milestone birthday

The Wonderful Place we Stayed in Sonoma

Last month, I had the joy of celebrating a milestone birthday with a trip with close friends of Sonoma and Napa.  It was everything that I expected – good friends, great wine and amazing food.

I’m going to talk about the wineries that we visited over the next two weeks, but I wanted to highlight a few friends that I would never know if it weren’t for this blog.  These are people who moved mountains to make my birthday special and it proves the point that wine has a special way of bringing people together and cementing friendships that last.


milestone birthday

Hanging out with Bill Smart, VP and GM Lambert Bridge Winery

First, I have to tell the story of Bill Smart.  Bill is the Vice President and General Manager of Lambert Bridge Winery.  If you’ve followed me a while, you know that I’m a big fan of the winery and it is one of the few wine clubs that I subscribe to.  I love the story, the female winemaker and team.


milestone birthday


But you often don’t hear the personal story of your friends and how they got into wine.  Over dinner at Valette who rolled out the red carpet for my birthday with everything from a hand-written note to endless amazing dishes (pictures below) that we didn’t order (thank you, Dustin), I learned a little more about Bill’s background.


milestone birthday


He was a Virginia boy whose family eventually moved him West.  His family was very much into food and wine, and he grew up with wine on the table. Together, they traveled through Europe, which fueled his appreciation of wine.


milestone birthday



milestone birthday


After attending Northern Arizona University, where he earned a degree in Marketing and Finance, he moved to California and that’s when he decided he was going to work in wine. First, it was in advertising, then at Pine Ridge and then at St. Supery.  He joined Dry Creek Vineyard in 2005 and was there for ten years before joining Lambert Bridge in 2015.


milestone birthday






Over dinner, he talked about his recent trip to France and meeting with the winemakers there.  “It was all about the vintage,” he said. “They knew due to the weather that it was going to make such a fundamental difference and they were determined to do anything and everything to make sure it was a success.”



And why was this dinner with Bill so special?  Well, he brought six special bottles of Lambert Bridge Vineyards to dinner at Valette. Joining my husband and myself were four friends at the table who never had the opportunity to try Lambert Bridge wines.  It was an amazing evening of old friends, good wines and a birthday meal to remember.

The second event occurred at the end of our trip.  We stayed at my uncle’s place, which has a wonderful area to entertain, and the boys cooked that night.  We invited Julie Pedroncelli and Ed St. John of Pedroncelli Winery to join us for dinner.

I was invited a few years ago as a guest of the Pedroncelli Winery, one of the first Sonoma wineries, to celebrate their 90-year anniversary.   I walked in as a stranger but emerged as a friend.  My store is here.  I can tell you all about Pedroncelli and why this winery is special.  They are one of the founding families in Sonoma and were the first to bottle Cabernet Sauvignon in Dry Creek.  Pedroncelli not only has a women winemaker, but it is now a 70 percent woman owned company.  The list of things I love about them goes on and on.


Julie Pedroncelli, me and Ed St John

However, if you were to ask me specifics about my friends, Julie Pedroncelli and Ed
St. John, that’s where it gets tough. Julie is a third-generation family owner of Pedroncelli.  She’s responsible for most of the label’s marketing and writing including its Vino in my Dino blog.  And, a million other things including the recipe and wine pairings that she does with her husband, Ed, who serves as the winery’s VP (in an operations and marketing role).  And unless you go to Ed St John’s very sparse LinkedIn, it’s hard to find out about his industry background with Portocork and his other winery experience isn’t even mentioned.



But that’s exactly who they are.  This is a couple who consistently puts others first and would rather “light their hair with a candle” than spend time lauding their accomplishments … and that accomplishment list is quite long.



For our dinner, Ed asked if he could bring a few wines.  I was awestruck when he pulled out six generations of Pedroncelli wine (and for the record, I’m fifty).  I never had the opportunity to drink wine from my birth year until that night.  We went through six generations of Pedroncelli wines hearing the stories along the way.

To me, those two moments illustrated a life well lived and why I love the wine business so much. Three individuals that I never would have had the opportunity to know if it weren’t for this blog who absolutely did so much to make a milestone birthday special for one girl from Dallas.