September 15, 2020 10:59
As the saying goes-when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Years from now we’ll be telling our grandchildren or our friends at the old timers’ home about the wild times we lived through during the pandemic. It isn’t over yet, but it seems I’ve lived a lifetime in just 6 months. And how will vintage 2020 be remembered?
When the Shelter in Place orders were set in mid-March I was under the impression that these guidelines for COVID19 would end in a couple of months. Ha. 6 months later and we are still wearing our masks and waiting. Then came the heat wave followed by a fire, a brief evacuation at the winery and things became even more challenging.
As you know, nature and the vineyards don’t wait for something like a worldwide virus. The road toward harvest, having begun in March along with the pandemic, ends here-the final moment of glory for a vine. The fruit is ready and the grape-filled gondolas are delivered to the crushpad to finish the journey. We have had a few wrinkles along the way what with the heat over Labor Day weekend which echoed the vintages in 2017 and 2010. Just a year ago we were picking the first fruit off our Sauvignon Blanc vineyard following a cooler growing season. Shortly before the first grapes were picked a fire broke out a few miles west of us causing a brief evacuation and the ensuing smoke (which remained high over the valley). The proof of vintage 2020 will come when we finish fermentations and check our wines for any trace of a problem. It is a wait and see kind of year.
Each of these, even as a single event, would be noteworthy. How do I make lemonade out of this? Preferentially I’d make limoncello, but I’ll stick with the former for now. We continue to live our lives all the while trying to make sure our children are educated, we carry on with work either on the job as essential or remotely, making the best of the circumstances.
Some parts of our Tasting Room are on hold and we wait for new guidelines allowing indoor winetasting as summer turns to fall along with cooler weather. Meanwhile, we are looking at ways of bringing the tasting room to you. And while we are unable to sell wine to most restaurants there have been inroads made selling wine online. Duly noted: Those of us who work from home apparently like to order wine more frequently than ever before (see Wark's Fermentation column: COVID-Driven Online Wine Sales).
Change has been the common denominator of 2020. Flexibility, looking forward, patience. These are the positive things we can hold onto. Wear the mask and smile with your eyes. Keep your distance but keep your humanity. Adapt and create something new. Amid all the emails about the fire, the virus and county updates come your messages checking in, updating me, sharing your story or sending notes about an older vintage you tried and just had to share because it was so good. All proving we are in this together.
When we tell our vintage story of 2020, and how we made lemonade out of the lemons we were handed, I believe we will see how resilient we are and were. The stories will be both tart and sweet and, just like lemonade, will blend the two. As to the question of how the vintage will be remembered: for the challenges met and answered.
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.
August 31, 2020 16:14
Roseanne Roseannadanna was one of my favorite Gilda Radner characters from Saturday Night Live. I thought this quote fits these times. Wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart while picking grapes during the threat of evacuation-'it’s always something'.
The good news is our first week is complete, the 93rd vintage for us. The evacuation orders were lifted and our hardworking crew was able to bring in our Sauvignon Blanc fruit and start Vintage 2020. The weather cooperated by bringing cooling fog and relief to our little corner of the world-helping everyone from the vineyard crew picking grapes to the first responders working to contain the Walbridge Fire that is several miles to the west.
Thank you to everyone who reached out to us knowing the fire was nearby. Your notes and phone calls mean so much. While it is west of us the authorities were cautious in calling for an evacuation which was then downgraded to a warning and lifted on Tuesday when the weather cooled down. Because of the break in the heat the dedicated first responders were able to begin containment. It is times like these that I am thankful for all the information received from our neighbors, from Supervisor James Gore (who is our man on the ground every time we have an emergency) as well as our community at large in northern Sonoma County.
The word of the day is perspective. Seeing things through the last few decades brings things into focus. I thought I would put together some notes and comments about past vintages with the memorable, the nail-biters and the calm, cool and collected harvest years.
Pick dates: The earliest we ever picked grapes was in 2014 on August 12 following a drought year as well as a warm growing season-we finished the earliest ever that year as well and were done by the third week of September. Early harvests were also experienced in 1981,1988, and 1996. Latest pick dates are part of the history as well with 1999 and 1975 standing out among them because of the cool harvest weather.
Speaking of rain: Precipitation came into the picture in 1989-while this wasn’t the first time during harvest it was memorable because of the hype around it-there were less wineries and wine press in the 1960s and 1970s and rain almost always made an appearance before the last grapes were in to the crushpad. This vintage it came during mid-September and we were experiencing one of the larger crops growers had seen lately. Many believed it ruined the vintage. We made our first and only late harvest Johannisberg Riesling from our estate vineyard-making lemonade from lemons! Another memorable year was 2010 which had early October rain that halted harvest until the vineyard dried out-with Cabernet Sauvignon still waiting to be harvested. It was called ‘a European’ vintage because it gave red wines cool climate characteristics.
Heat: 2010 had the honor of being a double whammy vintage. A heat spike at the end of August caught us unaware and we lost 40% of our Zinfandel. The year had already been a cool and slow growing season and we, like many of the other growers in the valley, had pulled leaves in order to help ripen the grapes as much as possible. I remember this was also the first time we paid the vineyard crew by the hour rather than by the bucket-they had to pick around the bunches that had turned to raisins. Heat spikes in 2017 came along and moved things at a rapid pace as well as 2004 as mentioned above.
It is the vintages without any problems that almost go unnoticed. These are the textbook perfect growing seasons followed by a harvest with no rain, heat spikes or other challenges like drought. Nothing to write about, kind of boring. 2018 & 2019 are among those going down as the easiest of vintages. Both years developed nicely and words like ‘even handed’ ‘steady’ and ‘uneventful’ were bandied about. Montse declared 2018 her favorite of the 11 vintages she had seen at the winery. 1978, 1985, 2007 all created great wines without many challenges.
We are farmers after all, as I mentioned in a prior post, and harvest tells the tale of the season. Our wines tell the story of the vintage-some are eloquent, some are quiet, some are brassy, and some are just right.
Credit where credit is due:
The vintage information is all with help from man named Bruce Cass, who passed away in 2016 but ran the Wine Lab and taught wine classes at Stanford among other roles. The information I collected in 2012 from his now defunct website with information on California vintages from 1970 to 2011 is a treasure trove of facts and great opinions on the vintages from a man who shared his vast knowledge.
August 31, 2020 16:08
This is our 93rd harvest at Pedroncelli Winery. The last five months are marked with head-shaking challenges including COVID, sheltering in place, and now fires. We have seen a lot in these last nine decades. No one, including my 88-year-old father Jim, has seen anything like this. The kicker? The vines are doing their thing just like any other vintage and surviving the slings and arrows of Mother Nature. We are farmers after all, and harvest isn’t going to wait.
The vineyards marched toward the day of harvest from the very start of this pandemic. Some of those slings and arrows in the past included rain or heat, too much fruit ready to be picked and not enough space, an early harvest or one that seemed to stretch on forever. We came out of July ready to harvest after Labor Day weekend-marking this as a cooler growing season. The change came when the weather warmed up and sped ripening. Regarding vineyards and warm weather, I learned some great information from our vineyard manager Lance Blakeley a couple of years ago. “Vines are like people” he said, “and they actually shield the fruit by slightly moving the leaves into a protective position, providing much needed shade from the sweltering heat.” Kind of like using an umbrella to shade us on the beach-we’ll survive with some shade and relief from the sun.
So the results are in--we are picking on Monday August 24! Things are moving ahead quickly as the development in the vineyard leaves no doubt the grapes are ready to pick. Samples have been taken, analysis performed and the first grapes to pick are, drumroll please, our Sauvignon Blanc. Looking at past harvest dates this is right on par with the two previous years, not too early and not too late. We had large production in the 2018/2019 vintages, so this year is looking a little lighter in comparison but overall, about average. Of course, there are other extenuating circumstances: the virus, labor shortage, the COVID rules of keeping everyone safe and healthy which will also take away some of the time spent picking grapes so progress will be a bit slower. Harvest will go on however even under these adjustments.
Then there are the fires. Thunder and lightning came to our area (which reminded people of the weather you usually see in other parts of the U.S). Started by lightning strikes earlier this week the fires are active all over northern California as far south as Monterey County to northern Sonoma County. The Wallbridge/Skaggs Fire is about 4 miles away from the winery behind the ridge line above the valley floor. Dry Creek Valley covers a huge area with just a part of it planted to 9000 acres of vineyards. The bulk of the land to the west is forested and largely uninhabited. Through the powerful images seen on television, in newspapers and social media many of you have seen the results of the fires here in the state and valley. Like the other fire years of 2017 and 2019 we are not in the midst of them but are associated with them and so far are safe. We are keeping all of our neighbors, friends, family and staff in mind hoping all remain out of harm's way as well.
We are farmers and join the legions of other farmers across this land as we watch and wait for the weather, the challenges, the preparation and finally the harvest. Like the generations before, we must have patience, fortitude and hope. I have no doubt whatsoever that the harvest of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most challenging and exceptional vintage stories ever.
August 10, 2020 10:29
One of my favorite bands is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom always seemed to sing straight to me with his lyrics and style. The song, The Waiting, in the title of this post is from one of my favorites (although I think I have about 20 of their songs on my list of best loved tunes).
So-how is the waiting? How are things going? Have those habits been formed? Have you taken a mental vacation or a real one? Have you had enough of forgetting your mask like I do—and I have at least five of them right now? These restrictions, in order to keep us safe, make me feel like life is now on hold. And waiting. It really is the hardest part because patience, for me, is not one of my strong suits. How about you?
Recently I wrote about our 93rd anniversary and the times my grandparents lived through: Prohibition and the Great Depression. Together they started their own venture that would become my family’s multi-generation business. While the world feels prohibitive right now I think during my grandparent’s days and these we do find a way forward.
We’re still waiting this out at the winery too. Like many of you I search through articles or emails to find the latest County and State guidelines and wait for the regulations to be lifted or changed-sometimes it seems daily or weekly. Harvest is looming, labor has been and will be more difficult to come by and there will be changes in the way we handle harvest this year to keep everyone safe. The tasting room has been open by reservaion per those guidelines requiring us to do tastings outside. We may have to close when the weather cools down because it will be too cold for you all to enjoy tasting outside. We’ll switch back to curbside pick up as part of our COVID Plan ‘C’.
Life does go on because it must. Grapes ripen so we move forward with vintage 2020. While we are experiencing interruptions to daily life there are life events happening because, like nature, we all do go on. Babies are born and, thanks to technology, family and friends all have access and rejoice with the new parents. Marriages are taking place albeit in much smaller groups of close family with the BIG celebration planned later. School will continue in the format parents had to deal with in the spring and teachers are scrambling on how best to educate.
I recently saw an article written by Rick Steves, the world traveler and TV host of many shows, in The Atlantic, “For the past 30 years, I’ve spent every summer abroad in Europe. Now I’ve realized that traveling isn’t just a pastime—it’s a mindset.” And he goes on to talk about how he has adapted his life to the pandemic with a traveler’s spirit.
Prohibition ended, harvest will be over before we know it, and this pandemic will end. Looking at history and what has taken place over the years gives me hope of a better, new world ahead. I would love to wait it out with you-we've enjoyed virtually connecting with many different friends (shout out to Florida and Alaska among others-you know who you are!) and our visits make us more connected and less lonely. Wine is what we have in common and brings us together. I can't wait until we can, virtually or in person, visit over a glass of vino! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a note to email@example.com
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Lyrics from “The Waiting.” Genius, 2020, https://genius.com/Tom-petty-and-the-heartbreakers-the-waiting-lyrics
July 27, 2020 09:22
93 years ago (July 22, 1927) my grandfather signed the papers on the purchase of a home, vineyard and shuttered winery near the town of Geyserville in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. I often wonder what the day was like-did it hold trepidation for him and his young family? Were there hopes that Prohibition would end soon and they could make a living selling wine? Or would they move on to something else? The legacy they created that day spans four generations and 9 decades here in Dry Creek Valley!
My grandparents, both immigrants from northern Italy, came to the United States separately in the early 1900s. My grandfather arrived along with his sister Caterina (she later died in the 1918 Influenza Pandemic) and found work around the Placerville and later Redding area. My grandmother came with her mother and sister to meet my great-grandfather who had found a place in Redding CA.
My grandparents met, as the story goes, when my grandfather was selling vegetables to local businesses and met my grandmother when he called on their hotel-just about 10 years after they had arrived in the United States.
They married, settled in Dunsmuir, and a few years later they pulled up roots and moved to Geyserville leaving behind family and friends. Giovanni & Julia arrived at the new property with three children between the ages of 7 and 2 years old along with all of their worldly possessions. In light of history it was a challenging period with Prohibition in full swing and the Great Depression following just two years later.
During this COVID time of sheltering in place I have to imagine it was almost the same feeling as we have now: being cut off from family and friends, striking out into new territory, not knowing what will happen in the next weeks and months. There weren’t many neighbors to begin with, the town of Geyserville was three miles away and they didn’t have friends nearby.
The beauty of this story comes with the knowledge of the hard work it took to overcome the odds and to wait patiently for the times to change. It was another 6 years of Prohibition before it was Repealed and almost 10 years for the Depression to end. All the while supporting a young family which welcomed one more child in 1932, my dad Jim.
They started by first selling the grapes to head of households in the area and launched a new family business of making wine in 1934. The ensuing years saw many changes in the way the family worked the land and made wine. I stand in awe of what they were able to achieve from there. I must remember what it took to get through those times because, like all of us, I need the reminder of better days to come.
If you would like to take a trip down memory lane click here for our history gallery.
July 24, 2020 15:39
While I was on vacation I decided to put together some of the responses I have received from my 'Notes from Home' over May and June 2020. Some are how you have coped with working from home-or being retired and staying home. Some are about how you happened upon Pedroncelli in your travels. They warm my heart, make me laugh out loud and also make me think as I read over them. This compilation, while you were the authors, means so much to me, my family and staff. Thank you all for sharing! And by no means stop writing me vintage stories and notes from your homes!
From YOUR Vintage Story:
Doug & Jan, Circa 2007: “My wife, Jan and I found Pedroncelli on our cross country trip from our home in the Finger Lakes area of NYS to my brothers home in Fresno via Yellowstone, Portland beer scene. As we headed south I decided to pull off at the Geyserville exit and saw the signpost for Dry Creek Valley. We spotted you sign and said “Why not?” We arrived at opening and tasted with a couple of newly weds and enjoyed at great tasting including you 4-Grape Port with dark chocolate covered espresso beans. Way to start the day. We’ve been fans ever since. Love you guys and the wonderful food and wine pairings. When we want Calif. wine we trend to Sonoma and Dry Creek. We love your Bushnell Zin. Best wishes from Upstate NY.”
Bruce: “My story starts around the summer of 1980. A friend from Windsor took me wine tasting to your winery and that day the winemaker, John, was doing a 10yr vertical pouring and said it was very special. I was new to wine tasting and did not know that tasting vintages from 1979 down to 1969 was as special as it was. Also in those days, there were no charges for the tasting, the good ole days! After that day, Pedroncelli Zinfandel would be one of my favorite wines.
Part Two & Three of my story happens around 2013-14. On a trip south (from McKinnleyville CA) to see my daughter, I stopped in to do a tasting. The lady that was working there was a local. We started chatting about wine and I casually said, "I see you have a new tasting room". And she said,"No it’s been here a long time". I replied it's been 23 or 24 years since I was here. I joined the wine club that day.
On the return trip from my daughter's place. I stopped in on the way back. Again, around 11:00 clock, middle of the week, same employee working, I'm tasting some wine, looking out a window towards the parking lot, when a couple of old guys get out of the shiny black SL500 Mercedes and come into the tasting room. The employee tells the gentlemen that there is a 5.00 tasting fee, and they answer, no problem. Then the driver of the Mercedes says to lady, "is John in today" and she explains John has gone home for the day but can she say who asking? He says "Davis Bynum", and at this point the employee is visibly nervous and excited at the same time. She tells him that Jim is here and will call him and within a minute Jim arrives in the tasting room. At this point, the lady says,"Mr. Bynum there will be no charge for the tasting" and I said “with that Mercedes he could afford a 10.00 tasting”. Everybody laughs and Davis said, I like your style young man, (I was 58-59 at the time and he was well into his 80's. I had finished my tasting and bought a couple of bottles to offset the 5.00 fee and decided it was time to go. I wish I would have stayed a little longer to watch two icons of the wine industry discuss wines and life. A Pedroncelli fan 40 plus years and counting.”
Wesley, circa 2015: “I don’t think we’ve met, but we are big fans of Pedroncelli, having been introduced through wine.woot back in the day. We live in Rochester, NY, and have visited the winery twice- once Jon Brown gave us a great tour and we met Jim in the tasting room when he came in for a glass of Wisdom cab. The second time we met Colin and he showed us around. We have had good luck, at least for our first two kids, finding some birth year wines way late in the game. I remember calling Jon in 2015 when our oldest daughter, Brooke, was twenty, to see if you guys had any 1995 wines still in the cellar. I’m pretty sure that Ed walked through the whole warehouse and ended up finding a magnum of 1995 Three Vineyards Cabernet that he didn’t know was there. Jon sold it to me for $50. I was shocked! We opened it to celebrate Brooke’s 21st birthday on April 22, 2016. The wine was fabulous, and the empty bottle still lives up on a shelf in our wine cellar, reminding us of the wonder of bringing our first child into the world.”
From A View from 1985:
Mark: “Great reading about your experience in 1985. In 1985 I had just completed my first year of grad school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I had a summer job at Busch Gardens working up data for food service and rides at the theme park. My wife Catherine and I had a 2 year son and we had passes for the park for the summer, so I worked many hours compiling data for the park (pre-desktop computing) and the family could hang out in the park. A year later I graduated with a master's degree in business finance and off I ran to work in Washington, DC for several years. A lot has transpired in the last 35 years, some good and some bad, but hopefully we learn and appreciate the fact that we made it to June of 2020.”
John and Sheryl Allen: Well, in 1985 we (wife Sheryl and 5 yr old son Jamie and I) lived in Seiad Valley, in the home we still live in today. Jamie is 40, has a nice wife Emily and 3 wonderful children, and they live 3 miles from us. They have a creek on their property about the size of Dry Creek with a swimming hole to keep us all cool. I was beginning my career with the US Forest Service performing forest inventory (measuring trees) and fighting forest fires. We made frequent trips to Healdsburg to visit my dad, Bob Allen on S. Fitch Mtn. Rd., since my mom Ruth passed away in 1983. We often came to your tasting room to taste and buy wine. Our trips are less frequent now, but every now and then we come down and see our friend Tom H. and stay at Geyserville Inn and eat at Catelli's. I've been retired for 7 years, and now we tend our garden and orchard on 4 acres, make my mom’s raviolis (original recipe from northern Italy), drink your good zin and enjoy living in the woods! Before COVID, we used to travel and golf, and stay at our second home in Ashland Or. I hope we can do that again soon! We love your Sonoma Co. and our Siskiyou Co. ----- Take care and enjoy and wish for better times!
Richard V.: “Our first visit to Pedroncelli Winery was to the barn tasting room. Two older gentlemen were pouring the wine and talking and telling stories. It had to be more than thirty-eight years ago because our daughter had not been born yet. In later years we visited with her at about age 10 or 11. At that time there was an art exhibit in the room off the new tasting room. Our daughter was really enthused for some of the art and wrote a note to the artist. The artist answered her little note and she was so totally excited to hear back from the artist! My wife and I still try to stop by the winery when we are in the area. Also, we are now members of the wine club. Good luck and keep up the good work!”
Steve: “Early 80’s was the time of our first visit to Pedroncelli. First purchase was either Mother Clone or a Cabernet, I’m not sure. I remember one year on a Celebrity Cruise we were excited to find a Pedroncelli on a Celebrity Cruise and got them to save enough bottles for us to have one each night at dinner. It is still difficult to find your wines in our Des Moines stores but we order regularly online to keep our stock current. My personal favorite is the Port with chocolate dessert. Dr. doesn’t want me to eat desserts so haven’t had any in a while. It’s a Pedroncelli chilling right now (Chardonnay) for dinner tonight. Keep up the good work and keep the great old favorites as many wineries are following the trendy wine of the month path.”
“It’s Judy, the healthcare worker from Washington State. I’m the one who was looking forward to visiting and having some Friends Red on my trip in June. Thankfully we are making progress in these challenging times and I’m so happy things worked out! We were able to visit last Sunday and Gary did a wonderful job with our tasting. We were so glad to visit as “Life Opens Up” in Sonoma County. I just received my shipment and look forward to enjoying each and every bottle. Stay well.”
Mark: “My wife and I are club members and have been for a few years now. I can tell you that we treasure your wines. I’m originally from CA but we’ve been in Texas for 25 years. We consider your wines the best quality for the price and we’ve visited many wineries all over the world. When we receive a club shipment, or a case we have ordered it brightens our day (and month) in many ways. During these times we have certainly enjoyed many a glass of Pedroncelli wine on our back porch. We live way out in the country and quarantining at home has not been a huge chore for us. Your wine has certainly made that easier to deal with. Things in Texas are opening up a bit but being where we are, we would pretty much like to spend our time here anyway. My wife can work from home and I am retired so we are certainly not complaining. I also realize that not all are as lucky and I hope for their sakes that things improve quickly. We wish you the best and please keep doing what you do.”
Dean: “All is well here in Omaha, NE. Luckily we have an acreage about 10 miles from mid town Omaha so have the ability to get out to garden, etc. Always lots to do. Is nice to be a “semi hermit”. The garden is responding well to the warmer weather but still need to rain. Tomatoes have set on and even the parsnips are growing. Last year that did not happen as we had lots of rain and not a lot of warm weather. Been eating fresh asparagus daily from our garden for the past month or so. It is getting to the point that Ann and I look at each other and say “what are we going to have with asparagus tonight.” We have an English couple in their mid to late 80s who live up the road so share asparagus and rhubarb with them on a weekly basis. They are very much concerned about the virus so are homebound on their acreage. Otherwise, no complaints as of this date. Just finished reading an interesting book, American Harvest. Saw a review of it in The New Yorker and thought it was one to read. I found it rather fascinating. Since your family is in agriculture, you might find the book, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery interesting. At the ranch we have various meadows and sloughs that are virgin prairies. We are working on a number of conservation projects including the removal of eastern red cedar trees, the bane of pastures. Time to head up there tomorrow to check things out. Need a long drive to get away for a bit. Hope all is well with you. Keep smiling and remember, it could be worse! (My uplifting thought for the day). (Grin).”
June 29, 2020 11:27
Where were you in 1985? This year marks my 35th at Pedroncelli Winery so June is a special month for me as it is the anniversary of the start of my career in the family business. 35 years ago…more than half my life and the other half was spent growing up here. I did move away to attend college in Marin County (go Penguins) but always came home to visit with family and it is how my path back home began.
Post college, as I drove back and forth from the East Bay to Geyserville, I was missing Sonoma County quite a bit (by the way the place I lived in was right next to the Del Norte BART station and the track ran above the fence). After the invitation from my father Jim (actually a meeting in the case goods warehouse), I agreed to make the move back home and work for the family. Once home, I supplemented my liberal arts education with classes at the Santa Rosa Junior College where I learned from the greats-Richard Thomas (vineyard) and Bill Traverso (wine marketing) among others.
As I eased into the business of wine I began in the Tasting Room working with cousin Richard. I eventually made my way into the office and began doing administrative work. Writing fact sheets and then the newsletter was a natural extension of my education as an English major. 2020 also marks the 30th anniversary of writing newsletters in various formats over the years. 10 years ago I switched from printing the newsletter to the electronic version. My blog posts on Vino in my Dino began 6 years ago. Those projects represent thousands of words about the winery, our history and family as well as musings and opinions over the years.
In light of this year and all the COVID 19 sheltering in place, wearing of masks, and physically distancing ourselves helps me put some of these things in perspective: my grandparents started from scratch in 1927. Two years later the Great Depression began. They made it through and I have realized by talking to my late uncle John and dad Jim and hearing their stories of the early years made me realize it wasn’t a ‘fun’ time. I imagine it must have been hard for my grandparents to make a living and to feed the family. But because of the land they bought, they were able to have a farm, to sell grapes to support the family and learn a new way of life that would span 9 decades and four generations.
In the time I have worked for the family business I have seen huge swings and changes in how wine is sold and talked about. The internet, of course, is the biggest change in how we communicate our story and messages-website, social media channels, email and newsletters. Marketing wine nationally and globally are now par for the course. My newsletters have always communicated what was going on and where we were headed.
Reflections on my first newsletter-dated Spring 1990, Vol.1 No.1 (by clicking here you'll go to our gallery for the rest.)
The format here is the typical four-page newsletter with the information in order of importance-front page with news, the middle pages featuring varietals and new releases and the back panel reserved for the shorter messages of signing up to receive the newsletter and information on upcoming events-in this case it was for the Passport to Dry Creek Valley which many of you are familiar with as the trademark event of our area.
As I read through it some things remain the same because of who we are-can’t change the beginnings or the middle. The history of the first and second generations are in place. You’ll see we made 12 wines at the time including Chenin Blanc, Gamay Beaujolais and Riesling. Today there are other varietals planted in their place (Syrah instead of Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Riesling). Wisdom comes with farming a variety and finding out another one does even better in its’ place or is an answer to what our friends like to drink. Palates were evolving from lighter sweeter wines to more complex wines. We were also known as a ‘best value’ winery. This stand the test of time-this week Dan Berger wrote about our wines and included here his thoughts on the value our wines represent.
The next pages were a bit of a mish mash-I was learning the ropes obviously. Interestingly the new releases for that time of year include three wines we no longer produce-White Zinfandel, Dry Chenin Blanc and Gamay Beaujolais. I gave an update on the cellar as well as talked about how long we had grown and produced Cabernet Sauvignon-and how long to age it with the suggestion of buying a case of our 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
What have I learned? To tell the story-even if it is from my perspective and to tell it in a way that reflects who I am and who we are. I enjoy being a storyteller what with our rich history, generations of farming wine grapes and making wine allows for many opportunities to see things from all angles. Those stories, like the newsletters, create a timeline of the Pedroncelli family and what we have accomplished over 9 decades-and 5 generations.
How about you? I bet a lot of things have changed in that time. 35 years ago Back to the Future was the number one movie, the KC Royals won the World Series (remember baseball?) and the 49ers won the Superbowl. Memories of Live Aid, The Cosby Show and, fittingly, Aretha Franklin’s voice was named a natural resource of Michigan. Tell me-did you have a bottle of our Gamay or Chenin Blanc back then? Did you buy a case of the 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and do you have any in your cellar? Did you visit the tasting room when it was in the case goods warehouse (which is where I began)? Or earlier did you meet my grandfather who welcomed people in to taste in the 1950s/1960s? I look forward to hearing your stories as always and won’t be resting on my laurels as I have even more to write about in the coming years.
June 24, 2020 11:46
Like the woman in the Mervyn’s ads so many years ago we eagerly awaited the reopening of our tasting room-the first time we have been closed to the public in our 9 decades of operation. We are thrilled to be open once again having first received the green light from the state and then about a week later the go ahead from Sonoma County. With some additional guidelines, of course, thanks to COVID19.
Since March 16 the ‘Plan C’ on how we would re-open and operate in the period following the mandated closure of wine tasting has been on our minds. What would be expected, how we’d keep everyone safe, what would tasting be like, all under consideration. We do know this new experience will be shared everywhere because similar guidelines were developed from dining in at restaurants to going to the grocery store-If you are going inside masks and physical distancing would be required. Not quite the same as wine tasting in 2019 for sure. After nearly three months and a few virtual tastings along the way we have thrown open the cellar door with what I’ll call the COVID19 twist.
We are taking reservations which is another first in our tasting room history-we have always been a ‘walk right in, step up to the tasting bar’ kind of place. Also, and this comes as no surprise to everyone during this time, masks are required of staff and visitors-at least for our guests they can take off the mask once seated at their table in order to enjoy the wine tasting experience. Physical distance between parties is also a requirement as well as monitoring visitor flow so we don’t get too crowded. Think of it as your own private tasting area replete with wine, friends and your own ‘table’.
Another new development is in the way we offer our wines for tasting, once you are here, in the form of wine flights. Wine flights were something we were thinking about before COVID19 and was kicked off by our tasting room manager Gary. It was a way to navigate our 20 wines by offering suggestions and putting together wines with a theme. Hence the name of today’s Note from Home: IpsumLoremPourSomeMoreum. Ed and I were working on the copy for the flights and most everyone is familiar with the IpsumLorem filler as a replacement when copy isn’t quite ready yet, right? He filled in with this phrase and I got a kick out of it.
But I digress. By organizing these flights into groups like The Burgundian (Chardonnays and Pinot Noir); Classic Dry Creek Valley (Flagship Zinfandels & Petite Sirah) or The Road Less Traveled (our small lot wines and unusual varieties) we felt it would be easier for our guests to make their way through the number of wines we make. We also offer Create Your Own Flight and left it up to you to choose your favorite wines-it’s how we roll here at Pedroncelli.
Nonetheless, we are determined to make your visit here a pleasant one, although there are things we ask of you!
- Make a reservation by sending an email or calling the tasting room 707-857-3531 option 1
We can take a few walk-in guests, but space is limited.
- Bring your favorite mask, and wear at at all times when you are away from your table.
- Sanitize your hands (you'll see the cool little dispensers as you enter.)
- Keep physically distant from other guests--at least six bottles of Zin laying end-to-end.
- And most of all please join us when you are feeling your best-or else we’ll have to take your temperature!
By the way, for those of you still homebound or far away and won’t be traveling soon we’ll be offering our tasting room flights virtually if you'd like to order your in-home version. We will be happy to connect with you to talk about the wines at a mutually convenient time of course! firstname.lastname@example.org is the way to reach us for those.
- Make a reservation by sending an email or calling the tasting room 707-857-3531 option 1
June 24, 2020 11:05
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'?"
- Wine Flights
- note from home
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- Heat wave
- Bushnell Vineyard
- cooking with wine
- Lake Sonoma
- Mother Clone
- Wine & Food
- Dry Creek Valley
- Crop set
- Walbridge Fire
- Block 007 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
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- Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon
- Vintage 2020
- Tasting Room
- Follow the Vineyard
- Sonoma County
- Courage Zinfandel
- Holding steady