by Fred McMillin
for February 28, 1997

Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend


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Winery of the Week

The Peerless Pedroncellis

Prologue: December 1991. "This is to confirm that a representative of the Pedroncelli Winery will be on hand at your class to answer questions about our wines." From personal correspondence.

The Rest of the Story: My class found the representative quite familiar with the wines alright. He had merely made the last 44 vintages! He had seen the sales of bottles labelled Pedroncelli grow from zero to 100,000 cases a year. His name was John Pedroncelli, Jr. Here are the highlights of what he told us, which make it clear why Dry Creek Valley is famous for its Zinfandels.


1872  -  The "Dry Creek Winery," built by two French immigrants, produce the area's first commercial wine, a Zinfandel.
 
1904  -  A San Francisco wholesale grocer, John Canata, establishes in the Dry Creek district a winery and a 90-acre vineyard. There he plants Zinfandel.
 
1920  -  Lombardy-born John Pedroncelli Sr. has come to northern California to live with an aunt. He works on farms and on the railroad, saving his pennies. Prohibition begins.
 
1927  -  John Sr. has acquired a wife and buys the Canata Winery. He trucks grapes into San Francisco for home winemakers, who are allowed to make 200 gallons a year. John Jr. soon arrives, to be followed by his brother, Jim.
 
1934  -  Prohibition has ended and the Canata Winery sells wines in bulk to wholesalers.
 
1945  -  The first wines appear with a Pedroncelli label, a white and a red. Though not identified, the red is Zinfandel.
 
1954  - 
Jim and John Jr. Pedroncelli
Pedroncelli produces its first varietal-labeled wine, a Zinfandel. It's been all smooth sailing ever since. Jim and John took over day-to-day operations in 1963. Their approach is to minimize fiddling. They say, "Every time you put a wine through a 'procedure' you take something out of it." So, pick up a Pedroncelli Zin soon; you'll find that they left a lot in it.

Just the Facts

Name J. Pedroncelli Winery
Location Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA
Founded 1927
Owners Jim and John Jr. Pedroncelli
Capacity 100,000 + cases
Vineyards About 190 acres in Dry Creek Valley. Purchases remainder of requirements.
Important Wines Zinfandels, some vineyard designated ($l0-$12 bargains), Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Watch the new Merlot and the improving Pinot Noir.
Contact Julie Pedroncelli St. John, (800) 836-3894

Postscript: The Pedroncelli minimum processing policy includes only restrained use of oak. Jim says, "We believe a wine should taste more forcefully of grapes than any tree."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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