Remembering Arthur “Jay” Fritz and John Pedroncelli
In the span of just one week, the world lost two Dry Creek Valley wine pioneers: Arthur “Jay” Fritz of Fritz Underground Winery passed away on December 30, 2014, and John Pedroncelli of Pedroncelli Winery passed away on January 5, 2015. Both men are celebrated and missed throughout the wine world.
Jay Fritz founded Fritz Cellars, now called Fritz Underground Winery, in 1979, four years before Dry Creek Valley was named a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA). In a posthumous tribute, Wine Spectator’s MaryAnn Worobiec recalls working in his business office for a year when she first settled in California to pursue a career in wine. She says, “…I recall Jay as being a tough but fair boss, with a strong vision for his Dry Creek Valley winery, committed to sustainability before it was trendy.”
Fritz grew his winery from to a case production of 25,000+ and garnered many awards for his fine wines. In 2001, he passed the winemaking duties on to his son Clayton Fritz, who has continued the winery’s legacy of producing elegant wines that highlight Dry Creek Valley’s terroir.
Beyond his love of wine, Fritz was deeply devoted to his family, his religious faith, and to charitable service work.
John Pedroncelli’s parents bought a vineyard in Geyserville during Prohibition, when John was just 2-years-old. At first, the family sold grapes to home winemakers. Once Prohibition was repealed, they became an official winery, making bulk wine. In 1948, John Pedroncelli was named winemaker and, in 1949, he produced the winery’s first Zinfandel varietal bottling. During his 66 years making wine, he and his brother Jim transitioned the winery from the bulk industry into a producer of premium Dry Creek Valley wines. His vision was for tasty, fruity wines that people could enjoy immediately. Pedroncelli sought to bottle delicious, yet affordable wines.
Pedroncelli’s vineyards gradually expanded to 180 acres. Even when his health began to decline in 2014, John Pedroncelli still aided in the harvest season. Pedroncelli remains a family operation, with third and fourth generation family members working in the vineyards, the winery, and the tasting room.
To read more about each of these Dry Creek Valley pioneers, see the following articles.