Not long after I started this blog nearly a decade ago (it will be ten years in January, plan your gifts now), I made the acquaintance of Julie Pedroncelli and her husband (and VP of sales at Pedroncelli) Ed St. John. Pretty much since the beginning I have told them both the same thing: they do not charge enough for their wines. While it certainly comes off as a compliment, I did not actually intend it that way.
Sure, I think that Pedroncelli wines are fantastic and I think they produce some of the best wines in Dry Creek Valley. But. Many of the wine reviews that I have seen also include another word that I think actually is actually detrimental: “value.” There is no doubt that the wines do, in fact, represent great value, but it seems as though when a wine is labeled as such, it is pigeon-holed and not really considered a “quality” wine. It’s as if when a critic really likes a given Pedroncelli wine it is seen as an anomaly since the wine is so affordable.
That frustrates me because I consider Pedroncelli wines to be fantastic wines regardless of price. I also ponder whether they would receive more critical acclaim if they were actually more expensive since it seems that for many a critic, “quality” is often closely correlated with price.
A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed what Pedroncelli refers to as their “core wines” and today I am posting the notes from a few current releases of Pedroncelli wines that are smaller (in terms of production) but really highlight both the family’s estate in Dry Creek and the talents of winemaker Montse Reece.
2019 Pedroncelli Chardonnay F. Johnson Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $22. Under screw cap. While the Signature Selection hints at the oak involved, there is no such subtlety here. Fermented and aged in American oak for eight months as well as 100% malolactic fermentation insured a “traditional California Chardonnay.” Loads of tree fruit along with some tropical notes on the nose with some oak and vanilla peeking through as well. While that oak comes through right away on the palate, it is quickly tempered by loads of tart acidity, bringing a delightful tension to the wine. Look, if you do not like oak on your Chard, this wine is simply not for you. But. If you can handle some wood on your whites, this is a particularly nice iteration, and you can’t beat the price. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Pedroncelli Cabernet Franc Barrel Select, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $22. Under cork. 100% Estate Cabernet Franc. 15 months in barrel, 30% new French. Over the past few years, perhaps, I have come to appreciate when a Cabernet Franc smells like, well, a Cabernet Franc. While so many are trying to eliminate the pyrazine (green pepper) aroma in this fabulous variety from the Loire Valley (yes, I know it figures prominently in Bordeaux as well, but I like the Loire so much better). While it is not overwhelming (in fact there is only a trace), it shows that the winemaking team is more interested in “ripe” than “overripe” fruit. Dark berry fruit, plum, cassis, pepper (both black and green), a touch of vanilla, and a hint of spice. Fantastic. The palate is initially a bit shy, but it sure wakes up on the mid-palate with a healthy wave of fruit, spice, and even some soft but noticeable tannins. Quite lovely. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Block 007 Estate Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $28. 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Cork closure. I have had a couple of double-oh-sevens now and though I bristle at the name (there is only one 007: Sean Connery, and if you argue, we can’t be friends), this is a gangbusters wine. Dark in the glass with plenty of blackberry, anise, a green aspect (which I love), and oodles of black pepper. Yowza. The palate? It is all about the fruit initially even though said fruit is subtle, begging to be acknowledged. The acidity kicks in on the mid-palate, vying to neutralize all that fruit (it comes close), but then the tannins rise to speak. Whoa. While striving to attain “supple” the reality is “grippy” or even beyond. Look, this is still a young wine that is dying to rest a spell but if you are pining to pull that cork, decant, decant, decant, and pair it with some glorious animal fat (Ribeye!!) or a meaty portobello (just kidding, this is not a wine for the Vegan). OK, Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2016 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Wisdom Dry Creek Valley Estate, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $39. 21 months in French oak, 35% new. Well, for Pedroncelli, this is really an expensive bottle at nearly twice (or even more) of where most of their wines retail. They first planted this vineyard in 1965 and while it has since been replanted, they clearly know what they are doing in Dry Creek. Inky dark in the glass with plenty of dark berry, plum, and smoky black pepper on the nose. Yowza. There is a bit of greenness (pine? cedar? sage?) as well, which I particularly love. The palate? Really close to a Whoa with loads of fruit, balancing acidity, some forrest floor, and plenty of mouth-drying tannins at the back end. Yowza. It’s already five years out (well, almost), but this could go another 5-10 years easily. Bravo. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $20. I am no Petite fan (no, it has nothing to do with my height). I usually find Petite Sirah way too big, jammy, and well, thick for my liking. At least with a few of such grandiose generalizations I find an exception at 1220 Canyon Road in Geyserville, CA (I was recently chastised by a V.P. at Pedroncelli for saying “Geysersville”). While I will likely not feature this wine as one of my favorites for 2021, it has to be near the top of what I would consider the “best” Petites. Inky dark as one would expect with loads of fruit, but it is surprisingly kept in check by the acidity (I guess I should not be surprised anymore by what goes on in the Pedroncelli cellar). Dark, brambly, fruity, rich, but extremely well-balanced with just the right amount of fruit. Again, I will not be buying a palate of this wine, but if I were to consider buying a case of Petite, I would be mailing a check (do people still do that?) to the above address. Excellent. 91 Points.