Zinfandel

  • Consider the Crop Report

    April 21, 2019 12:21

    Consider the Crop Report

    Crop reports help the agricultural community know where they stand on how productive or unproductive their commodity is whether it is wine grapes, wheat or corn. It is a marker for the year-or in our case the vintage-and helps the farmers see patterns where patterns exist or how the weather may have affected their crops in the growing season. We just received the Sonoma County Grape Crush Report for the 2018 vintage.

    The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, our grower trade group, sent out the information about the 2018 Crush Report in April. The information that follows is from the newsletter. I will add my two cents following the quoted material.

    “In 2018, Crush District 3, Sonoma and Marin Counties, experienced a record total tonnage crushed of 275,977 tons (an increase of 34% compared to the 2017 harvest). The 2018 crushed tonnage saw a price increase of 0.4%, resulting in gross grape revenues of $777,675,307 which is up 34.5% versus 2017. The average price per ton was $2817.9/T.

    An important note: Although the 2018 vintage represented the largest vintage on record, it is only 2% larger than the 2013 vintage, which held the previous record for tonnage. In value, the 2018 vintage represents a 27% increase in gross grape revenues as compared to the 2013 vintage. This is driven by winegrape price increases over the past 6 years.”

    To put it in perspective we crushed 860 tons (we make about 55,000 cases of wine) which, for us, was 20% higher than the 2017 harvest. Price per ton, while having an increase over the last 6 years as noted, stayed relatively the same between the last two vintages. What does this mean for the buyer of our wine? We are able to keep our price point the same and the growers are reaping the benefits of the rising price per ton.

    How about crop size? The 2018 vintage was, from what I heard from winemaker Montse Reece and vineyard manager Lance Blakeley, a juicy one (with more ratio of juice than in previous vintages) and a very good quality harvest. Lots of happy growers when we have this type of harvest-ripeness, lots of juice which equals more per ton and a smooth growing and harvest season.

    For us and our grapegrowing and winemaking friends in Sonoma County it was a very good vintage. We have quite a bit to celebrate and the 2018 white and rosé wines which we have released are shining examples of the quality. The red wines will follow suit in a year or so and I'll look forward to sharing them with you.

    For the grape geeks out there if you want to take a more in-depth look here is the whole enchilada including grape crush reports going back to 1976 from the USDA's Agricultural Statistics page.

  • Zin-Zin-Zin

    April 21, 2019 12:16

    Zin-Zin-Zin

    The reference in the title is for a license plate frame we had created in the 1980s when we made three styles of Zinfandel-Red, White and Rosé. Zinfandel is part of our history as a brand and as grape growers. The name 'zinfandel' itself has quite a complicated past-not always called Zinfandel but the good news is the name prevailed!

    Zinfandel has been grown on the hillsides surrounding the winery since the early 1900s and, what became known as our Mother Clone vineyard, covers 32 acres and has three generations planted on the Home Ranch. We have diversified our Zin-folio to include three red Zinfandels, one Rosé and two blends. Zin-Zin-Zin takes a look back and forward with this versatile varietal.

    From the beginning there was red Zinfandel. It was the first varietal planted on our property and is what sustained my grandparents and their family through the end of Prohibition. It made a style of wine that was drinkable soon after it was made-which is why it was so popular with heads-of-households who would purchase our Zinfandel and make their own 200 gallons of wine during the ‘dry years’. It was also the predominant grape in the blends my grandfather made as he began the family business after Repeal.

    By 1948 we introduced a Zinfandel at the same time as we put our first label on bottles of our wine. It was made by son John in his first year as winemaker. As time went by we increased our line of wines giving our customers a wider selection to choose from. The next wine in the Zinfandel legacy was a Rosé introduced in the mid-1950s when John wanted a lighter styled wine. These Zinfandels would become the backbone of our winery in the ensuing years even as we added Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and others to the list.

    As we entered the 1980s the wine world was finding out about a lighter styled rosé called White Zinfandel which was becoming very popular. We made our first one in 1985 and continued for 15 years making a sweeter lighter version of this popular wine side by side with our traditional styled Zinfandel Rosé. The latter began to make a comeback in the early 2000s as more people desired a more complex rosé and we began increasing our production proving the original style was more popular.

    During the 1990s winemaker John Pedroncelli chose some outstanding vineyards which deserved recognition on our labels. Our Mother Clone and Bushnell Vineyard Zins were created. The Mother Clone maintained the style we were always known for which was a classic Dry Creek Valley combination of fruit and spice. The Bushnell Vineyard, with a family connection, was set aside as a Single Vineyard choice focusing on a block among the 15 acre vineyard. This block showed more spice followed by deep fruit aromatics and flavor. In 2016 we added a second single vineyard wine-Courage from the Faloni Vineyard. Our winemaker Montse noticed this vineyard block had a different aspect to it and shows a pretty floral-berry aroma and flavor. We welcomed the new addition to our expanding line of wines.

    Finally our Zinfandel makes appearances as a supporting player in our friends.red and Sonoma Classico-both blends with other varietals combining for the best of their characteristics. You could say we are going back to our roots when we offer these blends-just like my grandfather did when he first started blending the wines in his cellar all those years ago.

  • The Names Tell Our Story

    April 21, 2019 12:14

    The Names Tell Our Story

    Wine labels are full of information-they are the face, so to speak, of our wines when they are on the shelf. I explore how some of those names we have developed tell our story in obvious and not so obvious ways. Place names like our Three Vineyards or a bit more curious like Mother Clone. Where did they come from? How did they evolve?

    There are many articles about deciphering what all the information on a label means. You can determine quite a bit if you know what to look for: the appellation-where it comes from, the vintage date-the year it was harvested and the varietal-Zinfandel, Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. Beyond these there may be reference to a place name or single vineyard, or a name which was created to help market the wine.

    Let’s begin with one of my favorites. Mother Clone. It is a name created in the 1990s when we were diversifying our line focusing on the place which was as important to us as the grape itself. Our ‘mother’ vineyard planted in the early 1900s was in need of replanting. In the early 1980’s we began block by block to replace the 70 year old vineyard. The vineyard was ‘cloned’ into place using the same rootstock, head-pruned style and budwood from the previous generation.

    Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is estate sourced now but when Jim Pedroncelli developed the name in the 1990s it was because it was from three vineyards: our own and two other growers. When our estate vineyards filled in and matured with a total of 30 acres of Cabernet we didn’t change the name. It is a blend however of several blocks including Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

    The single vineyard wines like Wisdom, Bushnell, Courage and F. Johnson all refer to a specific block or section of a vineyard. Wisdom was created because we have farmed the same varietal over more than 50 years in one singular place. Courage is a neighbor to Wisdom, actually just a vineyard block away, and is so named because it takes courage to be a farmer and to grow quality Zinfandel. Bushnell has been a source of Zinfandel since the 1940s when it was owned by my grandfather who in turn sold to his daughter and son-in-law in the 1950s and now my cousin Carol farms it. F. Johnson is Frank Johnson who had the foresight to pull up apple orchards in the 1970s and plant Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Gewurztraminer. We source these grapes for our wines but the one block of Chardonnay stands out for us and is included with the single vineyard designation.

    Other fanciful names include our Alto Vineyards Sangiovese so named for the hillsides the vineyard is located high above our Home Ranch. Family Vineyards Petite Sirah was named for the collaboration between estate and Bushnell Vineyard sources with 50% coming from each vineyard. East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was named for the place the grapes grow on our estate-on the east side of Dry Creek! Block 007 Cabernet Sauvignon began as Block 07. Jim Pedroncelli added a zero and it became the James Bond of our Cabernet vineyards. Bench Vineyards Merlot refers to the bench the vineyard sits on as the valley floor rises to the hillsides. Truth be told the bench here is not steep at all but our distinctive Merlot grows well in the gravelly soil found there. Our Four Grapes Vintage Port was named for the four Portuguese varietals we grow: Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional and Souzao. And every year we 'declare' the vintage for our delicious Port.

    The remaining wines bear the Signature Selection moniker (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rosé) and are where we make our mark-a lightly oaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir sourced from high quality Russian River Valley growers and our Rosé which has been a signature wine for 65 vintages. Our easy-drinking friends wines-both red and white-along with our Sonoma Classico all celebrate the roots of our family business hearkening back to how my grandfather made his wines as a blend not a varietal-that came later.

    What’s in a name? When you next see a wine label note the story it tells-there is so much more to explore in each bottle of wine.

  • DCV Neighborhoods: Zinfandel Sources

    March 26, 2019 14:13

    DCV Neighborhoods: Zinfandel Sources

    The source of Zinfandel at Pedroncelli is mostly from the Home Ranch where 33 acres of it grows on the hillsides. We do have two other vineyards we harvest from: the Bushnell Vineyard and the Faloni Vineyard. All three areas are in different Dry Creek Valley areas or neighborhoods. Let's take a look at where they are and the difference a mile or two makes.

    Mother Clone Hillside & Headpruned

    The Home Ranch which is the first purchase by founders Giovanni & Julia consists of many gently rolling hillsides now planted to Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. 33 of the 50 acres are blocks of Zinfandel from the oldest (over 100 years old) to the youngest (4 years old). What makes these hills so perfect for Zinfandel? The rocky soil, the rootstock which is St. George and vigorous since the soils are more challenging, the site specific plantings where each block gains the right amount of sun hence ripening. Our Mother Clone shows the spice-berry dynamic which is Dry Creek Zin 101-freshly ground black pepper combined with ripe blackberry fruit.

    Bushnell Vineyard: Bench & Headpruned

    Four miles south on Dry Creek Road is where the Bushnell Vineyard is located. A long time source of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah it was first owned by Giovanni Pedroncelli who sold it to his daughter Margaret and son in law Al Pedroni in the 1950s and they tended the vineyard until the 1990s when daughter Carol and her husband Jim Bushnell took over. The 14 acres are located on a bench above and on the east side of Dry Creek Road. We see singular Zinfandel from this property with jazzy spice and warm clove notes combined with the ripe berry core.

    Faloni Vineyard aka Courage: Valley Floor & Trellis

    Our newest addition is the Faloni Vineyard located 2 miles west of the Home Ranch on West Dry Creek Road-a stones’ throw from our Wisdom Vineyard. Dave and Dena Faloni are a three-generation grape growing family (hmmm familiar theme) and their vineyard is on the western part of the valley floor. While most Zinfandel in the valley is head-pruned Dave has trained his vines on a trellis. He knows every quirk of the soil and every vine on their 24 acres having farmed it all of his life. Our Courage Zinfandel exhibits floral notes combined with deep flavors of bramble spice and boysenberry jam.

  • The Vintage Tells the Story

    March 26, 2019 14:07

    The Vintage Tells the Story

    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.

  • Zin is It!

    January 24, 2019 10:21

    Zin is It!

    January brings ZAP’s (Zinfandel Advocate & Producers) Zinfandel Experience known as ZinEx to San Francisco. We participate in a few of the events and here is a wrap up of those as well as other articles and observations. Especially since I have declared 2019 The Year of Zin it is fitting for today's post.

    The first of the events held by ZAP was specifically for Sommeliers-no winery folks allowed. Doug Frost, Master of Wine & Master Sommelier along with Lauren Mowery, a Master of Wine Candidate and prolific wine writer had previously chosen 6 Zinfandels to present to the Somms and our 2016 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel represented Dry Creek Valley (our buttons were bursting!). It tickled me Zin when I heard it had been chosen as the favorite!

    A Media Lunch followed and was held at One Market where chef Mark Dommen prepared small dishes to match eight Zinfandels in a speed tasting/pairing format with 8 different media invited to visit with each winery representative every 15 minutes. Nothing like diving into an ocean of Zin with delicious plates of well-thought out food. I brought along our newest Zin, Courage, to share. As we took our turns at each table for two the discussion buzzed around Zinfandel and its’ charms. Ranging from why Zinfandel at all, where is its' place in the world, how to better position Zinfandel in front of customers to the origins of Zinfandel for Pedroncelli. All of the brief and intense conversations made me wishing I had more time. When I came to Doug Frost’s table we chatted about the Somm Zin Session and about how Pedroncelli’s style has outlasted many of the fads and came out a winner. Doug also knows my dad Jim from his time when he sold wine for our wholesaler in Missouri many years ago. He fondly remembered our wines, our house style and most of all my dad’s outstanding character as one of the best and focused wine salesmen around-it was nice to hear so many kudos for his hard work. Jim Gordon of Wine Enthusiast wrote an article soon after (found here) as did Jeff Kralik (aka The Drunken Cyclist) found here as well.

    Once finished at lunch I joined Ed at the Media & Trade tasting where we met folks from around the globe-from the Czech Republic to Santa Rosa CA and every spot in between. Zin really is it for us this year and my goal is to entice you each month as I bring a new Zinfandel experience to you.

  • DCV Neighborhoods, Part 3

    January 24, 2019 10:06

    DCV Neighborhoods, Part 3

    I am taking you to the original founding property for our tour of Dry Creek Valley neighborhoods in part 3. When Giovanni and Julia purchased the property in 1927 it came with 25 acres of vineyard first planted in 1927. This little corner of Dry Creek Valley-actually in the north east quadrant just a mile from Highway 101 and a few miles from the town of Geyserville which we call our home town. We are the only winery on Canyon Road but there are other vineyards planted along the 3 mile stretch and there’s a cemetery too.

    Each one of these hills surrounding the winery is really its’ own microclimate or site. Many of these blocks have been planted to two or more varietals over the 9 decades we have been farming them. What once was Pinot Noir is now Zinfandel; what once was Sauvignon Vert gave way to Cabernet Sauvignon then Petite Sirah and now Cabernet Sauvignon again. The life cycle of a vineyard is generally 20-25 years before a farmer decides to start the replanting process. With the exception of our Zinfandel vines many of the vineyard blocks on the home ranch are fairly young having just been replanted a few years ago.

    The beauty of this property is the rolling hillsides that were made for growing great Zinfandel-33 acres of it in fact. Ranging in age from well over 100 years to just 5 years old and an acre just cleared to make way for the next planting our gnarled head pruned vines stand the test of time. The beauty of Dry Creek Valley as an appellation is that more than one type of grape can grow here. We have Sangiovese, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and four Portuguese varietals (Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional and Souzao) growing along with the Zinfandel and totaling 50 acres. Other grapes have had their time here but site specificity (what varietal does well on a particular hillside) is what gives way to the great results from planting the best suited variety.

    Soils here are pretty rocky-much of it river rock from long ago when the land shifted up and down with the earthquake faults and bodies of water carving their way through the land. Hillside land tends toward a scarcity of topsoil too so the vines are challenged to grow in what many consider poor conditions. Thanks to both the heartiness of the vine and newer technology like drip irrigation the vines establish themselves even in thin soil and the metered water supply gives the vine much needed and the right amount of water to thrive. On to the next neighborhood, one that has been in the family for over 60 years: The Bushnell Vineyard.

  • Highlights from 2018: 10 of My Favorite Things

    December 21, 2018 10:03

    Highlights from 2018: 10 of My Favorite Things

    Lists, they are a ‘thing’ at years’ end and the New Year. Some people check it twice, some make resolutions. I’ve put together a few of my favorite blog posts, views and news from 2018.

    10- Harvest 2018 was a good, juicy and large one! As the red wines from this vintage are tucked away in the barrel room and the white wines begin their march to the bottling line we have high hopes for such a great vintage coming to you soon.

    9-90 Points and more! As I was reviewing our reviews, ha ha, I found that three times in the last year three of our wines were featured in the three different issues of the Wine Spectator-unprecedented! And more points were awarded to our Zinfandels than ever before. We were thrilled and gratified with these and for our other wines doing so well. A huge note of thanks to our hardworking cellar and vineyard crews!

    8-Milestones: reaching for 100 by taking each day at a time. We head into 2019 with our 92nd anniversary ahead. Four generations have farmed, made wine, and thrived on this little corner of Dry Creek Valley and each day is a step toward reaching our 100th anniversary-one day, one season, one year at a time.

    7-"Sell more wine." When Ed first came to work he tacked up a paper on the corkboard above his desk-13 years later it still resonates each time I visit his office.

    6-Montse Reece crushes her 12th vintage at Pedroncelli. She began as assistant winemaker in 2007 working with John Pedroncelli. She became winemaker, only the third in our 90 year history, and continues to strive for our house style while imprinting her own sensibility on each of our wines.

    5 is the number of Taste Ups we did with our wine and travel bloggers across the U.S. Some great mentions and articles were written about our wines and way of life.

    4-Word from the road-postcards to my grandsons. Ed recently visited Joe and family and his wife Ashley brought out the basket with all the postcards I had sent Jordan and Weston over the last couple of years. It is my way of staying in touch when I am out of the area. They are always on my mind!

    3-Scents & Memories: wine intertwined with me from childhood. I admit this blog post was a fun one because each morning, Monday through Friday, I get out of my car and inhale the most wonderful scents each season brings.

    2-Gratitude Vine: Our guests have had a wonderful time adding to the old vine trunk displayed in our tasting room. We'll take down the 2018 tags and our visitors will add to the 2019 version.

    1-Zin is the word. I am declaring 2019 the year of the Zin. Our style reflects the best of this grape in a trio of vineyards: Mother Clone, Bushnell and Courage/Faloni Vineyard. We have broken our own records with the quality and excitement around this true California grape. See #9 for more proof!

    From my family to yours we wish you all the best in 2019-I know I'm excited to see what's around the corner!

  • December 5: The 85th Anniversary of Repeal!

    November 19, 2018 15:10

    December 5: The 85th Anniversary of Repeal!

    Just as the holidays go into full swing there is a day we should all take a moment to celebrate. December 5 is the day, 85 years ago, when the 21st Amendment ended what the 18th Amendment began: Prohibition. This is a very important day to all of us in the Pedroncelli family for obvious reasons.

    Without this act we would be farming prunes or walnuts. There would be no “Pedroncelli Winery” or Pedroncelli wines to drink. A bleak thought!

    My grandparents, Giovanni & Julia, bought the property mid-Prohibition and probably thought the dry time in America would end much sooner than it did. A couple of things happened however. Let’s go back to the fact that my grandparents, even though they came from Italy, had never owned vineyard let alone make wine. The good news is they learned from the ground up-by tending the vineyard they bought, selling the grapes to heads of households who were permitted to make 200 gallons of wine (84 cases!) during this dry period and finally learning to make wine alongside all these ‘vinpatriots’.

    Without the fortitude to stay the course the third and fourth generations would not be here continuing the heritage begun 91 years ago and we wouldn’t have the legacy of wines worth celebrating the day 85 years ago when the 19th amendment was repealed. Much like Open That Bottle Night (last Saturday of February) this is a day those of us in the wine biz enjoy the most. So let's celebrate with a glass of Zinfandel!

  • Gratitude Vine

    November 19, 2018 14:34

    Gratitude Vine

    Lizzy Boardman, one of our friendly Tasting Room Staffers, is the idea lady behind our seasonal ‘look’ whether it is summer or fall, winter or spring. When she was thinking about decorating last winter in preparation for Winter Wineland this avid Pinterest fan found an idea of a grapevine trunk holding notes of thanks. She named it Gratitude Vine.

    The vine itself is the trunk from the Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard just across the way. The project, begun in January, has garnered 100s of thankful tags and it is fitting as we celebrate the holidays, and recently Thanksgiving, we give thanks for many things. From friends to wine, family to joy, hope and peace—all of which are hanging on our Gratitude Vine.

    We are filled with gratitude for our 91 years on this beautiful ranch producing fine wines for your enjoyment. We are also grateful to our friends who have supported and savored our wines through the years and toast those new friends to come.

    Stop by our tasting room and add your own to the vine-it is getting a bit crowded but we believe there is always room for more. Via this blog post I invite you to share what or who it is you are thankful for this year and we'll add it to the vine for you. I personally am thankful to the first responders in the latest fires around California-without them more would have been lost.

    Gratitude Vine