Michall Pendleton, or Mike once you know him, is a winemaker like no other. He is old world in the true sense that he does everything himself….yes, everything.
He meticulously oversees his vineyards planted to Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, that are perched about 200 feet above the valley floor in the northwest corner of Alexander Valley on the way to Mendocino County’s Boonville. He knows each vine intimately and prides himself on making several rounds through the vineyard during harvest so that he picks and ferments grapes when they are ripe. Mike knows there can be days and weeks of ripening time and he wants to extract the maximum flavors from each varietal.
Even when Mike sources fruit like the Cabernet Sauvignon he gets from Jim Rickards, he is right there on the tractor, sorting grapes in the vineyard and pulling more at the destemmer. He is meticulous from planting to picking to crushing to fermentation to barrel again and bottling. He does not have a style. Mike wants to make wines that people want to drink, not wines that he necessarily prefers. Mike’s wines do not have flaws and have distinctive aromas on the front, a satisfying middle palate and long, satisfying finishes. Out of 88 wines Mike has entered into competition, 83 have earned medals, including the 2015 Salem Ranch Viognier, Dry Creek Valley, which took Best of Class at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, an intense judging.
A former firefighter, Mike, and his wife, a nurse, moved to Cloverdale in the mid 1990’s and opened a catering company called C’est Bon Catering. As a cancer nurse, Jeanine, felt compelled to cook for her clients and the company expanded from there and C’est Bon catered many winery events. During one of winemaker David Coffaro’s legendary events, Mike began talking to Dave and Lou Preston of Preston Vineyards about winemaking and soon caught the bug.
Working for David Coffaro for free for years, Mike learned the business hands on and his first wine was a 2004 Zinfandel made from grapes acquired in Dry Creek Valley. His subsequent Zinfandels, vintages 2005-2012, had the Ponzo Vineyard designation. For years, Pendleton wines were sold only at David Coffaro’s winery and direct to friends.
Now, with 500 cases produced annually, Mike welcomes people to come by his winery on route 128 but Pendleton Wines have found a home at Local Tasting Room in Geyserville. He is an excellent storyteller and passionate winemaker who doesn’t follow a typical path. His Pendleton Rose is a GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) field blend made in the style of Provencal roses, meaning the variety of grapes can include smaller or obscure varietals but the result is what the winemaker sought when originally planting the vineyard.
Another unique wine is the Pendleton Mourvedre from Mike’s Alexander Valley property. A favorite Rhone varietal, Mike’s commitment to Mourvedre is unwavering and he produces the sole 100% Mourvedre in the entire Valley.
Mike has some fun with wine labels and naming his proprietary red blends. “Bad Kitty” is a Cabernet-based blend from Alexander Valley that features the artwork of eleven year old Leslie Pendleton, born the same year of Mike’s first Zinfandel. Aside from designing playful and colorful dog and cat-based labels, Leslie is also the namesake for the 100% Petite Sirah from the Leslie’s Block Vineyard that spends over two years in oak. A beautiful wine bottle in clear glass to show off its rich color, it bears a screw cap closure like all of Mike’s wines. Like all of his wines, Mike makes sure they a without flaws and screw cap closures assure the longevity of their beauty.
by Barbara Barrielle