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.