In the wine business, as in many businesses, we find couples who work together, sometimes harmoniously and sometimes less so. The couples we regard with awe are those who manage to collaborate professionally, support each other’s efforts and interests, raise a family together and manage to sneak a little fun in the mix.
This morning, thinking about February and the theme of romance, I thought about couples in the wine business who stand out as incredibly cool examples of what can be possible—the kinds of couples you envy and might resent, if they just weren’t so darned nice and deserving of happiness, both on the personal front and in their professional lives. I naturally thought of Julie (Pedroncelli) and Ed St. John who live in my hometown of Healdsburg, CA.
Yesterday, I saw a Facebook post from Julie where she announced she was starting a 90 city tour in 2017 celebrating 90 years of Pedroncelli winery’s existence. Wow. Ninety years is an extraordinary run for a family winery, especially one that has remained committed to a goal of producing excellent wines at very reasonable prices.
I see Julie and Ed everywhere in Healdsburg, supporting every organization with both their presence and energy. Pedroncelli Winery is a backbone of our town. Both partners have roles in managing and marketing Pedroncelli Winery and I will often see them pouring at events, like the time during Sonoma County Wine Weekend when I found them dancing in front of their table when the band started playing. Add fun and frivolity to the wine business and pouring at a Coppola benefit becomes date night.
Julie’s grandfather discovered Dry Creek Valley early on and was a true pioneer, even through Prohibition. He made Zinfandel before that was considered cool and managed their ranches and facilities with continual replanting and updating while maintaining the true character of a family winery. It has surely not been easy. Other wineries claim to have discovered Dry Creek Valley while tech and other new money has moved in and bought up former family wineries. Land has gotten pricey, the market has become cluttered, farming practices are sometimes questionable, but Pedroncelli has been there—honest and hard-working for 90 years.
It helps that the family owns large ranches and has long-term agreements with many other growers. This is the power of consistency in a small but desirable wine-growing region like Dry Creek Valley. Pedroncelli produces a spectacular Sauvignon Blanc from the East End Vineyards of Dry Creek Valley which is crisp with lemongrass and apple on the nose and citrus and honey on the palate. It is the kind of Sauvignon Blanc I crave, true to the varietal yet with a bit of roundness. At $15, a total bargain, which is why I just saw the SB is “sold out” on their website! Well, the Chardonnay will have to do with a bit of peach and white floral notes on the nose followed by tropical and green apple in the mouth. Balanced acidity and a long finish at $15, it is another value from this area.
Pedroncelli’s “Mother Clone” Zinfandel is a standard among Zins. The “Mother Clone” designation is for the Zinfandel vines that were planted 90 years ago and that stock has been cloned down through generations. It is pure old vine Zinfandel. I am sure I have probably sipped more of this Dry Creek Zinfandel than any other. At only $18 and busting with plum and spice on the nose and blackberry-dark chocolate in the glass, this wine pairs with everything from hard cheeses to barbecue to Bolognese.
The Pedroncelli family was an early adopter (way early!) of this varietal when most people thought there was only a White Zinfandel version. I’m from Ohio and, believe me, there are still people who ask whether Zinfandel is a white or red wine. Geez! But, White Zinfandel kept the varietal from being pulled up and replanted with Merlot or Chardonnay, so drink a glass from time to time in gratitude. Or, better yet, drink the Pedroncelli Rosé of Zinfandel, which has been so popular it is also sold out. But, before it went, I loved the bright strawberry aromas with a bit of spice and the flavors of pomegranate and orange zest. At $12, jump on the next release before it goes, too.
Pedroncelli makes a huge variety of excellent wines, including a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir at $20 that has got to be the bargain of the century.
They also make Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other varietals from both estate grapes and single vineyard designations sourced from trusted growers.
I began this thinking about the love between Julie (Pedroncelli) and Ed St. John and how they work together to keep a family winery thriving and moving in the right direction. Their own family thrives, too, and daughter Adrienne is now winemaker at Solvang’s Rideau Winery, so winemaking is clearly in her blood as well.
Pedroncelli is hosting a Valentine’s Dinner on February 11, 2017. I wish I would be back from France for that. The menu looks fantastic and I am sure Julie and Ed will kick off the dancing, band or not.
The winery has a wonderful and welcoming tasting room that is open every day from 10 am to 4:30 pm. When I say welcoming I mean it. Here you will learn, taste and leave having been loved. With case in hand to remember how fabulous Pedroncelli Winery and the Dry Creek Valley treated you!