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exploring wine with tim fish

Value Is a Family Affair

Pedroncelli Winery is an authentic slice of old-school Sonoma County
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Sep 26, 2012 11:00am ET

An honest value is something you appreciate when you grow up in a blue-collar house like I did. Dad always joked that Mom had "Champagne taste on beer money," which was partially right. She didn't believe in settling for something inferior even if she wasn't spending a lot of money.

That's one reason I've always had a soft spot for wineries like Pedroncelli. It's owned by an old Italian family that has been in Sonoma County for four generations. They grow their own grapes and, without a lot of fuss, make wine that people can afford to drink every day. While many of California's Italian winemaking families have taken their businesses upscale or have sold to large companies, the Pedroncellis have stayed the course.

I profiled the Pedroncelli family in the Oct. 31 issue of Wine Spectator. In the increasingly affluent world of wine, you have to admire the family's devotion to old-fashioned frugality. Not a single bottle that they produce costs more than $25.

Consider Pedroncelli Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Mother Clone 2009 (88 points, $15), which is balanced and elegant, with appealing black cherry and pepper aromas and zesty herb flavors. The Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Bushnell Vineyard 2009 (88, $20) is bigger and more briary but equally as pleasing.

I won't give away my entire story, but I think the family's secret is durability. Giovanni Pedroncelli founded the winery 85 years ago and his two sons John, 87, and Jim, 80, remain at the helm, although their children and grandchildren are taking on increasing roles in the day-to-day.

The Pedroncellis are evolving with the times in other ways, too. The family has completed an extended replanting of many vineyards and has become stricter about managing herbaceousness and tannins. "We're making more intense wines, more flavorful wines than we used to," John said.

Most California wines at that price point carry a California or North Coast appellation on the label. The Pedroncellis own 180 acres of vines in three sites in Dry Creek Valley and keep things—even the farming—very much all-in-the-family.

How refreshingly old school.

Dry Creek Vineyard
Healdsburg —  September 26, 2012 11:39am ET
Great coverage Tim. A deserving winery that produces terrific under the radar wines. The entire Dry Creek Valley is dotted with family owned wineries such as the Pedroncellis. Our off the beaten track AVA is a wonderful place to explore!
Tim Mc Donald
Napa,CA —  September 26, 2012 11:58am ET
Tim, Great shout out for old school and one of the truly great producers in the DC area. Love their Rose for 25 years and those zins are top notch year in and year out. I believe my mom always said that I had Champagne tastes with a beer budget and funny how things have not changed much. Love Pedroncelli wines. Cheers!
Mark Lyon
Sonoma, CA; USA —  September 26, 2012 12:31pm ET
I remember Pedroncelli Zinfandel from the 1970's recommended by our wine merchant as a great value. This is still the case today. I met Jim Pedroncelli's in the early 80's. He was a very nice, modest and welcoming man who did not treat me as an outsider. He is still the same 30 or so years later! Not trying to be famous, rather continue making good to great wines and growing their own grapes. Pedroncelli is a great family wine
legacy; as we see so many Italian-American Sonoma Family sell off (ie, Sebastiani and Seghesio)rather than continue with multi-generational ownership. Really gratifying to see an article dedicated to their hard work and steadfastness over many years.
Jo Diaz
Winsdor, CA 95492 —  September 26, 2012 12:33pm ET
Such a deserving family, Tim. It's so sweet to see them honored by your spotlight!
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  September 26, 2012 4:49pm ET
Thanks for the comments all.

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