Bill Pesonen learned about wine early…like really early before he was old enough to drink it and long before he even thought about making wine.
Bill’s parents were early appreciators of wine and discovered Napa Valley when legendary characters like Louis Martini were still running their simple tasting rooms. A master marketer as well Mr. Martini welcomed kids into his winery and gave them a little taste of diluted wine and sent them to run around the winery and barrel room while the parents tasted – and bought – wine.
Bill recounts “I always remembered those smells, the ambiance, the aging fruit in casks and the cool cellar environment.” During his long career as a pilot, both in the Air Force and at American Airlines, Bill honed his understanding of wine in preparation of becoming a grape farmer and winemaker. Now, on his eighteen acres in the Asti/Cloverdale area, Bill grows ten acres of grapes and two acres of olives.
He bought the barren field in 1996 and remodeled an old farmhouse while initially planting five acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in his namesake Pesonen Vineyard in 1998 and then another two in 2007. Three acres of Petite Sirah were planted in the Perry Vineyard in 2006. Two hundred fruiting olive trees round out this property of rolling hills and eastern facing slopes. A pond for irrigation centers the property and the delight Bill has for his Alexander Valley oasis is evident in his voice as he describes his transition from flying to farming. And he does it all from planting to pruning to picking.
The Pesonen winemaking philosophy is to plant hillside, low yielding red grape varietals and picking them at optimal ripeness. These grapes are basically hand-raised and nurtured for absolute excellence. Bill’s efforts have been rewarded with a significant number of gold and double gold medals from the top California wine competitions.
Bill makes red wines and he makes the wines he likes. Alexander Valley is known for excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and this is what you find in a bottle of William Gordon wine. Although he sold grapes to outstanding wineries like Jordan, where longtime winemaker Rob Davis, is a mentor, Silver Oak and St. Francis, Bill started holding back a little fruit to make the wines he likes to drink.
2010 William Gordon Cabernet Sauvignon is an elegant approach to a beautifully-raised grape varietal. Toasted vanilla and blackberry-currant aromas are followed by spicy black fruit flavors and acid rounded out by two years in French oak. This wine drinks well now and will age beautifully for decades.
.The 2012 Petite Sirah is a blueberry-blackberry bomb of aromas and flavors. Open the bottle and decant to enjoy this wine’s violet opulence with layers of berry, mocha and spice that linger for a rounded, memorable finish. Although often used as a blending wine, the William Gordon Petite Sirah easily stands on its own and will also age with grace.
The 2014 William Gordon Syrah-based Rhone blend is basically a field blend of three popular Rhone varietals that balance each other well. Eighty percent Syrah with 15% Grenache and the remaining five percent Viognier, this is a spicy, cinnamon nose on blackberry with smoky cassis flavors and elegant , rich tobacco finish.
Bill’s 2014 Zinfandel is from fruit sourced in Alexander Valley in another field blend of flavors. Aged for two years in American oak, this elegant wine greets with aromas of cassis, cedar and white pepper. On the palate, find more cedar, cherries and raspberry with a wonderfully food-friendly finish. Drink this with grilled lamb or spicy sausage.
Having his wines at Locals has greatly expanded the number of fans of William Gordon wines and this is a winemaker to follow as he explores even more varietals. And be assured that Bill Pesonen’s fanatical farming will show in the bottle. Even the grapes Bill sources from other vineyard are under his watchful eye.
by Barbara Barrielle