November 15, 2021 08:29
We are looking forward to celebrating National Zinfandel Day on November 17. I put together a retrospective on this flagship grape and the lineage it has at Pedroncelli and in Dry Creek Valley. Our family’s legacy has been intertwined with this variety for 94 years.
The first family who owned the property, the Canatas, were the first to plant Zinfandel here. They built a small winery and made the wine for their store in North Beach, San Francisco. They operated from about 1906 to 1919 when Prohibition put a halt to all winemaking and began a 14 year moratorium on commercial winemaking. There was hope however for this family-they were able to sell grapes to head of households who obtained a federal permit and could make up to 200 gallons of wine (that’s about 84 cases). Needless to say there was a high demand in the early years of the dry time but soon the bottom dropped out of the grape market.
My grandparents bought the distressed property from the family in 1927 by putting together a Veteran’s loan and cash for a total of $11,000. The 90 acres of land had a thriving 25 acres of Zinfandel and a home for Giovanni, Julie and their children. They continued to farm the grapes and sell them to home winemakers. I imagine my grandfather, who was not a winemaker at the time of the purchase, had the next 7 years to learn and hone his craft.
Enter Repeal and the beginning of Zinfandel as our focus wine, since it was the main variety planted at the time. Blends were the common way to make wine It remained so until the 1940s when expansion of vineyard began and we branched out. In 1948 we first used Zinfandel on the label instead of Claret. By the 1950s we were making a Rose out of Zinfandel (and continue to make it after more than 65 vintages).
The ensuing years brought many changes to the market but we continued with our focus on this flagship wine. The Renaissance of wine in Sonoma County began in the 1970s and the grape of choice for Dry Creek Valley became Zinfandel with Cabernet close on its heels. Today half of all Zinfandel planted in Sonoma County is in Dry Creek Valley-2500 acres.
Replanting of our Mother vineyard on the Home Ranch began in 1980 and took about 5 years. The blocks were cloned back into place with St. George rootstock, same vine spacing, head-pruned (or goblet shape) using budwood from our own and also sourced from neighbors.
The 1990s brought a change in how we shaped our portfolio and we went from a main Zinfandel bottling to introducing our Mother Clone and Pedroni-Bushnell Vineyard selections. This highlighted specific vineyards and styles. Our Mother Clone Zin carries the long tradition of blending Petite Sirah to bring structure and depth-going back decades as our house style. Our Pedroni-Bushnell honored three generations of family ownership beginning with my grandfather who owned the property and then sold it to his daughter Margaret and son-in-law Al Pedroni. Daughter Carol Bushnell and husband Jim took the reins in 1992. Today we simplified the name to Bushnell and it is a specially selected block that brings true spice and berry to your glass.
Steady as she goes defined the first 15 years of the 21st century. In 2016 winemaker Montse Reece assessed the excellent fruit from the Faloni Ranch, a 3 generation grape growing family, and wanted to make another single vineyard. Named Courage, as in it takes a lot of courage to not only farm Zinfandel but to make it as well. At about this time a portion of the Home Ranch was replanted with the Rockpile Clone which has a history of doing well on hillsides. We dedicated the vineyard at our 90th Anniversary Celebration in 2017. For now the fruit is part of the Mother Clone blend. We'll see where the future takes us as we refine and perhaps redefine Zinfandel.
This lineage which has wound its’ way throughout the history of Pedroncelli is one we can be proud of and share with our friends. On National Zinfandel Day raise a toast and, as I said in the subject line, every day should be a celebration of America’s grape.
September 2, 2020 16:18
Our Sauvignon Blanc harvest kicked things off for us on August 24-seen above are the grapes as they arrived at the crushpad. Vintage 2020 begins!
This post is a bit of a mix between talking to Mitch about following the vineyards on their road to harvest along with an update on our first week of harvest all the while with the Walbridge fire as background. The vineyards are ripe and ready to pick, the harvest waits for no one.
August brought some challenges for sure. The dog days of summer heat ripened vineyards a bit faster than previously estimated. The early varieties like our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley were ready to pick, moved along after a relatively cool and uneventful July. The first day of harvest brought fruit in on time for a normal beginning of the vintage. To give you a reference point, the average first day of harvest over the last 10 years fell between the third and fourth week of August. I managed to catch up with Mitch, as I mentioned, to check in on August 21st, right before the big day. He was taking bunch samples of the Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel for our Rosé. It was a beautiful warm day in Dry Creek Valley while I talked to Mitch, he in the vineyard and me from a smokey parking lot in Soledad California-where I stopped to take notes along my way home from taking care of my grandson Galen.
Mitch shared the following: "The vineyards are holding up just fine through the heat. The vines didn't shut down because the vineyard crew made sure the vineyards were given a drink of water now and then through controlled drip irrigation. There was some evidence of shriveling in the Zinfandel bunches but overall not too much was lost. We'll move from picking Sauvignon Blanc early in the week to the Rosé and Pinot Noir. We'll finish the week by beginning to pick our Zinfandel and Merlot blocks. All the work we have been doing through the summer like dropping fruit where needed, getting water to where it was needed, readying equipment and doing the final bottling in order to make room in the cellar for the new vintage all came together right on time."
He continued, addressing the smoke from the Walbridge fire. Editor's note: This fire began on August 17 due west of the winery and vineyards by several miles. As of September 1st it was under 74% containment and no longer was a threat to Dry Creek Valley. Mitch talked about the change in the weather with the arrival of the cooling marine layer which helped the fire fighters to contain the fire as well as bringing development to the grapes-acids and sugars balance out much better with warm days and cool nights. The smoke itself was to the west actually blowing south into the Bay Area and remained west and high above the valley floor. We'll see how things go as the vineyards are tested and we take things on a case by case basis. One other challenge to this year's harvest is COVID-and we have instituted and followed the guidelines set forth by the state and county when it comes to the safety of our vineyard crew. While it will slow things down we'll still get the grapes to the crushpad."
There you have it, Vintage 2020 has begun. The excitement of our 93rd vintage has been tempered somewhat but we are hopeful as we look forward to the last load of grapes to come in and call it a year-what a year it has been.
June 17, 2020 14:50
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.”
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.
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