• 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.

  • Varietally Speaking: Syrah

    May 28, 2015 16:30

    The final post for this month is about Syrah and is a tale of two vineyards. We have four acres planted between two very different locations: our home ranch in Dry Creek Valley and on a family-owned mountain side high above Alexander Valley. Rhone varietals have been planted in the valley for more than 30 years beginning with the most well-known: Syrah. California acreage totals 19,000 (!) and in Sonoma County there are 1890 acres. In Dry Creek Valley the acreage is smaller, so I’ll estimate under 200 acres. John Pedroncelli and vineyard manager Lance Blakeley planted 2 acres in 1998 and the varietal has done quite well, thriving in its own microclimate of hillside and rocky soil on our home ranch vineyard. The second vineyard was planted in 2003 on the Ridge Ranch, owned by John and Christine with roots going back to 1963 when Christine’s father purchased the property, with 2 acres high above the Alexander Valley. We combine the two vineyards into our where they are a welcome addition with the characteristic fruity quality helps underscore our red wine blend. A toast to our varietals as we end the month on a Syrah note-from my Dino to yours.

    While the Portuguese varietals can be seen in fall splendor at the top, our Syrah vineyards are the green bands at the bottom-this is on our home ranch.

    Syrah Vineyards

  • Varietally Speaking: Port

    May 26, 2015 16:35

    We have four acres of Portuguese varietals planted in the mid-1990s on our home ranch. We have found the hillsides are a great spot for these dessert wine grapes which consists of 30% Tinta Madera, 30% Tinta Cao, 20% Souzao and 20% Touriga Nacional. The stats for acreage in the state of California are sketchy when it comes to these varietals as I could only find Souzao which has a total of 88 acres in the state and 2 in Sonoma County-we have 1 acre. The other listed is Touriga Nacional with 270 acres statewide and 2 acres in Sonoma County, with one here. John Pedroncelli, who liked to experiment and find out which site is best for each varietal, began making this wine in 1990 from a grower nearby (does Raymond Burr ring any bells?) and soon added this to our permanent portfolio.

    When I give a vineyard tour at the top of our Mother Clone vineyard it is easy to see the bands of color, in the growing season and fall, representing the different grapes planted across the way. If you are wondering why we can still call this a Port, thank the 2006 trade agreement when we were grandfathered in because we have been using the name for so many years. The vines continue to thrive in our Mediterranean climate. Each grape adds its’ own unique character to the blend be it color, flavor or tannin.

    Bands of color delineating the Portuguese varietals in the fall.

    Varietal Hillside

  • Varietally Speaking: Petite Sirah

    May 22, 2015 16:39

    As I continue the series about varietals we grow, the focus is on Petite Sirah. This wine grape is an important part of Dry Creek Valley’s grape-growing history although it has been in the shadow of Zinfandel all along, being a supporting player when blended. Adding deeper tannin, color and structure to our Zins, it is a delicious wine on its own. It has also been growing on my cousin’s vineyard (Bushnell) and we make a Family Vineyards blend of the two. Let’s step back and take a look at the grape itself. There is a bit of a mystery why it is called Petite Sirah but I can tell you it is the love child of Sirah and Peloursin and known in France as Durif. While the name and pedigree can be confusing, thank heavens they didn’t try to name it Peloursin Sirah. Looking at the grape acreage planted in California there is a sum total of 9576 acres and I was surprised at the amount planted in Sonoma County-I thought we would have led in number of acres but at 650 we are in the middle of the pack. Between our vineyard and the Bushnell vineyard we have 7 acres and this provides blending opportunities as well as a stand-alone offering. There are a couple of distinctive qualities about this grape as it has small berries and tightly packed bunches. Like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah has a small amount of juice to skin ratio and the deep purple bunches produce what I call a ‘bruiser’ of a wine-deep and inky with chalky tannins. In fact it is the wine of choice to age-and some experts say it ages better and longer in the cellar than Cabernet Sauvignon! For more about this intriguing grape you should visit PS I Love You-a winery and grower organization support group. To add one more antidote: PSILY once held a Blue Tooth Tour-proof this wine stains more than your glass. A toast to blending in and standing out, only Petite Sirah can do it.

    Our Petite Sirah vineyard is located on our home ranch, where it has thrived since the earlier 1900s.

    Petite Sirah grape bunch



  • Varietally speaking: Sangiovese

    May 20, 2015 16:44

    Sangiovese is the focus varietal for today’s blog post featuring of the different grapes we grow. In the early 1990’s John Pedroncelli wanted to add an Italian varietal, in honor of our heritage, to our home ranch vineyard. We planted the first 2 acres in 1993 and it took to the hillside as if it were home. We named it Alto Vineyard, and soon another 3 acres followed on two other hills. We went into the California Chianti business. Yes, this grape is the backbone of Italy’s Chianti region. In number of acres planted in California, it is most widely planted in Sonoma County with 365 acres scattered around the many appellations in our county with a healthy amount taking root right here in Dry Creek Valley. The vineyard crew has learned these vines like to start early-usually the first at bud break and needs some hang-time on the vine to ripen properly-this is a high acid grape and the longer it hangs with the right climate the better it gets. You could say it is a vineyard I have seen mature from the early astringent days when we added Merlot to soften it to the recent 2012 vintage where it stands on its own as a true California Chianti with bright acidity balanced with perfectly ripened fruit. Now for a toast to our heritage!

    Our Alto Vineyards Sangiovese hugs the hillside terraces.

    Sangiovese Vineyards

  • Varietally Speaking: Sauvignon Blanc

    May 15, 2015 12:43

    In honor of the focus on varietals we grow, today I’ll talk about Sauvignon Blanc. It is the only white wine varietal we have planted on our vineyards and is the white wine counterpart to Zinfandel as the signature wine of Dry Creek Valley. For comparison’s sake here are the numbers: 2700 acres planted in Sonoma County, it is the most popular white varietal in Dry Creek Valley, with an estimated 1100 acres planted. We have 7 acres planted on the valley floor where the sedimentary soils and balance of warm days and cool nights create near perfect conditions for making great Sauvignon Blanc. Located down on the east side of Dry Creek, we farm two blocks where the vineyard crew takes special care during the growing season to tuck and cover the ripening fruit-this process is almost as important as where it is planted and what type of microclimate we have there. Tucking the shoots back makes way for sunshine to do its part in ripening up the grapes. As farmers, we always want the best of both worlds: sun and shade. Leaves are a very important part of this cycle as they provide the much-needed cover for the grape bunches as they go through the season. Not enough shade, and the grapes become raisins in due time, too much shade and the wine takes on green flavors. Tuck and cover is an apt description for this vineyard process. As I like to say the wine reflects this pattern: it ripens on the vine, makes a stop at the fermentation tank and bottled shortly after harvest capturing tropical fruit and citrus aromas and flavors finishing with crisp acidity. Cheers, I’ll have some in my Dino.

    East Side Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc.

    Sauvignon Blanc grape bunch

  • Varietally Speaking: Merlot

    May 13, 2015 12:57

    This month I am posting about the grapes we grow in order of the most widely planted on our vineyards. Merlot is next on the list. Merlot. Need I say more? It has been a much maligned grape in the last 10-15 years (darn it Sideways!) and I believe mistakenly so because it makes a great wine, softer than Cabernet Sauvignon, with great structure. Even grocery chain scans continue to show it is one of the top varietals purchased. Possibly due, in part, because there are 45,000 acres planted in the state of California not including the rest of the world? It is second only to Cabernet Sauvignon in tons crushed in the state. There are 5500 acres planted in Sonoma County, around 1000 in Dry Creek Valley and we have 12 acres on our estate.

    Sometimes Merlot stands in the shadows since it is known as a blending grape especially in France (part of the Bordeaux blends you hear about). We have used it to soften our Cabernet Sauvignon and even our Sangiovese at times. A grape of intense color but mild mannered it is also the base for our blend. Grown on the bench just above the valley floor we usually get about 6 tons per acre. The average going price per ton here in Sonoma County is $1600. Overall Merlot is a good choice when looking for a wine that is friendly to the palate. Or look for wines where it plays a pivotal role as it adds a soft touch, mild tannins and lots of flavor. Merlot in my Dino coming up!

    Merlot at harvest time, ready for its' moment in the limelight.

    Merlot grape bunch

  • Varietally Speaking: Cabernet Sauvignon

    May 6, 2015 13:02

    I am posting about our grapes in order of the amount we grow. Cabernet Sauvignon is the next on the list. Here at Pedroncelli we have been growing and making Cabernet Sauvignon since the mid-1960s. We planted the first Cabernet vineyard in the valley and have learned many things over the years on how to get the best out of each site. Although there have been many fanciful theories of the origin of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, modern DNA testing indicates it is a chance crossing of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Besides the geek factor on origins did you know it is Sonoma County's second most planted wine grape and it thrives in places such as Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma Mountain and right here in Dry Creek Valley, where it is the most widely cultivated varietal.

    Since Cabernet is king, are you curious as to the cost per ton? $2555 is the market price from the Sonoma County 2014 Grape Crush Report. With Sonoma County acreage at an estimated 12,600 acres, Dry Creek Valley has 3200 acres while we have 29 acres planted and we typically get about 6 ton per acre. The vines are trained on cordon arms, using one of three trellis systems depending on the block: the Scott-Henry, Smart Dyson and Straight Vertical. Planted in the gravelly loam of the lower benches in the valley, we feel the soil, the trellising and careful vineyard management brings out great qualities in this noble grape. We make three styles of Cabernet and have just introduced Wisdom, our paean to the King of the Grapes. Now for some Cabernet in my Dino and a toast to finding Wisdom here.

    Cabernet Sauvignon in the spring.

    Cabernet Sauvignon in Spring

  • Varietally Speaking: Zinfandel

    May 5, 2015 13:08

    This month my posts will focus on the grapes we grow on our estate vineyards where we farm over 100 acres. I am beginning with Zinfandel because it was the first grape planted here. Thriving on the hillsides in rocky soil developing its’ own style of ripe berry and black pepper qualities, this grape is the flagship of our family of wines. Now for the back story: Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush somewhere between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in the state’s climate and soil. The grape’s approachable and early drinking characteristics also helped catapult it onto the wine scene. Today this varietal is the third leading winegrape variety planted in California, with nearly 50,000 acres planted, according to the 2014 California Grape Acreage Report. A majority are grown in central California (for white zinfandel) but did you know Sonoma County is home to 5200 acres-and half are planted right here in Dry Creek Valley (or as I like to call it Zinland)?

    Zinfandel has flourished on our property since the early 1900s, predating our founding year of 1927. In those early years we produced a Zinfandel in the form of a field blend and made our first varietally labeled Zinfandel by 1951. Today we have 30 acres planted on the home ranch. We also purchase Zinfandel from two longtime sources: the Bushnell and the Buchignani vineyards. All but an acre or two are head-pruned or goblet trained and we feel Zin, from crop set to ripening, grows best this way. We feature three Zinfandels now: our Rosé, our Mother Clone and Bushnell Vineyard. Each of them is steeped in history, showcasing the best of the appellation. Now a toast to generations of Zinfandel!

    A head pruned Zinfandel vine on our Home Ranch-Mother Clone Zin in the making.

    Home Ranch MC Zin Vine

    The grapes as they are ripening in the late summer. We wait for just the right time to pick.

    Zinfandel grapes ripening

  • Varietally Speaking

    December 16, 2014 12:25

    Funny story about Sangiovese. Almost 15 years ago, I read an article predicting the next popular wines. At that time, Syrah was riding high, it was before the movie Sideways so Pinot Noir was still a sleeper, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were holding their positions as top selling wines. A wine writer wrote that two wines were up and comers and were about to sweep these other wines off the map: Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio. I became hopeful that our new addition of Alto Vineyards Sangiovese, first released in 1999, would do well.

    Well I am here to tell you that while Pinot Grigio did well the wine buying public didn’t receive the memo about Sangiovese. In fact many of the vineyards planted back then have made way for other, perhaps better known varietals. I think it doesn’t quite have a hook like California’s own Zinfandel or familiarity of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is the grape that made a region in Italy famous: Chianti. When I talk to sales representatives and retailers about carrying our California Chianti I urge them to become a Sangiovese champion because it is a unique wine in a sea of others. I believe our estate vineyards are producing some of the best California-style Chianti on the market. Planted to three areas on our home ranch the vineyard has thrived. This is one of my favorite wines to pour in our tasting room. Taste it for yourselves with a toast to heritage and choices in the vast world of wine.

    One of our Alto vineyards on our home ranch, you see the terraces of Sangiovese atop our Mother Clone vineyard.

    Sangiovese Vineyards