Located just northwest of the town of Healdsburg in Sonoma County is the Dry Creek Valley AVA. This valley is approximately 16 miles long and 2 miles wide and is home to more than 60 wineries and 150 winegrowers. The Dry Creek Valley was first settled by Italian immigrants who planted Zinfandel, which the valley is now famous for.
The Pedroncelli family is a fourth-generation family located in the Dry Creek Valley. John (Giovanni) Pedroncelli Sr purchased the vineyards and a small winery in 1927. Today, Pedroncelli Winery is still a family-owned and run business. Third generation family owner Julie Pedroncelli is the VP of Marketing and Brand Ambassador and her husband Ed St. John is the VP of Sales & Marketing. Julie’s father Jim is President of Pedroncelli Winery and two of Julie’s sisters, her brother-in-law and her nephew, who is fourth-generation, are all involved in the winery. Sustainably farmed, Pedroncelli has been producing wine for 90 years and counting.
I recently had a chance to catch up with Julie Pedroncelli and ask her a few questions about her winery. I hope you enjoy our interview.
What made you choose the region you are in to make wine?
My grandparents Giovanni & Julia chose this area in 1927, long before it was a county and sub-appellation. I am incredibly happy they chose Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County as their home.
Is there something specific that you love about the region you are in?
Sonoma County, as well as Dry Creek Valley, are well-suited for growing all kinds of agricultural products, but wine grapes do so well because of the climate and soils found here. I love that we are within minutes from the ocean, the redwoods, and the river.
What is your favorite wine variety? Why?
Zinfandel! It is the grape that was planted on the property before my grandparents purchased it and it continues to be our flagship today. Dry Creek Valley brings out a nicely balanced berry-spice characteristic, resulting in an almost claret-style Zinfandel.
Is there a wine variety that intrigues you? Have you worked with it or do you have plans to?
One variety, planted in honor of our Italian roots, continues to intrigue us: Sangiovese. We have watched this vineyard come into its own and we now produce a stellar example of this variety.
What are you drinking right now?
Water-ha! My current favorite is our Chardonnay. We do not grow it, but it comes from a vineyard just nine miles south of us, in the cooler end of Dry Creek Valley. There is great acidity, fruit, and a touch of minerality because of this.
What was the moment or experience that piqued your interest in wine?
When I was young, around four years old, my parents put some Zinfandel in my glass but topped it with water. That did not work for me as I wanted the real thing. Years later I have found a world of wine to enjoy, not only our wines but many others including Champagne. The ‘ah-ha’ moment came when I tried Pol Roger at a wine event in Whistler BC. I never looked back in my wine adventures after that.
If you were not making wine, what would you be doing?
A book editor! (I am not the winemaker, however)
As a winery, how do you typically reach your customers? What are you doing to increase DTC sales outside the tasting room?
Our cellar door has been open since my grandparents first started to make wine after the Repeal of Prohibition. Word of mouth, trade organizations, and increased tourism to our area all worked to our advantage. Now our DTC channel has been widened by more outreach to our wine club members through calls and emails and development of our customer base through social media. And we are still discovering new avenues like virtual tastings with retail stores and their customers.
In the “new normal” of the COVID world, how are you doing? How are you adapting? What is working for you?
We are adapting our tasting room experience to make sure staff and visitors alike are safe. We are still waiting for the all-clear to open and operate in this new phase of our tasting room. Keeping in touch with our mailing list through weekly e-newsletters and “notes from home” have put me in touch with quite a few of our friends. We are anxious to see what the next phase brings and to open our doors to everyone while making the experience a memorable one.
What is the one tip you would give the average wine buyer about finding great value wines?
Look no further than Pedroncelli! Seriously I would urge the average wine buyer to check online, sign-up for different newsletters or blogs, and see what is being reviewed and talked about. The Wine Curmudgeon is an advocate for great value wines as are many others. There are also wine buyer collectives on Facebook where they share their latest finds. I would say the more you know about what you like, then the better you will be at narrowing down the choices of what to buy.
About the author:
Allison Levine is the owner of Please The Palate, a boutique marketing and event-planning agency. Allison is Level 3 WSET Certified from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and is certified as an Italian Wine Specialist from the North American Sommelier Association. She also has a Master's Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. As a freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications, including California Winery Advisor and the Napa Valley Register, while eating and drinking her way around the world. She is also the host of the Wine Soundtrack podcast. You can find additional content on her blog at Please The Palate; Twitter and Instagram @plsthepalate; Facebook: Please The Palate