Posts Categorized: Meet Your Winemaker

Celebrating Italian-American Culture Month

 “I am an Italian American. My roots are deep in an ancient soil, drenched by the Mediterranean sun, and watered by pure streams from snowcapped mountains. I am enriched by thousands of years of culture. My hands are those of the mason, the artist, the man of the soil.” – Angelo Bianchi, Esq., 1982


October celebrates many things: an end to winegrowers harvest season, a shift to cooler temperatures and the first rains of the season. It kicks off the holiday season with Halloween and Dia De Muertos. But we’re also celebrating Italian American Culture Month. Here in Dry Creek Valley, many wineries and families are rooted in Italian culture. You can notice it simply in the winery names as your drive through – Passalacqua, Forchini, Rafanelli, Teldeschi, Pedroncelli, Seghesio…the list continues.

We’ve found one of the most meaningful ways to celebrate not only Italian-American culture but all cultures is to make certain the stories of our families and their traditions are kept alive. Passing these stories along to our readers ensures a continuing legacy and is just one facet to maintain the rich history and stories you’ll find in Dry Creek Valley. We reached out to a couple of these family owned wineries for Italian American Culture Month to ask them about simple stories of family, food and wine. We present them to you in their own words:

Jim Forchini – Forchini Vineyards & Winery

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“My full name is James Franklin Forchini; I am a second generation Italian born in 1938 in Bakersfield, CA. I was named after my paternal grandfather Giacomo Forchini and former president Franklin Roosevelt.  My maternal grandparents were Pietro Bernacchi and Artemia Barggetini who both came from Tuscany in the region of Luca.  My paternal grandparents were Giacomo Forchini and Severina DiGiorgis who came from the regions of Piedmonte & Lombardy in northern Italy. They immigrated to the US in the early 1900s in search for a better life & opportunity.

ia-forchini-bBoth of my grandparents made family wines in Italy & CA.  Our family was centered in Bakersfield where my father was from a family of 8 and my mother from a family of 5.  My father came north during WW2 and was a welder at Mare Island Naval Shipyards then worked in a Ford dealership after the war and later owed a service station in the Bay Area.  Working for my father in the gas station on cars led me to a degree in mechanical engineering and my first career.  I spent however a lot of time with my maternal grandfather as a young boy during the summers and he was a major influence in my second career as a winegrower & winemaker.

Our family daily meals growing up were simple Italian cuisine with dishes of pasta, polenta, risotto, meats, vegetables, fish, salads & soups. For the Holidays we would assemble as many relatives as possible and prepare fancier Italian cuisine featuring handmade ravioli, gnocchi, prime rib roasts, various antipasti & seafood salads.  Wine was always on the table but nothing fancy.  They were dry red & white table wines either homemade or wines purchased in gallon jugs even on the Holidays.  Food was always prepared by the women in the family but the men would BBQ the meats when served.

ia-forchini-cI discovered premium wines after transferring jobs from Southern California to Northern California in 1963.   The 1st premium wines I purchased were from Sebastiani and Pedroncelli.

I made my 1st homemade wine in 1969 with friends using grapes from a vineyard owned by one of my friend’s father.  My amateur winemaking interest continued to grow that led me to purchase an old vineyard in 1971. In 1976  after 15 years of engineering I started a 2nd career as a winegrower.  In 1996 I built our winery and became a commercial winemaker.   I am grateful to my Italian heritage and family genes for the values and work ethics taught me that led to my 2nd career as a winemaker.”

Forchini Vineyards & Winery, 5141 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg.

 

Julie Pedroncelli St. John – Pedroncelli Winery

ia-pedroncelli-1My full name is, “Julie Renee Pedroncelli St. John; I was named after my mom’s best friend Juliette. My grandmother’s name was Julia so I like to think it was a blend of the two; no not until later in high school and college when it was JP or Jules.

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I grew up in the house my dad and his family grew up in since 1927. My grandparents came here and bought acreage (25 acres of vineyard), a defunct winery (prohibition) and a home-which we now call World Headquarters for Pedroncelli Winery Inc. The family home became our offices in the early 1980s, my office is actually my old bedroom I shared with my sister Joanna. Happily I don’t have to share it with anyone now.

 

4-family-bbq-late40s-to-50s[Dinners] usually included a grandparent or two and depending on the time of year also included garden fresh vegetables and fruit. Weeknights we always sat down to dinner together. Sundays were reserved for the bigger family dinners with aunts and uncles. My mom did the cooking-unless it was a BBQ then my dad grilled. Holidays were different because they always included special and delicious foods like homemade ravioli, risotto or polenta. There were many huge feasts usually alfresco during the summertime in the 1950s (before I was born) but when my grandparents retired in the mid-1960s these turned into smaller family dinners.

Recently we have revived those Sunday afternoon meals with family down on our Dry Creek property-those who can make it come and bring a favorite dish and there’s always something tasty on the grill.”

Pedroncelli Winery, 1220 Canyon Rd, Geyserville, CA.


How are you celebrating Italian American Culture Month? Share with us on our social channels using #drycreekvalley or by tagging us at:

Instagram_App_Large_May2016_200 / drycreekvalleywines     fb-art / drycreekvalley     Twitter-High-Quality-PNG/ drycreekvalley

 

Dry Creek Valley is celebrated for being home to wineries that are family owned and have rich history just like Jim Forchini & Julie Pedroncelli. Plan your own Italian American Culture Month tour on our winery page.

Many thanks to Jim & Julie for sharing their stories with us for this blog!


Dry Creek Valley on Tour – A Picture Perfect Event

Thank you, Los Angeles, for a great event!

The wine was flowing and the food pairings were perfect thanks to food partners: Bob Blumer, Baby Blues BBQ, One World Beef, Cowgirl Creamery and Hog Island Oysters. The event started on the Hog Island Oyster patio where southern California’s world famous weather perfectly complemented the sparkling, white wine and oyster pairings. Winemakers mingled with VIP guests, personally presenting their quintessential white wine for pairing with oysters.

Then, the VIP guests moved inside Lightbox at Smashbox Studios, where Dry Creek Valley icons highlighted their library vintages during the VIP hour, moderated by Dan Dunn. Legends such as Ed Sbragia and Julie Pedroncelli highlighted their library vintage and talked about their history farming in Dry Creek Valley. The food continued with passed trays of Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese as well as Catfish Corndogs, Shrimp “on the Barbie,” Steak Au Poivre bites, and many additional tasty morsels from the combined minds of Bob Blumer and Baby Blues BBQ.  20+ wineries poured their signature varietals with a few surprise vintages for our guests. Partners Ian Blackburn and his WineLA team produced an amazing event that raised almost $5k for TJ Martell, an organization dedicated to funding innovative medical research focused on finding cures for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.

Take a peek at all the fun!

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Guests are welcomed with Steak Au Poivre bites

 

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Bob Blumer in the kitchen with Baby Blues BBQ head chef & One World Beef cooking up the amazing food for this event.

 

The outdoor patio was a perfect place to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc and Oysters.

The outdoor patio was a perfect place to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc and Oysters.

 

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Hog Island Oyster Co. wowed LA audiences with 1,000 fresh oysters to pair with our wineries’ Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, and Viognier.

 

 

Bill Frick's wines are frickin' delicious!

Bill Frick’s highlighting his scrumptious Grenache Blanc.

 

Another Shrimp "on the Barbie" mate?

Another Shrimp “on the Barbie” mate?

 

Julie Pedroncelli shows off Pedroncelli's Sauvignon Blanc - perfect for a hot day!

Julie Pedroncelli shows off Pedroncelli’s Sauvignon Blanc – perfect for a hot day!

 

Our camera ready Silent Auction raised a generous amount towards the TJ Martell Foundation.

Our camera ready Silent Auction raised a generous amount towards the TJ Martell Foundation.

 

LA loved our friends at Comstock Wines, Dry Creek Valley's newest unmissable winery!

LA loved our friends at Comstock Wines, Dry Creek Valley’s newest unmissable winery!

 

Guests enjoy a local Bay Area Favorite - Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam

Guests enjoy a local Bay Area Favorite – Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam

 

We can't get enough of Cast Wines epic Petite Sirah

We can’t get enough of Cast Wines epic Petite Sirah

 

Eco-chiq Box Water kept DCV on Tour guests hydrated between wine tastings

Eco-chic Boxed Water kept DCV on Tour guests hydrated between wine tastings

 

February in LA is a fine time for watermelon and grilled chicken, delicious with Dry Creek Valley's Rhone-style white wines and, of course, zinfandel

February in LA is a fine time for watermelon and grilled chicken, delicious with Dry Creek Valley’s Rhone-style white wines and, of course, Zinfandel

 

WineLA's Ian Blackburn toasts with Dry Creek legend Ed Sbragia

WineLA’s Ian Blackburn toasts with Dry Creek legend Ed Sbragia

 

Our friends at Dutcher Crossing welcomed a new family member...to their wine library: a large-format bottle of Dry Creek Valley Reserv Cabernet Sauvignon!

Our friends at Dutcher Crossing welcomed a new family member…to their wine library: a large-format bottle of Dry Creek Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon!

 

Our LA friends know how to party!

Our LA friends know how to party!

 

This made us hungry before we even knew what it was! Chef Bob Blumer and Baby Blues BBQ made pulled pork "snowcones" with wonton wrappers.

This made us hungry before we even knew what it was! Chef Bob Blumer and Baby Blues BBQ made pulled pork “snowcones” with wonton wrappers.

 

Cheers to making new friends in Los Angeles! We love bonding over food and wine. See you all again next year!

Cheers to making new friends in Los Angeles! We love bonding over food and wine. See you all again next year!


Winery Spotlight: Manzanita Creek Winery

Winery Spotlight: Manzanita Creek Winery

manzanita creek winery jack salerno william salerno dry creek valley

Brothers Jack and William Salerno

Brothers Jack and William Salerno have been making delicious wines at their Dry Creek Valley winemaking facility since 2001. With backgrounds in construction and painting, the Salerno brothers might not seem the likeliest of winemakers, but they credit the skills they acquired in their previous industries–precision, perseverance and risk taking–with their success at Manzanita Creek Winery. Their passion for zinfandel and other bold red grapes that thrive in Dry Creek Valley is evident in the excellent wines these self-taught winemakers are making.

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Winery Spotlight: Passalacqua Winery

Winery Spotlight: Passalacqua Winery

passalacqua winery banner

Every winery in Dry Creek Valley has a unique story to tell, and Passalacqua Winery is no exception. Passalacqua boasts one of the first-ever females to make wine and own a winery in California after prohibition.

The winery is family-owned, making wine and growing grapes in California for five generations. They specialize in small-lot production, taking part every aspect of the winery from planting and growing the grapes to making the wine.

History of this winery dates all the way back to 1865, when Francesco Passalacqua emigrated from Genoa, first embarking on San Francisco, before finally settling in Healdsburg. Once here, he immediately started planting grapes. Thirty years after, he opened Fitch Mountain Cellars. Though the winery closed long ago, visitors to downtown Healdsburg can still spot the original house and a half an acre of grapes on Fitch Street!

passalacqua winery table wines

A turning point came in 1930, when Francesco’s widow, Rachel, purchased the Oliveto Wine Company in Downtown Healdsburg. In 1933, her daughter, Edith, opened Sonoma Wine Cellars in that building. Edith was one of the first women in California to operate a winery after prohibition. To this day, Edith’s original label graces every bottle of their Estate Zinfandel.

In 1979, the third generation of winemakers made their mark. Tom Passalacqua and his wife, Sandi purchased a 300-acre ranch off of Mill Creek Road, at Dry Creek Valley’s southern tip. They planted cabernet sauvignon there.

In 2000, Tom and Sandi’s son, Jason, began making wine, inspired by his family’s rich history. In 2004, their current property on Lambert Bridge Road opened as what we know today as Passalacqua Winery. The winery includes a tasting room showcasing Zinfandel from select Dry Creek Valley vineyards and cabernet sauvignon from the family’s TR Passalacqua Vineyard.

Today, Jason Passalacqua continues his family tradition with pride. He involves his children (the fifth generation) in the business early on. Also, in continuing with the tradition of women winemakers, they hired Jessica Boone Bilbro as a winemaker in 2012! Check out their vineyard located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley and taste their exquisite 2013 Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel while sitting outside and taking in mesmerizing vineyard views. 

passalacqua winery view


Winery Spotlight: Zichichi Family Vineyard

Winery Spotlight: Zichichi Family Vineyard

Zichichi Family Vineyards

Toward the northern end of West Dry Creek Road, you’ll see a large wooden sign for Zichichi Family Vineyard nestled among the grapevines. A stop at their tasting room rewards guests with a delicious sensory experience. Almost all of Zichichi wines sell out as futures, before they are bottled. When you visit the winery, you are taken into the cellar and given barrel tastings. Some wineries offer barrel tastings at special events; it’s an unusual treat to enjoy Zichichi’s wines this way any day of the week. (more…)


Online Tasting on August 25: Sustainability in Dry Creek Valley

Online Tasting on August 25: Sustainability in Dry Creek Valley

On Tuesday August 25, 2015 from 5pm-6pm PST, join us on Ustream for an online virtual tasting about Dry Creek Valley’s commitment to sustainable farming and winemaking. We’ll be tasting three wines from wineries committed to gentle practices that preserve our invaluable land. The wines are–of course–delicious, too.

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Evan LaNouette, Brad Longton, Gio Martorana

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Dry Creek Dads

Dry Creek Dads

Dry Creek Valley is full of family-owned wineries with history that spans generations.  In celebration of Fathers Day, here’s a look at some Dry Creek dads.

Collier Falls Winery

Josh and Barry Collier

Josh and Barry Collier

Josh Collier: When my family moved to Dry Creek Valley to grow grapes and make wine, I didn’t have much of a palate. While I’m still no expert, I have benefited from tasting each new vintage with my dad every year for the past eighteen years. We still have a couple of cases left of our very first wine, our 1997 Zinfandel, and we’ll share a bottle whenever we’re celebrating a special occasion. It’s a great way for me and my dad to reminisce, and reflect on how much has happened since that first harvest.

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Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc Online Tasting

Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc Online Tasting 

On Tuesday May 19, 2015 from 5pm-6pm PST, join us on Ustream for an online virtual tasting about Dry Creek Valley’s signature white grape–sauvignon blanc.

Sauv Blanc Tasting

We’re thrilled to have three talented winemakers joining us to share their wines and talk about the grape: Tim Bell of Dry Creek Vineyard, Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards, and Emmett Reed of Gustafson Family Vineyard. We’re grateful to have 12 excellent wine bloggers from all over the country tuning in at home, tasting the wines and tweeting their questions to our winemakers.

You can tune in from home and ask questions, too, using the hashtag #DCVSauvBlanc.

wine bottles collage

The wines we will be tasting are

  • 2013 Dry Creek Vineyard DCV3 Sauvignon Blanc SRP $25
  • 2013 Gustafson Estate Sauvignon Blanc SRP $22
  • 2014 Sbragia Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc SRP $22

Uncork a bottle (or three) and join us for this guided tasting!


Winery Spotlight: Preston of Dry Creek

Winery Spotlight: Preston of Dry Creek

preston collage

While studying at UC Davis in the ‘60s, Lou Preston was “bitten by the grape bug.” What began as a casual curiosity blossomed into a passion. Heeding the advice of instructor James Cook, and his friend/mentor, David Stare, Lou planted nearly 50% of his vineyards with sauvignon blanc in Dry Creek Valley. He was the second person in the region to commit himself to what was, at the time, an unappreciated grape mostly used in California for bulk sweet wines.

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Dry Creek Valley Spotlight: Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery

Dry Creek Valley Spotlight: Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery

winemakers and owners of Ferrari Carano winery

Late fall and winter is a great time to visit Dry Creek Valley. The air is crisp and the bare grapevines provide starkly beautiful scenery. A hearty zinfandel or a juicy red blend tastes as delicious as ever when it’s cold outside. Perhaps best of all, tasting rooms are quieter than in summer months, which means visitors can count on a highly personalized experience. Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, one of the busiest tasting rooms in the Valley, is an especially great stop to make on your journey. This month, we’re putting the spotlight on a Sonoma mainstay. (more…)