I found wine in late 2005, while working on a long-term work project in Northern California. At the time I was commuting back and forth between San Francisco and my home in Virginia each week. Tired of the weekly cross-country flights, I took a colleague’s advice to visit California wine country for a weekend break rather than fly back to Virginia.
That weekend, in late January 2006, I visited my first winery (Gundlach Bundschu in Sonoma)
I knew nothing about wine then (still don’t I guess given the infinite subject) but loved the wine country experience and roamed the wine trails of Napa and Sonoma at least one weekend a month for the next nine months until my project ended.
Many of these weekends were spent visiting wineries and tasting rooms in the Dry Creek Valley area of Sonoma, cultivating my love of wine and building wine memories: visiting new-to-me tasting rooms,meeting winemakers, learning more about smaller DCV producers in the Family Wineries coop tasting room (thanks Shawn for all the time you spend answering my questions back then), and enjoying leisurely lunches on the porch of the Dry Creek General Store looking out over the vineyards at Dry Creek Vineyards across Dry Creek Road.
I do not get to visit California wine country as often as I used to (about once a year nowadays) but, I still seek out wines from the Dry Creek Valley to reconnect with memories from my early wine days.
When Robert Larsen, founder of The Larsen Projekt (and one of the most thoughtful PR pros in the wine world), contacted me about participating in a Twitter tasting featuring the wines of Pedroncelli Family winery, I jumped at the chance to reconnect with Dry Creek Valley.
Though I knew of the Pedroncelli brand and was aware of the family’s deep history in Dry Creek Valley, I never visited the tasting room or tasted their wines (that I can recall).
The Pedroncelli vineyard was purchased in 1927 — during Prohibition — by Giovanni and Julia Pedroncelli. Soon thereafter, in 1934, following the repeal of Prohibition, the Pedroncelli’s started their winery.
Pedroncelli was one of the first wineries (if not the first) to put ‘Sonoma County’ on a wine label, in 1948.
Today, the family farms 105 acres of vineyards in northern Dry Creek Valley and produces about 15 different wines including Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
To learn more about Pedroncelli ahead of the Twitter tasting, I caught up with Julie Pedroncelli St. John, 3rd generation family member.
Please describe your background and day-to-day role at Pedroncelli. (I’ll use this as an intro following an overview of Pedroncelli’s history that I wrote).
Part of the 3rd generation of the Pedroncelli family involved with running the winery, Julie grew up at the winery and lived in a home one building over from the cellar with the winery and vineyards as her playground.
Describe your day-to-day role at Pedroncelli?
You can say I am the Brand Ambassador although my official title is 3rd Generation Family Owner. I majored in English with a Writing Emphasis and use my liberal arts education well in the wine business-I recommend anyone with this type of background to look into the wine opportunities-it has served me well. I write a blog, our newsletters and anything else that needs the written word.
Given Pedroncelli’s nine decade history of wine growing in the Dry Creek Valley, what are you most proud of as a third generation family member running the family winery?
I am most proud of the fact that my family has worked together — we even have fourth generation members working with us — and we still enjoy each other’s company! The statistics against even a 2nd generation family business succeeding are very small and we are now on 3rd generation ownership-speaks volumes for the first and second generations.
You have been part of Pedroncelli your entire life but part of the business side of the winery for thirty two years, how has the ‘business of wine’ evolved since you first got involved in managing the winery?
The business of wine has evolved since I first started in our tasting room and worked my way through all the different aspects of winery business. We went from a national brand to an international brand. We started so long ago with selling wine word of mouth (my grandfather’s time) today we market via social media as our word of mouth. It is a wide world of wine too — many, many more wineries make and sell wine alongside us. A very crowded market when you include all the imports. The wholesale or three tier system has shrunk too making wine portfolios huge and we sometimes feel like the little fish in a big sea.
Can you share one of your favorite Pedroncelli wine memories?
One of my favorite memories is the first time I realized wine and food pairing really meant something. It was a very simple weeknight dinner and I had made carrots as a side dish with dill and lemon zest butter sauce. Pairing them with the wine of the night (our Sauvignon Blanc) was that elusive perfect pairing-everything lined up. This was 27 years ago and launched me on the path to seeking wine-friendly recipes. A cookbook is in my future as well, combining recipes from four generations.
There are many ways a winery can expand awareness of their brand (print ads, trade tastings/events, etc.). Why did Pedroncelli decide to leverage online wine influencers via a Twitter tasting? What do you want to get out of the tasting experience?
We decided to work with online wine influencers because we want to ‘get the word out’ to as many people as possible and engage them in our favorite way of presenting our wine: with food! I’d like to get feedback on how our wines not only go well with food but can be savored on their own.
During the online Twitter tasting, participants will ask many questions of you and the Pedroncelli team. What do you want to know about us, online wine influencers?
I’d like to know your background-and how wine became a passion for you-what defining moment.
Tough question, what is your favorite Pedroncelli wine and why?
You know my palate changes frequently and I have many choices and is seasonal. Right now I have a particular favorite -our Mother Clone Zinfandel. There is something about it as the bottle age refines it a bit more than when first released-the fruit-spice dynamic is perfect for my palate at the moment.
- Photo of Julie Pedroncelli St. John photo credit: http://www.pedroncelli.com/about/our-team/