• Sold on Sustainability

    July 26, 2019 17:06

    Sold on Sustainability

    The subject of sustainability and how it sells wine is a fascinating one these days. We’ve been certified by a third party auditor. We’ve made changes over the years and plan on making more changes over the next decades to maintain our status. What sells us on the concept? More importantly what sells you, the reader, on the concept? Sold on Sustainability sheds light on the ‘sale’ability of the very thing that keeps the grape and wine business going.

    What sold the sustainability concept for me was the focus on the future. The emphasis is placed on what we can do better in order to leave the earth and environment in good condition for future generations. This includes the vineyard, winery and human resources. We are audited annually via a third party California Sustainable W A representative. Before they arrive Mitch Blakeley, fourth generation family member tasked with the project, submits paperwork that includes changes and upgrades to the previous year’s work.

    When we talk about sustainability in the market place whether it is to our tasting room visitors or a wine shop buyer it is about what we have achieved and how we will go forward to continue the process begun 90 years ago. We continue being good stewards of the land, to treat the wines and people with respect and with an eye on how it will impact the environment and the world in the years ahead. This is sustainability to us.

    How does this sell the concept? If our friends know we are invested in the future in such a way that each year will bring mindful choices about our land, our wines and our way of life then we have all that we need to live the legacy of our founders and the next generations. We are indeed sold on sustainability.

  • On Being Down To Earth: Sustainability Update

    March 27, 2019 13:33

    On Being Down To Earth: Sustainability Update

    Many of us farmers are down to earth in fact rely on the very soil beneath our feet to develop the grapes and the quality in our wines. What does that mean in the context of sustainability? I checked in with 4th generation family member Mitch Blakeley who is in his second year as the ‘go to’ sustainability contact here at Pedroncelli HQ.

    Why down to earth this month? April is designated Down to Earth month with the national observance of Earth Day taking place on April 22. Being farmers for over 9 decades puts us in touch with the earth on a daily basis. We are at the mercy of weather and happily have landed in a place where soils, climate and geography produce grapes and wine of highest quality. What is sustainability for us? It covers a lot of ground, pardon the pun.

    We compost much of what is left after the grapes have been brought in at harvest: stems, pomace (the skins and seeds left from fermentation-some Italians in the area produce Grappa from this extending the life even further), vineyard prunings and other organic materials are cut up and spread in the vineyard.

    More soil improvement comes from cover crops which feed the land, help control erosion and of course are a landing spot for the local insects which are also beneficial to our vineyard. In turn the cover crops are chopped and turned into the soil to replenish nitrogen and oxygen.

    We limit tilling which can eat up natural resources and deplete the land on one third of our vineyard. Irrigation is now checked weekly and dictates just how much if any water is needed during the growing season-pretty sure we are good to go until well into the season this year with 60 inches so far and more coming down.

    In the winery we are working on more and more ways to save including motion sensitive lighting in all production buildings. We also are mapping our usage in the areas of energy and fuel with an eye to even more savings. Sustainability isn’t just the big things it is the little ones like making sure we are working with our suppliers to lower our footprint in many ways from packaging to buying local.

    There are the three 'E's of Sustainability: Environmentally sound, Economically feasible, and (Socially) Equitable. Each of these takes us back to our roots where we have been and still are good stewards of the land; being sustainable also means it is less expensive to farm which makes it easier on the pocketbook when you buy our wines; generations have called this little corner of Dry Creek Valley home-not only family but our employees as well. We are doing our part and continue to work up the sustainable ladder by raising the bar in many areas of the vineyard and winery-and of course making sure the next generations are in place to do the same.

  • Importance of Being Compost

    April 9, 2015 14:02

    Part of being sustainable means we use sound vineyard practices so the impact on our land will be minimized and it will be preserved for future generations. We have three generations and counting on this little corner of Dry Creek Valley! Sustainability in today’s post means using organic material from things like fermentation for the good of the vineyard. For instance, some of the odds and ends from fermentation are spread to lend nutrients to the soil. It has been part of vineyard life since I can remember. When I was growing up we always used pomace in our garden to enrich our zucchini plants, tomato vines and green beans. It is a combination of dried grape seeds and skins left over from the fermenting process and it spends a year drying out, so to speak. I also remember digging around the garden and finding the pomace was full of bug activity too—the good kind to help the garden grow. A phrase used by a grape grower down the road, who was of German decent, always said they used every part of the pig, ‘except the squeal’. In that vein, we use by products of fermenting wine, divert wastewater into ponds where ducks, frogs and turtles thrive, and line roads with erosion-controlling stems. There is still life left in these grape skins and seeds and they are a great addition to vineyards just like they were in our family garden. Were you aware that pomace (fresh) is a component of grappa, the Italian liquor? Like he said, everything except the squeal. Cheers and now for some fermented grape juice in my Dino!

    Fresh pomace in my hand.


    Last vintage’s pomace-not pretty but kept under tarps until dried out. Ready to spread!

    Pomace Pile

  • Down to Earth Month: Being Sustainable

    April 2, 2015 14:23

    What does it mean to be sustainable? It means to tread lightly and to be good stewards of the land. It means creating a better environment now and for the future generations. Three generations of my family have called Dry Creek Valley home since 1927. Sustainability is part of our DNA. We have always been good stewards from the days when my grandparents tilled the soil, farmed grapes, raised crops and animals to sustain their family to the next 8 decades of tending the land, making wine, and sharing the fruit of our labors. Our family is committed to bringing up the next generations the same way we were. After 87 years of farming we are on the path to be certified sustainable through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. Even our home county of Sonoma has pledged 100% of the vintners and growers will be certified by 2019. We are on board and have accomplished many of the requirements already. Believe me when I tell you I have gone through more than 200 of the assessment questions myself (twice!) and it is gratifying to see the proof of our sustainability in many areas along with room for growth in others. Join me as this month is spent studying our vineyards and winery operations and logging examples of our sustainability. Cheers!

    An example of erosion control: stems from the 2014 harvest are spread along hillside areas to cut back on erosion of the vineyard roads.

    Stems help Erosion control

  • Pomace Me

    September 23, 2014 15:40

    If I had the ability to provide scratch and sniff blog posts then I would bottle up the smell of fermenting grapes and share with the world. The pungency of these aromas is a large part of my love for harvest time and the late summer and fall in wine country. In many other areas the autumnal smell of mulch among the trees can be just as pungent after a first rain, but I am partial to the byproduct of young wine in the making. Another physical byproduct of winemaking is pomace, ahh the aromas that go back to my childhood…pungent, cloying, fruit-fly attracting. In case you didn’t know, it consists of the skins and seeds left over from the fermentation process. Upon completion, the hose is attached to the tank and drained into a wine press. The skins and seeds are separated at this time and conveyed into a truck that brings the spent skin/seed mixture to a hillside to ‘age’ or dry out. Once the pile has ‘taken the cure’ it will be used in our vineyards to provide fertilization. I remember we even used the dried pomace in the vegetable gardens, putting it around our zucchini and tomato plants to enrich the soil. All this talk of fermenting has me thirsty—I'm pouring a little vino in my Dino to toast another day.