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  • The Southern Reaches: Dry Creek Neighborhoods

    May 24, 2019 16:00

    The Southern Reaches: Dry Creek Neighborhoods

    Here in Dry Creek Valley we have a north/south orientation with the valley being 16 miles long by 2 miles wide. The midpoint is at Lambert Bridge Road about 5 miles south of where Pedroncelli is located. Above this line the climate has always been a bit warmer-by a few degrees-in fact the fog rolls off of our property sometimes by 9am and it takes an hour or three later for the southern end.

    Our visit to the south is the sixth and final installment about the Dry Creek Valley neighborhoods where our grapes are grown or sourced. In this visit to the southern reaches of Dry Creek Valley, about four miles south of Lambert Bridge Road, we have one very longtime grower for Pedroncelli: Frank Johnson. He purchased the land in 1971 which at the time was planted to orchards not vineyards. He started by removing the apple trees and replacing them with Chardonnay (where both our Signature Selection and the F. Johnson single vineyard are sourced), Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer.

    John Pedroncelli, winemaker at the time, was seeking to add to our production and sought out Frank in the 1980s to begin a winery-grower relationship that continues to this day. Pretty sure it was a handshake contract then. We have been buying Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for all those years and, when Jim Pedroncelli came up with the idea to add Gewurztraminer to our friends.white, we added a third varietal from their vineyard.

    Frank bought his property long before appellations lines were drawn. In 1983, when the boundaries were set, they divided the F. Johnson Vineyard with the Chardonnay ending up on the Dry Creek side and Pinot Noir on the Russian River Valley side-and they are just a few feet apart. So we have cooler-climate-grown Chardonnay with Dry Creek Valley as the appellation and we, of course, source part of our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from the other part of the vineyard with thanks to those who drew the lines 36 years ago.

    Our Dry Creek Valley neighborhoods are all wrapped up. I always say every grape picked is within 12-14 miles of where the winery is located. We are regionally focused on local or estate vineyards when making our wine and the fruit comes from some of the best vineyards in the county.

  • 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.