leafing out (not to mention the pollen count is high). Mother Nature continues on without realizing the streets are quieter, the air is cleaner, people are staying close to home, and a virus is being slowed down because we are following the order in place. We have a ways to go before we are set free from this cocoon, hibernation, lockdown, staycation or whatever you have come to call it.
Perhaps new habits are being formed. I remember reading that it took about two months to form a new habit or break a bad one. I googled habits and came across a recent article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times published mid February-which now seems like a century ago. In it there are a lot of good ideas and information and it contained this tidbit about developing a habit: “The study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, showed that the amount of time it took for the task to become automatic — a habit — ranged from 18 to 254 days. The median time was 66 days!” We are 36 days into this and it is looking like at least 30 more-coincidence? I think not.
My new habits are around working from home. I squeeze in a laundry load so I don’t have a mountain of work to do at the end of the week; I eat lunch on our deck and take in the green view of oak trees and new growth over the fence; I am making one or two recipes a week from my website listings because now we have time to photograph the dish and upload it-slow work but I will make my way through the hundreds listed as the year progresses thereby forming another habit. Discipline is another one-I gained the "COVID10" over the last month because I was snacking and eating things I don’t normally eat like sugar and carbs. April 13 dawned and I knew I needed to make changes-so back to low carbing and no snacking. How about you? Any new (good or bad) habits formed lately?
Walking is a new normal for us-between 9 and 10 miles a day around town-I mentioned to Ed that this mileage is a one way trip to the winery-but I don’t think I’ll start walking to work after this is over-or will I? Besides flowers and yards another thing I’ve seen on our walks around Healdsburg are chalk drawings and inspiring quotes. This one greeted us today and I think gives us all hope for better days ahead. Until next time stay well while keeping six feet apart.
Cellar Update: Business as Usual in Unusual Times
April 16, 2020 16:10
Like the birds singing and the vines pushing leaves, the wines in the cellar don’t notice our shelter in place orders and cellar life goes on as usual in an unusual time. And cellar work like bottling and barrel work are considered essential and we are allowed by the state of California to carry on with production. Without this support I am not sure how our wines and vineyards would survive a long pause in the middle of things.
Our team, pictured above, include winemaker Montse Reece along with cellarmaster Polo Cano on the right and cellar assistant Beto Cortez. April is the height of production for them and knowing how important it is to keep on schedule when it comes to bottling, I asked winemaker Montse Reece to give me an idea of what goes into the preparation. Here is a step by step glimpse at what it takes when she works with the team to ready the wines:
“First I make sure we are going to have everything we need for bottling on time: glass, corks, labels, capsules. In the cellar the wine in question has to be blended, fined (in the case of reds), stabilized (for whites and rosé) and filtered. Editor's note: The tank pictured here is being cold stabilized-which means chilled close to freezing to drop the tartrates out-if it wasn't cold stabilized you would get 'wine diamonds' which are harmless and definitely don't taste good.
Before the wine gets to be bottled I run all the analysis: acidity, pH, alcohol, volatile acidity, malic acid, residual sugars, sulphur, specific gravity, CO2 and make any final adjustments if needed.
A few days before bottling, Cellarmaster Polo Cano will filter the wine. We use a crossflow filter. After that he and his crew will sanitize the line and get it ready for bottling. On the morning of bottling day the filler bowl, housing and filters are sterilized for 20 min at 180F. Polo does the sterilization by combining hot water and steam.
Once we start bottling, Polo and I do line checks, the first check is at the beginning (7:30 am) with three more spanning the day. We check the oxygen concentration inside the empty bottle before it enters the filler bowl as well as the dissolved oxygen in the wine once it is in the bottle, the vacuum pressure in the corks or the torque pressure in the screw caps, wine temperature, fill levels and pressure on the filters.”
So many layers of checking and cross checking happen with each and every wine bottled, and remember we make 21 different wines, and what does this mean for you? It delivers a bottle of wine with great attention to detail and the resulting consistent quality. These wines will be released over the next few months just as we are coming out of our shelter in place. As time moves on so does Mother Nature and continues to bring us warmer weather. More of our wines will be bottled and the vines will march toward vintage 2020.
- Follow the Vineyard
- Note from Home
- Postcards from Home
- Seasons in The Cellar
- Tasting Room
- Vintage Notes
- Women's History Month
- 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Crop set
- Cellar Master
- Finding Your Roots
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Library Wine
- Dry Creek Valley
- COVID Coffee Chat
- Sonoma County
- Mother Clone
- Sonoma Classico
- Heat wave
- food and wine
- Bushnell Vineyard
- French Oak
- Follow the Vineyard
- Courage Zinfandel
- Block 007 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Four Grapes Port
- American Oak
- Seasons in The Cellar
- cooking with wine
- note from home
- Lake Sonoma
- Holding steady
- Harvest 2022
- Down to Earth