I have enjoyed visiting and tasting Pedroncelli wines for years. Pedroncelli has been producing wines in Dry Creek for ninety two years. The family has been producing wines that are highly associated with Dry Creek Valley like Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon and several bottlings of each respective variety. Pedroncelli has a wide portfolio of wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, Rosé of Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc and a port style wine with traditional port grapes of Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cao, Touriga Nacional, and Souzão.
The family makes the tasting room experience a very friendly one. A come as you are and no pretenses. Julie Pedroncelli St. John and Ed St. John travel quite a bit pouring their wines around the United States. Pedroncelli produces very nice wines at great prices and the friendliness make Dry Creek Valley wines to be enjoyed not once in a while but whenever you want to enjoy them. One of my favourite food-wine pairings is one one of their Zinfandel and Cioppino. And their Port is a perfect end to a wonderful meal (when you visit their winery–be sure to taste!)
No reservations are necessary for tasting room experience. Reservation are required for more elevated tastings. Here is the website for more information.
I hope you learned as much as I did in this focused interview with Ed about Pedroncelli, Dry Creek Valley and much more. Both Ed and Julie are people to meet when you are in Dry Creek Valley. They are completely down to the earth people and easily the friendliness people in Dry Creek Valley.
Thank you Ed for taking the time out to take this written interview for my readers to learn more about you. I have had the privilege of visiting Pedroncelli twice in lovely Dry Creek Valley and have been so wonderfully welcomed.
JTWG Q1 What distinguishes Pedroncelli winery in Dry Creek Valley?
EStJ: Oh, James. This is what we do. It’s what we’ve been doing for more than nine decades. It is the love of the land. The joy of three generations working side by side daily. It’s taking Dirk the Dog to Dry Creek for a swim at the end of the day. It’s picking a Sauvignon Grape off the vine on a hot August afternoon and being reminded that it all starts in the vineyard. It is a commitment to food friendly, balanced wines that reaches back four generations. Terroir is a great term, but people usually refer to climate and soil influences. As important in Terroir is the human interface. I would say all of these things I mention contribute to our “Terroir” and that is what distinguishes us.
JTWG Q2 What makes Dry Creek Valley a great place to grow wine grapes?
EStJ: It’s the old saying “Location. Location. Location” Having the very cold waters of the Pacific just 30 miles to the west, with a low mountain range (the Pacific Coast Range) between allows the very warm air from the northern valleys of Sonoma County to mingle with the cold air off the water creating daily marine influence-very cool nights. (we can have as much as a 50 degree swing in temperature in a 24 hour period) And the Mayacamas just 3 miles to the east. The volcanic activity from this range has created a great deal of movement in the earth allowing for many different layers and types of soil on our ranch. You can stand at the top of our Mother Clone Zinfandel vineyard (a hill top) and find river rock at your feet while looking at the fog sitting at the crest of the Pacific Coast Range-It’s quite a sight, and a site!
These influences are really shown in the diversity of grapes grown here in Dry Creek—from Chardonnay at the south end, to Rhone Varietals in the north, Zinfandel and Cabernet are grown throughout the valley.
JTWG Q3: Dry Creek Valley is not like it’s neighbouring AVAs of Alexander Valley or Russian River Valley–what accounts for the difference?
EStJ: Our valley is a fairly small region. Only three miles wide at the widest point and about 11 miles long. While the Russian River flows through both Alexander Valley and Russian River AVA’s, the difference in their climate is vast. The northern reaches of Alexander Valley can be brutally hot, while the southern most areas of the Russian River Valley and be equally as cold. Dry Creek Valley takes from both of these regions its daytime warmth, but its very temperate nights. It is the balance of the two that creates optimum growing conditions.
JTWG Q4: What is it like to live in Dry Creek Valley?
EStJ: I lived on West Dry Creek Road until I was about ten. I remember hunting for salamanders in Dry Creek and running through ankle deep water in the summer. Lake Sonoma didn’t exist in those days, so Dry Creek was more than just a name. The smell of prunes in the dehydrators filled the summer nights; Crickets singing, stars shining. It really is quite idyllic. My wife, Julie, grew up here at the winery. She often tells stories of sitting under the old head-pruned vines with her sisters when they were little, pretending they were “grapevine houses”. She lived in the house situated immediately adjacent to the winery. Growing up here meant having the grapes weighed just outside the front door of your home and fermentation aromas filling the morning air.
While we don’t live on the property, we still enjoy lunch around the family dining table with three generations of Pedroncellis. Those sights and sounds and smells are just as wonderful today as they were when we were little children riding on the school bus to kindergarten together. I’ve lived here all my life. And the biggest reason is that I’ve never found another place I liked more.
JTWG Q5: How has Dry Creek Valley changed in the past decade–more people visiting? Visitors seeking more experience–cooking, food-wine pairings, etc. And how has Pedroncelli developed to meet visitors expectations?
EStJ: It is sort of funny. We have the longest operating tasting room in the valley. Julie’s grandfather started it when her dad and uncle took the reins in the 50’s. We’ve noticed the change from an oil cloth over a plank on a couple barrels in the early days, to a formal tasting room and bar, to now more individualized, focused tastings. We are a pretty informal family, so we prefer to keep things simple—and flexible. If you just want a taste, we welcome you at the bar. If you’d like a paired tasting, we work with local purveyors to provide a paired tasting. If you’d like to bring a picnic lunch, buy a bottle of wine and enjoy it while playing bocce, we can arrange that too. The main thing for us is that our wine simply enhances your experience. Our feeling is that the wine should never take precedence over the people enjoying it. We are happy to discuss the pH, TA and barrel program with you if you like, but we are more likely to engage you in a conversation about your life, your children, your dog or your travels…that, in our opinion, is the role of wine, to draw people closer together. And I believe that’s been the greatest change in the past decade. We’ve gotten back to the roots of enjoying life around wine.
JTWG Q6: What food(s) do you like to prepare to pair with your wines?
EStJ: Julie and I love to find unusual pairings like grilled cauliflower steaks or fennel and Sauvignon Blanc. I’m a snacker so I love to figure out what goes well with the snacks I eat. Have you ever tried Sangiovese and BBQ potato chips? Or how about coconut macaroons (with a chocolate drizzle) and our Rosé? Not that we don’t do some more normal things: Ribeye Steaks with Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Blue Cheese and our Wisdom Cabernet Sauvignon. Or Pork Medallions with Rosemary and Garlic with a port reduction—a little Merlot perhaps. We have about 200 recipes with wine parings on our website. Many of those are really simple things we made when the kids were growing up. Working people don’t often have time for a 12 step recipe. And wine is always a part of meal prep and dinner. We aren’t particularly picky—if it’s open, we’ll give it a shot with whatever is in front of us. Remember, it isn’t about the wine, it’s about the people around the wine!
JTWG Q7: What wine do you all serve for Thanksgiving–let me guess – Zinfandel and Cabernet?
EStJ: Ha! If it’s a Pedroncelli family function you can bet there’s a bottle of Mother Clone Zin open somewhere. But we also really enjoy our Rosé and Sonoma Classico…maybe a glass of Chardonnay, a little Sauv Blanc. Oh, did I mention the Port after dinner (Where’s my phone? I need an Uber!)
JTWG Q8 What is your favourite travel experience?
EStJ: Wow. That’s tough. We’ve really been blessed to travel a great deal for business-and enjoy holiday travel as well. We have a special get away in North Lake Tahoe—I could go there forever and be happy. We recently went on a riverboat cruise up the Danube from Budapest to Vilshofen, Germany-in addition to the manifold historic sites, I danced my legs off every night on the ship! A trip to Tokyo and having sushi in an elite restaurant wherein a bottle of 1985 La Tache was shared is among the top…and there was the time in Italy where they didn’t speak English, we didn’t speak Italian, but we had the common language of a Visa card…Thanks for asking this question. It reminds me that I truly live a charmed life!
JTWG Q9 Where have your travels taken you and Julie this year?
EStJ: The most exciting trip we’ve had this year was to San Luis Obispo for our daughter’s wedding. We love the central coast, but I must say it was an absolutely perfect trip. She’s a winemaker in Santa Barbara County, and we are relatively familiar with a Sonoma County property, so we enjoyed a glass or two surrounded by 175 of our closest friends. Great stories that night. Great times. Isn’t it funny how you don’t have to travel to another part of the country or the world to have a memorable trip?
JTWG Q10 Harvest is just around the corner and I am guessing you might have been harvesting right now or getting ready to–how has this years season been?
EStJ: It’s just around the corner. I was speaking to my nephew this morning. He’s guessing early next week for the Sauvignon Blanc. Zinfandel will be close on its heels. With the exceptionally wet spring and really even temps this summer the crop looks spectacular. And big! Get out your wine glass James!!
JTWG Q11 What are you reading now?
EStJ: I’m a spy novel guy. Julie and I recently listened to an audio book called “Code Name Lise: The True Story of the Spy Who Became WW!!’s Most Highly Decorated Woman”. Fascinating, Horrifying, Thrilling. An amazing book. I also have a Tom Clancy novel going. And I like Stephen Koontz. You never know who is hiding in a dark alley, in the bitter cold waiting to pass off a secret message!
JTWG Q12 Where has your wine and food travel taken you this year and any highlights?
EStJ: Julie and I had an extended weekend trip to NYC for her birthday in May. I’d never been there and we had a truly wonderful time—Planes, trains and Ubers. We went to Times Square, the 911 monument, a play on Broadway and Eataly…three times! This was truly a food and wine trip for us-something we don’t normally do on holiday (we do an awful lot of it professionally, so it is a bit of a busman’s holiday) Friends from Philly trained in for the day and we had a great evening (eating!) out with them too.
JTWG Q13 What is your favourite Healdsburg restaurant?
EStJ.: KinSmoke for casual dining. The Rooftop bar at the Harmon Heald Guesthouse for drinks. Valette for a more special dinner…oh, and Campo Fina on the patio…and HBG on the patio…Did I mention El Farolito for Mexican food? Spoon bar? You can’t turn around in Healdsburg without bumping into amazing food.
JTWG Q14 Any parting thoughts for my readers?
EStJ: I love to talk about my hometown and where I’ve lived for all but about two and a half years of my life. I love wine too, but wine is just a conveyor of great experiences and a common thing that brings people together. I love tasting with novices. Teaching them about the physiological things that happen while tasting wine. Fun things like sniffing the center of the glass and then slowly sniffing up the inside wall and how the aroma changes—sniffing with one nostril and then the other because we all have a dominant nostril! But all of these things do one thing, they bring us together in a casual, enjoyable interaction which, I hope, brings us closer together in relationship…and wine was just the common denominator. I invite anyone visiting our beautiful little corner of this planet to stop by. I’d love to hear about their travels, and their family, and their dog. And if time allows, I’ll tell them why we grow our Zin on a head pruned vine. Maybe we could go crawl under the vines and pretend they are grapevine houses!
Thank you Ed so much for participating in my written interview series–wishing you all a great harvest and 2019 vintage and of course can’t wait to taste your newest releases.
Salute e molto grazie,
My first video of a Pedroncelli wine at the beginning of the decade – this was recorded in 2011.
This video review was completed just recently this Spring (2019)
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
Photos courtesy of Pedroncelli.
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