When a man has spent more than 60 years guiding grapes to their ultimate triumph as fine wine (usually red!) there is no way he is going to sit back and watch the seasons roll by without having a hand in the winemaking process. So, it comes as no surprise that John Parducci, with partners Jim Lawson and Bill Carl, is now the owner of the former Zellerbach Winery, just south of Ukiah in Mendocino County.
While John owns no vineyards, and says he never will, with his new custom crush operation, some of the finest grapes grown in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Napa and Mendocino County from 24 of the most respected growers, find their way to the tidy little winery on McNab Lane. “It’s quite a vote of confidence,” says John, “that all these growers are bringing their grapes here.” Winery activities rest in the capable hands of John and his teammates: Rick Parducci, his grandson; Jess Tidwell, winemaker, and Marty McAvoy, cellarmaster, with a few extra bodies during peak periods.
Just because John has no grapes on his Zellerbach Winery property doesn’t mean he won’t be making any of his own wines. The Signature Series will be introduced with a Bordeaux blend, and Margaret’s Vineyard, a second label honors John’s wife. There will continue to be a Zellerbach Estates label, with the first Zellerbach, made entirely by the Parducci/McAvoy/Tidwell group, going into the tanks with the vintage of 2000.
In 1980 John discovered he had an allergy. He thought he was getting a bad reaction to red wine – a terrifying possibility! “I still get headaches now and then,” he says, “but only when I drink heavily oaked wines.” His aversion to oak is well-known in the industry, and in earlier days earned him a reputation as “a bit of a rebel.” Sixty years later he says, “I still am, and proud of it!”