• Going Italian

    April 23, 2018 16:46

    Going Italian

    What do you get when you combine 74 lovers of Italian food, wine and heritage? A wonderful evening where Pedroncelli wines were poured, delicious food was served and great conversations flourished. My parents Jim and Phyllis joined me as we talked about our history in Sonoma County and our roots in Italy to this group at a dinner sponsored by the North Bay Italian Cultural Foundation (NBICF) held at Riviera Ristorante in Santa Rosa.

    My family has deep Italian roots via my grandparents who arrived separately with their families from northern Italy in the early 1900s; my grandmother came with her mother and sister who met up with my great-grandfather in Redding, California. My grandfather traveled as a teenager with his sister when she was betrothed to marry a fellow Italian in Dunsmuir, California. Years later my grandfather Giovanni was selling vegetables to the hotel run by my great-grandparents and met my grandmother Julia on one of his stops. The rest was history and a few years later the young family, with three children-Margaret, Marianne and John, pulled up roots and moved to Geyserville where there was a home, a vineyard to tend and a shuttered winery waiting out Prohibition. I think part of the reason they moved to this area was because of the many other Italians who had made Dry Creek Valley home.

    The connection with NBICF began when my aunt Marianne moved back to Sonoma County in the early 1980s after working for the State of California. She joined this Italian-focused group as a way to network and find new friends. She was very proud of her heritage as an Italian-American, accent on the Italian. She practiced her Italian in small groups, traveled and went to many events over those years. We have kept in touch with NBICF since she passed away. They even started a scholarship in her name for any student wanting to continue their Italian language education at Santa Rosa Junior College.

    All in all we ‘went Italian’ along with everyone else at the dinner and enjoyed making new friends and visiting with old ones as well. Pedroncelli, after all, is Italian for La Dolce Vita. Saluti a tutti.

  • WOW: Pedroncelli is a Women Owned Winery

    February 27, 2018 16:38

    WOW: Pedroncelli is a Women Owned Winery

    Family businesses are different than others because most of our co-workers are spouses, siblings or cousins. You know, when we were growing up here at the winery, women outnumbered my Dad 5 to 1. With four daughters and my Mom he survived but as my sister Lisa put it “his lifetime achievement award was well deserved-he survived four teenage girls”. He was raised in part by his sisters Margaret and Marianne who were 10 and 9 years older than he was so he had a good start in the girl department.

    Women over the years have played an important part in this family business of ours. My grandmother Julia helped everywhere from the vineyard to administration to maintaining the family home and the countless dinners they hosted. Don’t forget my aunts who not only took care of my dad but they also worked with their parents to run the vineyard and farm. Later on Margaret and my uncle Al grew Zinfandel and Petite Sirah for the winery. My mother Phyllis and aunt Christine, from the second generation, also had roles in the running of the business from market visits to weighing in grape trucks, bookkeeping to hospitality.

    Because of the hard work and dedication of the first two generations the third and fourth generation became owners. Those generations are predominately women (see note above about me and my three sisters and includes cousins too).

    I was asked a great question at the #winestudio discussion earlier this month when the tweet up was the subject of women owned wineries. How did I find my voice and my calling amidst a family business? When I was attending college my parents encouraged me to do what I wanted to do-to pursue my dream. I majored in English with a Writing Emphasis and thought I’d go into the publishing world. A weekend side job of helping my sister in the tasting room had me commuting between El Cerrito in the East Bay to Geyserville-where I realized how much I missed Sonoma County. A few months later my dad and I had a chat in the case goods warehouse and he asked me if I’d be interested in working for the winery. I had had enough of the city life (cue Green Acres music) and came back home armed only with an English degree and willingness to learn.

    Part of the blessing of a family business is when we are hired we are encouraged to take a part of the business that speaks to us-sisters Cathy and Lisa work with administration-they are numbers ladies. I found my voice by writing for the winery-newsletters, background stories, fact sheets, press kits and a blog. Good thing I majored in English w/writing emphasis. I was also afforded the freedom to find my passion about wine not only by writing about it but also traveling around the U.S. markets. When I was growing up in the heart of the winery operations I took for granted what takes place in the vineyard and the cellar. I don’t anymore—I have learned much about the process and if it is possible I have become even more of a wine fan than ever before because there is a world of wines to discover.

    Amy Bess Cook has started a WoW: Women Owned Wineries website highlighting Sonoma County WoW. Check it out here.

    A toast with a splash of Zinfandel in my Dino-the first wine I ever tried.

  • Bottle Closure

    February 19, 2015 17:10

    Many of you are familiar with the subject of closures for wine bottles, especially if you have ever tried to open a stelvin cap as if it were a cork (I admit it fooled me once). As far back as the 1950s we bottled gallons and half gallons with screw caps and fifths (now 750ml) using both cork and screw cap. While these closures have come a long way in both quality and style how does using either one affect wine as it ages? It has to do with oxidation. Cork allows the important but minuscule amount of oxygen to interact with the wine and, as it ages, it softens becoming a more complex wine. Screw caps also allow a bit of oxygen but much less and we believe they deliver a fresher version of the wine-by slowing the oxygen exchange. The mechanics so to speak of a red wine that has been aged develops a more pleasant texture because tannins soften and fruit becomes more balanced. We bottle all but one red wine with cork. Our, meant to be consumed early because it is made in a lighter, softer style, has no need for extra time in the bottle. Five others (4 white wines, 1 rosé) are bottled with screw caps. These wines are made in a style where we encourage you to drink them soon after bottling. An interesting case in point: a month ago I tasted our 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and was pleasantly surprised to see the wine had not oxidized (it remained a lovely straw color), the bouquet had lost most of the fruit which is the core of our style but all in all it was a very pleasant glass of white wine. This is not always the case-too much oxygen and aging will turn some white wines brown and funky, definitely not to be enjoyed. I feel each of us needs to do a bit of sleuthing about the wines we feel needs to age and those which should be opened in a month, year or two after purchase. I found a great article by Andrew Waterhouse, professor of Enology at UC Davis, who has more to say about natural and synthetic closures. Check your cellar, cache or wine rack for wines you may want to open now or continue to age. We’ll continue the discussion next week as we head toward Open That Bottle Night on February 28-what will be in your glass?

    Read Dr. Waterhouse's article here

    Bottles shot

  • Wine Science! Part 2

    February 5, 2015 17:31

    A few years ago a friend was over at our house and was enjoying some of our Cabernet Sauvignon-he read the back label for more information and came across the descriptor “red cherries” in the tasting notes. He asked if cherries had been added to the wine at some point along the way. He was new to wine tasting so I assured him that no cherries were used in the production of the wine and it was a description used by the winemaker to describe the fruit characteristics of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. Which opens up another form of thought we’ll explore in a future blog post: what sets Cabernet, for instance, apart from Merlot or Zinfandel for that matter. But I digress. You’ve heard that a wine begins in the vineyard-from the type of growing season to how late you leave the grapes on the vine-they all come into play when we talk about the flavors in wine. How about throwing in oak barrel aging? Then you have another layer of flavor or, as I like to say, complexity. This video does a great job (thanks Dr. Sacks at Cornell University) of explaining the science behind the flavors we smell and taste in wine. And I completely agree with him when he says to ‘add your two cents’ when it comes to describing the wine you are trying-it is after all your palate and your tasting experience which is coming into play! When you enjoy your glass of wine tonight, may you taste the monoterpenes!

    Out of the bottle: Wine Flavor

  • Sparkling Wine and Champagne Dreams

    December 30, 2014 12:07

    Do you remember your first sip of Champagne? I do! 22 years ago Ed and I were in Whistler for a Sonoma County Wine Tour. Our agent invited us to his place for a small reception-and poured Pol Roger. Needless to say, I was hooked on French bubbles from that moment onward. Earlier this month I saw an article about the San Francisco Champagne Society and I thought what a great idea to schedule an appointment for my sister who lives in San Francisco and is also a bubbly fan. We had a marvelous tasting of three very special, small producer Champagnes-and they didn’t disappoint! A nice way to start the holiday week. Recalling my first sip of California sparkling wine, it was Korbel followed soon after by Piper Sonoma and Gloria Ferrer, Robert Hunter and J. I think it is great to have this wide world of wine to taste from including imports—life would be boring to sip one type of wine, don’t you agree? Instead of wondering why the world seems to wait for December to enjoy sparkling wines (except for the occasional wedding toast) embrace the moment—I certainly did! A brief recap of my sparkling month includes visiting a couple of local producers to procure the good stuff for the holidays; a Bubble Room session at J Vineyards & Winery for Ed and me, a Miyagi oyster pairing with a bottle of Brut out at the coast as we celebrated our anniversary with good friends; enjoying a blind tasting of 8 sparkling wines and Champagne at a local winemaker’s home, paired with new friends and dinner it was so much fun, and, finally, kicking off Christmas Eve with a magnum of Brut Rosé from Roederer. Now what to have on New Year’s Eve…it will be sparkling for sure. Happy New Year!

    One of the Champagnes we tasted-it was our favorite. The photo doesn't do the beautiful color justice.

    French Champagne

  • Mull This Over

    December 18, 2014 12:18

    Since this is the holiday season, and we do like to celebrate, here are a few ideas for cocktails made with our wines as well as one after dinner coffee drink. These add a bit of pizzazz to your party or dazzle to your dinner. You are always welcome to share a glass or two without all the frou-frou but then it wouldn’t be the holidays, would it?

    friends.white Punch


    Strawberry-Basil Rosé Sangria

    Pedroncelli Mulled Wine


    Portspresso by Dry Creek Kitchen, Healdsburg CA. Good to the last drop!


  • Port of Call

    November 18, 2014 13:01

    I had a synchronicity moment this week. I set up my blog topics ahead of time and had scheduled this bit about semi generic wine terms and our Port for today. Last week a reporter from our local paper, The Press Democrat, called to talk about this issue-and the article was published Sunday. Timing is everything as they say. On with the story: Not too long ago I attended a meeting with several wineries about the use of what we call ‘semi-generic’ terms for wine. We made our arguments in favor of keeping some of the terminology because ultimately it would mean a huge re-education process and renaming of some very familiar wine terms. We currently use Four Grapes Vintage Port for our dessert wine. From the 1930s through the 1960s we used semi generic terms like Claret, Burgundy and Chablis-which have all been replaced by their varietally-correct names of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And the word Port is up for discussion, again, with the European Union. They have allowed us, so far, to use it because we made this wine before the first ruling in 2006. Now we just might be stopped from all uses of semi-generic terms completely. I want you to imagine trying to re-invent the term Port so that when you are in the market for one from U.S. wineries you would know what kind of wine it is. Fortified Wine (too scary and not allowed as a labeling term).  Dessert Wine (too broad). Proprietary term like Ort-Pay (unclear on the concept).  Other varietals are easily identified as to what type of wine they are because the wine industry has done a huge amount of education-you know a Cabernet Sauvignon from a Chardonnay. Changing the name of our Port would make it difficult to market not only for us but for many of the other wineries who make it. Imagine, if you will, the following scene in our tasting room: this used to be called Port but now we are barred from using the term; we call it by the varietally correct name of Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Souzao and Touriga Nacional. Here’s hoping we can work something out before it gets too drastic.

    For more information, here is the full article by Bill Swindell.

  • Barking up the right tree

    September 11, 2014 15:51

    I am taking a moment, a bit of a breather so to speak, during harvest to bring you this blurb on just where corks come from. We bottle two thirds of our wine with them. Wine corks have been around for a long time, shortly after the goat skin and right around the time winemakers wanted to securely stopper the containers. They are harvested from the bark of the Quercus suber or Cork Oak Tree. In the photo you will see how the corks are punched from the bark. It takes about 9 years for the bark to attain the right thickness to produce a 1 ¾” cork. A lot of patience goes into these cork forests mostly planted in Portugal, the multi-tasking country that also brings you Port, and Spain. It is akin to waiting for a fine Cabernet Sauvignon to age. For all kinds of background on cork oak and the harvesting of them please check the Cork Quality Council’s website here

    While you peruse the pages, I’ll pull a cork on some vino and enjoy!

    Corks Display