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Copyright © 2018
Forkmedia LLC


by Fred McMillin
for May 15, 2000


The Pioneering Pedroncellis


Throughout its long history, the winery's philosophy has been to make affordable, well-balanced, easy-to-drink wines.

...James Laube's California Wine

But, they have broken plenty of new ground since 16-year-old Giovanni Pedroncelli (John Sr.) left Lombardy for California in 1906. Here are some examples.

The Rest of the Story—Milestones

The original Pedroncelli Winery 1927—The outlook was bleak. Prohibition had been in effect 7 years. So a San Francisco grocer named John Canota put his Sonoma winery up for sale, (pictured). SOLD TO PEDRONCELLI!

1947—John Sr.'s bulk wine sales to neighbors and San Francisco restaurants had become so successful that he launched his own label.

1949—For the first time, the label read "Zinfandel."

1958—The Zinfandel was so successful, they (sons James and John Jr. were now deeply involved) made the first pink Zinfandel, forerunner of the White Zinfandel craze. Also, they soon recognized that the commonly-used redwood for aging was inferior to oak and decided to switch rather than fight.

The sons also were encouraged by the fact that earlier the first three wines they had entered in the California State Fair all won medals.

There were many other innovations, such as being the first Northern Sonoma County winery to:

    a) plant Pinot Noir
    b) proudly add Sonoma County to their label.

Now, we want to add one more important step; in 1990 they planted Merlot. Those vines, along with some from an adjacent, friend's tract, are the source of our...

Wine of the Day

1997 Pedroncelli Merlot, Bench Vineyards
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Rating—Gender split here. The ladies gave it a RECOMMENDED, the men a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Food Suggestion—The winery suggests a 1963 recipe from the California Wine Advisory Board titled "John Pedroncelli's Sonoma Steak Pot"...Tender beef cubes in a wine sauce...served with cocktail picks. Contact Julie for the recipe.
Contact—Julie Pedroncelli St.John, (707) 857-3531, FAX (707) 857-3812
Winemaker—California-born Gary Martin came to Sonoma County to manage a racquetball club. But the fumes got him. So it was on to a degree in enology, and 11 years ago he joined John Jr. in fashioning Pedroncelli wines.
Gary's Tasting Notes—"Cherry, spice." [The winery is careful to not let the oak dominate any of its wines.]
Price—$14, making it a fine value


I conducted a tasting with John Jr. a few years ago. I found him very pleasant to work with, soft-spoken but a fountain of knowledge. Typical comment: "I want my wine to taste like grapes, not like lumber."

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. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


This page created May 2000