What began as a live twitter chat about the wines of Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards, quickly became an opportunity to meet Julie Pedroncelli St. John in Chicago soon thereafter. Naturally, wine tastings and food pairings were involved in both instances, as well as camaraderie and storytelling. Sharing dinner with Julie was like meeting a long-lost friend…who just happens to be a 3rd generation member of a family that produces outstanding wine. Along with her management and marketing position at Pedroncelli, she writes entertaining and intriguing posts about the family’s history and happenings in the vineyard on the website.
I was thrilled to have Julie share part of her family’s fascinating story with me.
The Pedroncelli Legacy Begins in 1927
2017 marks the 90th anniversary of the inception of Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards, located in the Dry Creek Valley in Geyserville, California. One of the first wineries in Sonoma County, Pedroncelli was founded by Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli in 1927. Ninety acres of land were purchased for $11,000; on the property there was a home, twenty-five acres of vineyards, and a winery, firmly shuttered thanks to Prohibition.
During this time, the family tended to the vines and sold grapes to home winemakers who, by law, were able to produce up to 200 gallons. Once Prohibition ended, the first official vintage was produced in 1934 when Pedroncelli sold bulk wines, often in barrels, to stores and individuals. Their own label began in the 1940s, a tedious and challenging era due to the World War II.
The 1950s heralded changes for the Pedroncelli family. Wines were entered into competitions, vineyards were expanded, and large tanks were added because of the heightened demand for wine. Simply stated, the family desired to make wine on a larger scale and increase production. Fast forward to the 1960s; the family took a new direction in the type of varietals and vineyards. Julie explained that “while Zinfandel (their flagship wine), Zinfandel Rose, Riesling, and Pinot Noir were made prior to 1964, John and Jim Pedroncelli, brothers and second generation members, began to add even more to the portfolio. Cabernet Sauvignon was the first addition.” In fact, the Pedroncelli family was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in Dry Creek Valley.
In the early 1970s, more white than red wines were produced. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French Colombard, Grey (and later Johannisberg) Riesling and Gewurtztraminer were popular during that time, although all but Chardonnay have been dropped from the portfolio today. Now, more than two-thirds of the wines produced are red, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel comprising nearly 50% of estate vineyards.
All in all, it was an exciting time for everyone in the industry. Our little valley was re-discovered and we experienced a renaissance in both vineyard planting and wineries. The demand for fine wines was in place and many families put their own roots down seeking to make wines from an area known for growing excellent fruit. Julie Pedroncelli
From the end of the 20th century into the next, innovation and enterprise have been fast and furious…while continuing to maintain the authenticity of the wines. “Adding family members, dropping a much beloved generic line of wines, updating the label, and seeking the best brand representation for our wines” are just a few strategies for moving forward, explained Julie.
The Wines of Pedroncelli
The first wines from Pedroncelli I tasted (I still can’t believe that it took so long to try them!) were the Chardonnay-Signature Selection, Zinfandel-Mother Clone, and Petite Sirah-Family Vineyards, all sent to me as samples for the twitter chat. Included on the chat were several incredible wine bloggers from around the United States who, like me, were asked to pair the wines with Parmesan Polenta with Sausage Ragu (click here for the recipe). As Julie, Ed St. John (Julie’s husband who is equally involved in management and marketing at Pedroncelli), and Robert Larson (founder of The Larsen Projekt, a communications firm) moderated and offered invaluable insights, we sipped and noshed, sipped and noshed…well, you get the idea!
With 13 varietals planted on our ranch as well as sourcing grapes from nearby neighbors and friends, we craft wines with delightful acidity, superb balance, and significant varietal personality. Pedroncelli wines are made with food, friends, and family in mind. They’re California wines with an Old World twist and pair as nicely with food as they do with a glass. Pedroncelli Family Winery and Vineyards
Proving that Pedroncelli wines are as food-friendly as you can get, each paired beautifully with the dish that boasted spice from the sausage, notes of basil, garlic, and onion from the ragu, and texture from the entire gamut of ingredients. To be fair, I sipped the Chardonnay while cooking and the Zinfandel and Petite Sirah while eating…and tweeting.
I found the Pedroncelli Chardonnay 2015 ($17) to be a delightful, drink-now sort of wine at a price point you’ll love. Intense aromas of florals, juicy citrus, green apple, and pear with notes of oranges, lemons, and tangerine and a hint of minerality were enticing. With an elegant, balanced palate profile boasting high acidity, flavors of fresh peaches, green apple, lemon zest, tropical fruit, and just a hint of oak and vanilla, what’s not to love about the crisp, lingering finish, too?
What’s Next for Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards?
Julie Pedroncelli St. John, the oldest of four girls, has fond memories of growing up in a winemaking family. Wine was always on the table and she could be found exploring the wine cellar or scooting down the hills on cork containers. Julie explained that she never felt coerced to follow others’ footsteps in the family business, yet did so after college; previous generations modeled hard work and she was drawn to her roots. By all accounts, Julie Pedroncelli is working just as hard in her roles in management and marketing. Two of Julie’s sisters are engaged in administrative work and family dynamics are positive.
Past and present are notable, but what are future endeavors for Pedroncelli – the wines and the business? I asked Julie.
“Receiving a certification for sustainability, ensuring that members of the next generation have an important role in the business, and finding their niche in the wine market with even better wine at an enticing price point” are just a few plans, according to Julie. “There’s always room for improvement – we have to stay with the market.”
And just like that, Julie has begun her 90-city tour to celebrate 90 years of Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards.
Many things have changed but our goals remain the same: to make great wines from one of the best places on earth and to market these food-friendly wines to consumers at a price they can appreciate, so that they enjoy wines ready for their table. Julie Pedroncelli St. John
The legacy of family and notable wines at Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards continues.
Cheers! ~ Cindy
NOTE: To help celebrate the 90th Anniversary of Pedroncelli Winery and Vineyards, please join us on Thursday, May 18 at 4pm Pacific Time on twitter. A lively group of wine writers will sip Pedroncelli 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, 2016 Rosé of Zinfandel and 2015 Sangiovese as we pair each with a special recipe for Feta and Kalamata Lemon Chicken. Simply use hashtag #PED90th and join the conversation. We’d love to hear your thoughts!
And for mine, please click here!