Zinfandel

  • Follow the Vineyard: Crop Set

    June 26, 2020 13:42

    Follow the Vineyard: Crop Set

    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.

  • Note from Home: How You Doin'?

    June 24, 2020 11:05

    Note from Home: How You Doin'?

    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'?"
     

     

  • #pairitwithPed

    June 17, 2020 14:50

    #pairitwithPed

    I received a text from our son Joe the other day-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 first in a series of pairing food, wine and experiences.

    Our first pairing is from an opportunity for our Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel. We participate in media gatherings through one of our trade organizations named ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) and this one focused on #LegendaryZinVineyards and #GrilllingWithZin. Bushnell Vineyard has been a source of fruit for 8 decades and has been in the family for three generations-and the grapes have always been part of our Zin bottlings. It is also the perfect time of year for the theme because Father’s Day is just around the corner and July is ‘THE’ grilling month.  I found a recipe I had uploaded a while ago and it was the perfect one to pair with our legendary Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel. I chose the Grilled Lamb Loin Chops with Red Wine, Garlic and Honey Glaze because I am a student of ingredients when it comes to choosing a recipe to pair with our wines. Beginning with lamb-which is a favorite pairing for Zinfandel-the oregano, the red wine, garlic and finally the honey all come together to heighten the pairing with layers of flavor and complement the wine.

    The event was a Twitter Taste Up, scheduled for June 10, and was organized by Robert Larsen of The Larsen Projekt for ZAP. A bottle of our Bushnell was shipped along with the recipe to twelve wine writers and bloggers. I had my 15 minutes of fame along with three other wineries that evening. I highly recommend people joining this type of experience-an hour of time focused on a single variety and theme. The engagement factor is high when you know the writers and bloggers are from California to New Jersey, Texas to Iowa. When everyone is online across the nation at the same time it is fast paced and fun. Watching the posts, comments, photos of their pairings and questions all is quite a thrill. If you’d like to see all of the action type in #LegendaryZinVineyards and #GrillingWithZin and experience it yourself.

    Here is the wrap up and some of the commentary from the evening.

    Vindulge, Mary Cressler and Sean Martin, provided the beautiful photo above. They also just finished Fire and Wine: 75 Smoke Infused Recipes From the Grill with Perfect Wine Pairings

    From Dezel Quillen, @myvinespot , “Bushnell has been connected to the Pedroncelli family for over 50 years. This wine is full, robust & chewy, offering flavors of smoky plum, blackberry preserve, mocha, & spiced fruitcake. It begs for red meat. Bushnell Vineyard always hits a homerun!”

    From Mysty, @RedWineCats, “Big, handsome fella at 16.1%  Anyone try the lamb chops recipe? I don’t know... I think this one could just pair well with itself too?!?

    From James Melendez, @JamesTheWineGuy, “nose of black cherry, dried herbs and violets; palate of cassis, baking spices, pepper and dried red floral notes.”

    Joe Roberts, @1WineDude, “Another fun wine from Pedroncelli with the Bushnell Zin. So big and bold, but sooooo undeniably tasty.”

    Articles too:

    Cindy Rynning, Grape Experiences: http://www.grape-experiences.com/2020/06/california-zinfandel-legends-producers-vineyards-wines/?fbclid=IwAR2EY7eEVeEFF77tq6YqG6HXwDrBA62ZkMzGIps4qu8RFi5SW5X_0SnkwWQ

    Gabe Sasso, Gabe’s View: http://www.gabesview.com/blogposts/2020/6/11/zinfandel-americas-favorite-grape-to-grill-with

    Was it synchronicity or something else? The same week of the taste up I saw the blog post Grilling with Zin on Discover CA Wines with this great recipe-https://discovercaliforniawines.com/blog/up-your-bbq-game/

    Something must be in the air or is the twitterverse and blogosphere recognizing something I have known all along: Zinfandel really is the best wine to pair with BBQ. Just a year ago I talked about it here. I think it is time for some Zin in my Dino to celebrate. 

    Lamb chops

  • Follow the Vineyard: Bloom

    May 21, 2020 08:24

    Follow the Vineyard: Bloom

    Following the progress at our estate vineyards helps keep things in perspective. While we all shelter in place (hopefully not for much longer) the vines are happily making their way toward vintage 2020. I visited with Mitch Blakeley, fourth generation family member, to check in and get his perspective about what it going on out in the vineyard.

    We farm 115 acres of vineyard between the Mother Clone, Home Ranch, Three Vineyards, Wisdom, Alto Vineyards, Bench Vineyards, East Side Vineyards and Bushnell Vineyard with 11 varietals planted between all of them. Some of these are small blocks while other encompass 30 or so acres between them. It all adds up to quite a bit of work for Lance Blakeley, Vineyard Manager, and Manuel Diaz, Vineyard Foreman along with Mitch who is not only in the vineyard he also led the certification process for sustainability in both the vineyard and winery.

    Here are some in depth details about what is going on right now as we follow the vineyard this month in the bloom phase. Bloom or flowering (I’ll use the terms interchangeably) takes place about 6 weeks after budbreak, the first growth in the vine since winter dormancy which typically takes place in March. The leaves and shoots lengthen during the next month or so and small ‘bunches’ form. Bloom is when the future bunch of grapes breaks into tiny flowers-the smell is heavenly!-with crop set following in the next few weeks.

    Follow the vineyard as I recap Mitch's comments on what is going on this month: The rain, while not as heavy compared to 2019’s six inches, actually mirrors almost to the day the time it rained the third week of May in last year. Over a week or so about an inch and a half of rain fell this year. What did this do to the vines? While April was warm and a few days in early May were over 90 degrees it became cold and rainy, slowing bloom time down. One of the benefits of receiving rains in the spring: it saves water. Mitch predicted they would be able to skip a full cycle of operating the drip irrigation system in the vineyards. Vines rely on interspersed drip irrigation during the dry months of summer and late rain helps delay the initial cycle of watering.

    Flowering in some of the varietals, like Cabernet Franc, went quickly and is almost complete. Slow bloomers like Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon were just beginning. Zinfandel was at about 40% and other grapes like Sangiovese and Petite Sirah were somewhere in between. Rain will sometimes knock off some of the flowering which in turn might lower the production of fruit. It remains to be seen if this has happened in our vineyards-crop set takes place in June so we will know more by the end of next month. 

    The vineyard crew continues with tractor work, weed maintenance and suckering, which is the most important during this time because a vine will push lots of growth in the spring. If not taken care of by stripping off the multiple offshoots this will overburden the vine and eventually would inhibit getting a ripe crop if allowed to continue. Suckering takes place over the whole vine along the arms and at the base. Some of the wood is softer in varietals like Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc-so they will be suckered next but right now the crew is working on the Zinfandel and Cabernet as the vine trunks and arms are harder wood and harder to sucker as things begin to dry out. We are expecting 90 degree weather the last week of May and this accelerates the conditions so the crew is busy now in these vineyards in order to get ahead.

    Thanks Mitch for the update. We've farmed for four generations and have seen many different scenarios throughout those years. This vintage will go in the books as one of the most unusual because of COVID19. As farmers we look forward to the next phase of growth because the vineyard naturally follows the tilt of the sun, the ebb and flow of weather and creates something new each year.

  • A Conversation on Sustainability

    April 21, 2020 09:47

    A Conversation on Sustainability

    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.  Mitch and Sustainable Sign

    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 julie@pedroncelli.com  Until next Earth Day keep up the good work.

     

     

     

  • Heat & the Vine

    June 28, 2017 16:40

    Heat & the Vine

    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. This pre-summer heat wave definitely had my attention.

    I was curious-what does happen to the vines as it gets unseasonably hot? 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, with temperatures rising in the first week of July, the vineyards are acclimated to the heat by this first wave. Here's to the vines and the hard working crew who takes care of them with a splash of Rosé of Zinfandel in my Dino!