Pete Seghesio Podcast 49 MINUTES

A new podcast series from Doug Shafer about the people behind the food and wine you love.

The Taste with Doug Shafer logo

Doug Shafer and Pete Seghesio

Pete Seghesio tells the incredible 120-year story of his family in Sonoma County from Italian immigrants with only a love of farming to leaving a lasting legacy in the world of fine wine. Today Pete has two wine brands of his own and a salumi enterprise, Journeyman Meat Co.

For more visit: journeymanwine.com


The Taste with Doug Shafer is also available on:

Available on iTunes Stitcher iTunes Soundcloud

Want to hear about future podcasts?

Enter your email address and we’ll stay in touch.


FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Doug Shafer:
Welcome everybody back to the Taste. This is Doug Shafer, um, great to be here again today. I've got a long time friend with us, um, wonderful guy named Pete Seghesio who has seen it all; grown grapes, made wine. He's got a whole new gig that we're gonna talk about later but Pete, welcome.

Pete Seghesio:
Thank you Doug, great to be here.

Doug Shafer:
Um, not sure where to go with you because you know, Shafer's have been in wine country bout' 40 years but I think your family, 120 years? Something like that?

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah Something like that. I've lost count. Families been, been here long time, um, on, you know, two sides to the family the Seghesio side, Edwardo came in 1886. And then my mother's side which is Passalacqua and in, uh, which came over in 1860. So long, long, uh, family heritage here in the state of California.

Doug Shafer:
So they came from Italy obviously?

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, yeah. Both- yeah Passalacqua, both were, uh, Seghesio is, is Pimonte, Passalacqua was uh, just uh, in a little area called San Lorenzo, just south of Genoa. And uh, so both from the North and both came as, came as farmers, uh, Francesco Passalacqua actually was beginning as a farmer but then was a cook in the gold fields. And, uh, ended up taking his earners, his portion of the gold and uh, and bought land in Sonoma County. Uh, like the Seghesio's side. So both families from farming and ultimately from grapes and from wine.

Doug Shafer:
So he came, he came not, not originally to grow grapes but for the gold rush?

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, yeah. On the Passalacqua side, came for the gold rush and it's, it's interesting. It seems like so much of the Italian heritage, they were, they were farmers, they were grocery farmers.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
They were, you know, vegetable farmers. And uh, and, that's how on the Seghesio side at Italian-Swiss Colony it was an agricultural commune. So it was, it was not just grapes and wine making but it was also vegetables. And, the- the history, you know like, like, most of the immigrant families in the- as you went into the winter months you would harvest the family hog.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And so we would always make sausage. We'd make the little Salametti uh, for the winter months. And that was part of our tradition too and that's ultimately was led to us making meat but it's just a- we all started as farmers. We all started as farmers.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.
So they start, they ended up in Sonoma. Italian-Swiss Colony and when, when did the Seghesio's start growing their own grapes?

Pete Seghesio:
Edwardo and Angela started the original Seghesio- they started in 1895.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And, uh, started the winery in 1902 but, uh, Edwardo Seghesio worked at Italian-Swiss Colony and in those days you got free room and board and you got your- you had a small stipend. But it was safer for you to keep your money with the company than at the bank. And so you had a three year contract period.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
And at the end of the second three year contract period he was gonna go back home, marry his childhood sweetheart in Italy. And his boss, his boss said “Che cosa fai” What are you gonna do, “Aspetta, aspetta,” wait, wait. I have two beautiful nieces coming over in a couple of months."

Doug Shafer:
[laughter]

Pete Seghesio:
"Marry one my nieces."

Doug Shafer:
No really?

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah. "Marry one of my nieces and by the way I'll sell you some land at a reasonable price."
And that was, that's how they started the original Seghesio winery. Uh, at the home ranch, just north of Geyserville.

Doug Shafer:
Just north of- that's, God. God, that's a great story. I never knew that one, that's why- I'm glad you're here today. Um, so they're growing grapes, I mean how, how big an operation, it, um, just, it starts small, grew through the years?

Pete Seghesio:
Seghesio was a, was a um, private winery or, uh, uh, a bulk winery. Meaning we made wine, the family made wine for other wineries.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And, um, it wasn't a- the, the family never had a taste room til the early 80's. That's so from 1902 up until, uh, 1980 everything was sold by the tank. Uh, in the early days before prohibition and after prohibition a lot of the wine was sold via rail.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So that's why so many of the wineries- the early wineries over on the Sonoma side are always by the railroad tracks.

Doug Shafer:
Oh the tracks.

Pete Seghesio:
Because that's, that's how you ship the wine. So we, we shipped wine to region and bottling plants. Chicago, Philly, Seattle.

Doug Shafer:
So they, they'd, they'd ship it in tankers to like, Chicago, and then someone would bottle it there and what label would, and what label would they putting on? It's not Seghesio.

Pete Seghesio:
No. Wasn't Seghesio-

Doug Shafer:
No cause, okay.

Pete Seghesio:
but it'll be a California Zinfandel or California Red. Uh, but it was known as a, as a- more of a generic California label. 

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
So uh-

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah in those days, I, I guess it- you know we all look at estate grown wines now and bottling and at the source.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
But in that era it was, it was, you know, the sense was to bottle it at the market.

Doug Shafer:
Cool.
Well I was just um, I was just in Europe last week but I, I know my Swiss importer who's been in business. Gosh, you know, hundreds of years, couple three or four generations. And, and, I learned something that I never knew back in the early days with Bordeaux. And most people know this, I didn't. Um, they wouldn't necessarily bottle at the chateau. They would ship the wine in bulk like Martel, my guys in Switzerland, they'd receive bulk, you know, Bordeaux, then they'd bottle it and they would put the first growth label up but it would be- it would say bottled by Martel in Switzerland. So I mean when you look at some of these older Cha- older first growth's, you know, it's kind of- people say "Well where was it bottled? Switzerland, or here or there?" So same idea.
Um, so what happened when Prohibition hit?

Pete Seghesio:
We were- the old Italian way was to do a third, a third and a third. So, in, in that time we were still- the family was only a third in grapes.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
Third pears and the third prunes. So we relied on those other two crops to get us through. And we were still making wine, we couldn't sell the wine. After about nine years the wine was starting to turn bad in the tank, there was no more room.

Doug Shafer:
Oh.

Pete Seghesio:
And we had another harvest coming that we had to make room for.

Doug Shafer:
Oh man.

Pete Seghesio:
And so, that's how bad things got. They called up the state inspector and they let 300,000 gallons of red wine go down the creek.

Doug Shafer:
Oh...

Pete Seghesio:
So you know.

Doug Shafer:
You gotta to be kidding me.

Pete Seghesio:
No.
So that's, I mean that's- there's uh, there's a book out um, I'm drawing a blank on the gentleman's, on the authors name. But there's a book out that, that talks- that made- that the story was built around when the rivers red- ran red.

Doug Shafer:
Ran red.

Pete Seghesio:
And, but it's a true story. You had, there- there would be wineries that would be full, and they would have to do a release to make room. And so word would get out that somebody is going to do a release and people would be lined up in the creek drinking out of the creek.

Doug Shafer:
[laughter]

Pete Seghesio:
So, you know, I mean that's, that's not something that we all wanna talk about that much. And it's not- you know, but that's how bad, you know, part of our history as, you know, dealing with Prohibition. How bad it was.

Doug Shafer:
Prohibition.

Pete Seghesio:
Was, was you had, you know, people drinking out of creeks or filling up their wine jugs out of the creek because that's what wineries had to- had to do to make room. And this was all accepted, you just gonna let it go down the creek.

Doug Shafer:
Oh.

Pete Seghesio:
You know.

Doug Shafer:
And 300,000 gallons to us, us wine makers, divided by 2.4th's. Well that's over a 100,000 cases.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah. It's- it's.

Doug Shafer:
I mean, that's a lot of juice.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, it was- we were, you know, like all of the wineries at the time, we were full.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
We were full, and you had to go somewhere with it.

Doug Shafer:
So during that time, it seems- I was curious, well if they kept the grapes growing. Cause grapes aren't, you know, they last for many, many years but- it wasn't a move to pull out the vines and plant more pears, or almonds or something else.

Pete Seghesio:
They- I, I, I've asked that to my father when he was still alive, and we talked about it. Um, many times, and it's just- Doug, they, they operate- they operated under the belief that it was going to be repealed. They couldn't believe-

Doug Shafer:
Interesting.

Pete Seghesio:
They couldn't understand. It was so foreign to them.

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) 

Pete Seghesio:
That wine, which from a European background, is every day. It's part of your everyday life.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And kids, kids, you know, are encouraged to stop drinking milk at 12 and take a little wine cup with water, you know.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
Just so you can begin to taste it. Um, it, it's just- so foreign to them that wine is not going to be legal. And they just kept believing um, that it will be legal. And I-I just, I think they, just never realized that it could go 18 years.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.
Oh. Well I'm glad they hung in there.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
And Zinfandel was a big part. Zinfandel was the boss grape.

Pete Seghesio:
Zin- That's right. Zinfandel was the boss grape. That was, you know, my father would- those, those words ring in my ear. You know Dad would always say "There's one grape, it's the boss grape. And that's Zinfandel." So.

Doug Shafer:
How- how come?

Pete Seghesio:
Um, it was, uh, it was always just the, um, uh- it was one that always gave good sugar and it was wet with sellable from the bulk market at that time.
People weren't as caring or, I don't want to say, uh, sophisticated is not the right word. But there wasn't the, the, aging care, the -

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
I'm sure here you top every ten days -

Doug Shafer:
Right, right.

Pete Seghesio:
And you make sure that there's, the barrels never down. In that era, you had, you were using redwood which would age the wine faster. You probably didn't top as much, wine would spoil or be become slightly oxidized earlier on.

Doug Shafer:
Right

Pete Seghesio:
So you looked towards varieties that were drinkable earlier, and that was a thing that Zinfandel was, was that it was rounder and it was softer tan and you could drink it fresh.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
In six months.

Doug Shafer:
Boom.

Pete Seghesio:
You didn't have to wait for a Cabernet, and I think that was what held back Cabernet early on was the tannic petite sirah, was very tannic.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
You know, Zinfandel was the one that was after, rounder, drinkable, earlier and that's what for the immigrants, that's what they wanted, something that was drinkable every day

Doug Shafer:
Just so -

Pete Seghesio:
And they wanted it fresher and if you waited for the tannin and the cabernet to be softer, by that time the wine would be showing its age too much

Doug Shafer:
Definitely

Pete Seghesio:
Back in that era.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah makes sense

Pete Seghesio:
So

Doug Shafer:
Makes sense. Good 'ol Zin.

Pete Seghesio:
Yep

Doug Shafer:
I remember making a couple years of that. Um, so, let's get back to you. You grew up, right at the winery? Sonoma?

Pete Seghesio:
I grew up at the home ranch, which was two miles north of Geyserville.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So, and that was the, what was interesting about that part was that was that was the the land that was left. Because the Germans and the English were most of Geyserville was settled by the Germans and the English, and so the more fertile land is around that area.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
And by, when the Italians came the only land that was left was north of Geyserville which was shallower soils, and but quality was better, so as you know -

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
At your site here, the more shallower soil, the hillside soils are going to give you more concentration, more richness, and that's what we had north of Geyserville was much shallower soil -

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
Lots of gravel, lots of volcanic bedrock and that little area, between Geyserville and Cloverdale was all Italians and they named it Chianti, Barbara, Asti, were the three little Italian villages between the towns of Geyserville and Cloverdale, and then there was another little living, little commune or town called Luca up in the hills.

Doug Shafer:
Huh.

Pete Seghesio:
So the Italians named it after -

Doug Shafer:
After -

Pete Seghesio:
What they, you know, after the parts of Italy where they were from, but you know I think that's one of the reasons why they settled in this area was or in that area because it reminded them of home.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah yeah. Especially in the summer time driving up there.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
Um college was  …

Pete Seghesio:
College was, uh, Fresno State.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So degree in wine making, and uh, and uh, came back to came back to a antiquated facility with nowhere to go but up, and I was the only Seghesio that was single with no kids, so I got the marketing and sales job. And spent my early 20s traveling the market, building the brand, and uh helping iron out what the family needed to do to be successful, which was, you know you travel, travel and talk to distributors and talk to restaurants and fine wine retailers, you figure out what you need to do. And we figured it out.

Doug Shafer:
So that was in what year were you getting out of college?

Pete Seghesio:
Oh, I think I was, February of ‘87.

Doug Shafer:
Okay, because I'm gonna jump back in time a little bit because uh to talk a little bit about when was the switch from bulk wine to bottled wine and what was the the impetus for that.

Pete Seghesio:
Um. You know, it was really, my dad was pretty stuck in his ways and and really the impetus for that was my cousin Ted and his dad, Ed Seghesio, were the ones from the family that really pushed for our own label.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
And that was they started the label in uh I believe the family started the label Seghesio label in ‘81 or ’82.

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
So, and I showed up in ‘87. And but that was the, the, they get the credit for beginning it.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
And it’s great that they you know, my father was uh, you know, it's hard for an older Italian to change his ways and but it was the right move. And um, and uh, when I showed up, the changes were just to help the family drive quality, drive quality, drive quality, and we can't do everything.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
You know it was, it was, and it was a slow evolution to get there. And I think the biggest, the biggest thing that helped drive that change. I mean Teddy was, Teddy was has always been committed to quality.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And Teddy's, Teddy's thing and it still rings in my ears. Just wants to make a small amount of great wine.

Doug Shafer:
[Laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
And, you know, with Seghesio, you had a lot of mouths to feed.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
So you need, a certain amount of production, but, one of the ironic things for us, was an IRS audit. That that uh would've been very devastating to the family, and and we fought with the IRS for, I need to look up what the records were, but -

Doug Shafer:
Hmm.

Pete Seghesio:
It was like a three year ongoing battle. But basically what it made us do was it it forced to really look at how we were operating, we didn't have a budget in those days, you know we we assumed there was going to be a significant loss from the IRS.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
So how we do we recover from that, how do we grow through that. And so it was the first time we did any financial planning and really formalized what the growth strategy was, and that was really what moved us to go really just Zinfandel and Italian varietals.

Doug Shafer:
Just to focus.

Pete Seghesio:
We dropped Chardonnay, we dropped Cabernet, we dropped the red and white table wine. Focused in on what was primarily state, which was Zinfandel and then the Tan rivals. So that's we didn't figure it out until then

Doug Shafer:
But it was

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah

Doug Shafer:
It was it was a good move, because it got your niche and that's what you guys are known for

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah

Doug Shafer:
I mean

Pete Seghesio:
No it saved the family business, it was an amazing move, and that would've been, I think it was 93 or 94 that we -

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
We made those changes, and then by 2000, you know it's it's it's a good, as you know, it's it's it's a minimum 10 years to build anything

Doug Shafer:
Right, right.

Pete Seghesio:
Build anything. And it was about 10 years.

Doug Shafer:
Um. Flashing back to the bulk wine days. Um because when we got here in ‘73, we had, god, what did we have, 30 acres of grapes and it was Barbara Petite Saroche and Chenin Blanc, so dad, before, he didn't make wine until ‘78. So it was five or six years when he was a farmer, learning, he was a grower. And we sold our wines, our grapes, to the co-op, the Napa valley co-op, because at the time there were only 20 wineries in Napa valley, so most the grapes were owned by independent growers. Just like in Sonoma and Seghesios and we would sell to the co-op and it's it's a little bit of a simplification, but I think they kind of made, a tank of red and a tank of white, and they sold it to Gallo.
Because Gallo down in Modesto wanted North Coast fruit. So North Coast bulk wine, basically.
So. Um. We were kind of kind of got a glimpse of that, and then a lot of us started making our own wines just like you guys did.

Pete Seghesio:
Well, and and that's where you know, the Gallo Hardy Burgundy, back in the ‘70s, was a heck of a bottle of wine. I I haven't tasted it recently, and I don't, I don't know I don't know what it is like today, but but back in the ‘70s, that was a hell of a bottle of wine. And you know -

Doug Shafer:
It it was.

Pete Seghesio:
And .

Doug Shafer:
I know because we used to drink it on the ski hills, and our Davis buddies. We'd go up skiing and that was our botabag wine. It was delish.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah. Yeah no back in back in the ‘70s, you know, we sold uh, they were our biggest customer back in the ‘70s.

Doug Shafer:
So your dad dealt with the brothers.

Pete Seghesio:
With Julio.

Doug Shafer:
Julio.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
Tere's stories there

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah

Doug Shafer:
[Laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, it's an amazing, the the Gallo family is amazing, and the Gallo, um, their commitment to the wine industry is unequaled.

Doug Shafer:
Well I think, lot of people don't realize, their, they made a quantity of wine that could get out to everyone, that wasn't really expensive and was good. It was sound. It wasn't flawed, it wasn't defective, and that, I think that they don't get enough credit for that, because -

Pete Seghesio:
Well.

Doug Shafer:
Because you know how quickly wine can get a little weird and not be very good. So, they always made solid wines.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah and you know, Ernest and Julio created a company, where I I I can't verify this. But I think, all of the profits, there's no profits. I believe, that the way they set it up, is that all of the profits, are invested back in the company.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
And so, you think about the foresight of those two men to structure a company that way, and that's a beautiful thing.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
You know that that guarantees long term commitment.

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
And it's pretty, you applaud them for their vision.

Doug Shafer:
Yep.
So back to you, you're in your 20s, your selling wine, you're on the road. And uh, how'd you meet this woman, Cathy. [laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
Oh I was, I was ah -

Doug Shafer:
Who is Pete's lovely bride, by the way

Pete Seghesio:
I was in New Orleans, I was in New Orleans for just for a trade tasting.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
And you were at that same trade tasting.

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
And, she just was uh, I, she was the the representative from the hotel and I was complaining to her about my room, and we had -

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
We had a fun dialogue back and forth, and we just we just started chatting, I got her number, and I actually left my phone charger at the hotel. So, when I got back to the winery, I called her, and and uh, and that, was it was also a good reason to call.

Doug Shafer:
Right, right.

Pete Seghesio:
But, you know they did have my, I did leave the phone charger in the room, but that, that led to wonderful conversation, and and our first date like five months later

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
And, and uh and just honored to be with her still. 25 years.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
This year.

Doug Shafer:
That's great. Where was your first date? New Orleans? Sonoma? Chicago? Somewhere in between?

Pete Seghesio:
It was somewhere in between.

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
We both had to be in Houston. So, uh, um, and uh yeah our first date was in Houston of all places. And then we were uh I would I was traveling a lot for the country, for Seghesio, and so I would uh I would, from I think it was first date was end of February, until July, I was in New Orleans for, for, at least every third weekend.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah. It was

Pete Seghesio:
Talk about a city to fall in love.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
And it was just, a magical city. It is a magical city.

Doug Shafer:
Still is. It's a great town. Small city.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
It's it's really quite small in a way. Um but the foods fantastic.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
So, back to the mid-90s, you're selling wine, you're falling in love, getting married, you guys had a fire at the winery, right?

Pete Seghesio:
We had a fire, um, and uh, that was one of the one of the great uh, building blocks for Seghesio. That was a it was it allowed us to revamp our whole production facility.

Doug Shafer:
Oh.

Pete Seghesio:
And we we were still fermenting in large concrete vats, and with the proceeds from the fire, they, the the um, the insurance company let us use the funds. We didn't have to rebuild in the exact same building.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So we used those funds to rebuild our primary fermentation cellar. And so we went from large concrete vats, to five, six, seven ton stainless fermenters.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And huge implications for quality.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
Huge, obviously, and um, so no, that fire was a key pillar of the improvements that were needed.
We were, we were, we were, like an old, antiquated facility and between the IRS audit, between the fire, in between the the elder generation giving up control, I think the, you know, there's so many Italian wine families that that the elders did not give up control. But the IRS audit, made things look so bleak.

Doug Shafer:
Huh.

Pete Seghesio:
That, the only card the elders had to play, was lets bet on the kids. And so they gave

Doug Shafer:
Wow

Pete Seghesio:
Me and my cousins, full control, and so you don't see that

Doug Shafer:
No

Pete Seghesio:
You don't, normally it's a piecemeal giving up

Doug Shafer:
Yeah it's tough

Pete Seghesio:
Of the

Doug Shafer:
It can be painful

Pete Seghesio:
Authority. Yeah. And you have to fight for every little thing, and just they reached a point where they're 75, they're 72, they're 78.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
You know, hey we give up. It was a good run. You kids take it, and so um, so we made we made dramatic moves. And that was, and and, anyway the fire was a helpful part. You know, that wasn't obviously planned on, but that was. Kevin Donahue. Is the was our insurance adjuster, uh -

Doug Shafer:
You know his name to this day.

Pete Seghesio:
Well I sat with him on the plane. And I was coming back from a business trip in Boston. He's a huge Irish, huge Irish brogue.

Doug Shafer:
Yep. Got it.

Pete Seghesio:
And he goes "Pete, ah you'll be fine." I go. He goes "if you have trouble, say this this and this, and do this this and this. And if it doesn't work out, call me." So two weeks later I'm calling him.

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
Because otherwise you have these insurance adjusters that are there and they want 15 percent, 20 percent -

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
30 percent. And, he got us a huge settlement for peanuts.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
And he was friends with the insurance company, he knew all the ins and outs, and we just became friends on a flight.

Doug Shafer:
Hmm.

Pete Seghesio:
And that that's it was just a very lucky to meet this person.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
on a united airlines flight going from Boston to San Francisco. Anyway, he really, he's been such a wonderful supporter and just a wonderful man. But Kevin Donahue is an important part of our history.

Doug Shafer:
Huh.
What a, boy, I never knew all that was going on. You got the generational thing, you've got the fire, you're switching the, late, you know, from bulk to specific labels. No wonder I never saw you back in early days.

Pete Seghesio:
[Laughs]

Doug Shafer:
[Laughs]. Except for on the road. Um. And so, time marches on, you're, you in the ‘90s, Seghesio is known for Zinfandel, for the Italian wines. We made a play with Sangiovese but we couldn't keep up with you guys.
Um. I'm seeing -

Pete Seghesio:
Your back label was something. Your last back label.

Doug Shafer:
The last one.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, yeah that was -

Doug Shafer:
On the fire, Last Chance Firebreak.

Pete Seghesio:
[laughs] yeah that was cool.

Doug Shafer:
Did I ever tell you what we did?
We those, some of you might not know, we made this Sangiovese Cabernet blend for about 10 years, and loved it, but decided to -- oh, I need to tell you why I decided not to make it anymore. It was when I was in Panzano, which we'll get to in a minute. But uh, the last, I became friends with Piero Antinori, and Sangiovese ‘cause Dad fell in love with Tiganello.

Pete Seghesio:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Doug Shafer:
That what was the brainchild. So the last bottle off the line of our last Sangiovese. We wrapped it in a white flag of surrender, made a special wood box, and branded on the outside, something like, we give up, you win. And we sent it to Piero Antinori.

Pete Seghesio:
[laughs]

Doug Shafer:
And whenever I see him, he says Doug, I drank the wine, but I still have the box. [laugh]

Pete Seghesio:
[laughs]

Doug Shafer:
So it's pretty funny. But so you guys are rolling long. You're hot, hot potatoes, and all of a sudden words out that you're selling, you're selling Seghesio.

Pete Seghesio:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Doug Shafer:
Tell me about that.

Pete Seghesio:
It was, um, you know, it was I didn't see it coming.

Doug Shafer:
Hmm.

Pete Seghesio:
And it was, the opportunity for I view it, and I view it today as an opportunity for everyone to go on their merry way on top. And it was, you know you, you build up a large company to feed the family, to take care of the family, of the benefit of the family, and the Seghesio was owned by, there was 11 shareholders

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
Headed towards 32. And so, you either have to begin managing towards that and and um, building a large administrative staff to, not keep things fair and balanced just to -

Doug Shafer:
Just to manage

Pete Seghesio:
Just to manage and have everything be transparent.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And then. We we did we did very well.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
But we were doing it with a skeleton team and so as you look towards managing the larger family as it’s gonna grow in the future, that's gonna require a lot of resources and so you know, we were doing very well off, the offer reflected that.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And at the time, there was about a third of the family that wanted to be bought out, there was a third of the family that wanted to not grow and there was a third of the family that wanted to grow. And it's like taking your kids to Disneyland. Every every kids gonna want to do something different.

Doug Shafer:
Great analogy.

Pete Seghesio:
And, um, and I I think it was the opportunity for everybody to go out on top otherwise it would have been, okay the one third that wants to get out, how do we, you know
Then it becomes, it just you just know those kinds of transitions, internally, are very difficult to manage and they usually don't end well for family unity, so I I viewed it as an opportunity to keep the family united, go out on top. And uh, and so uh uh yeah. Didn't see it coming, but that's the, that is the challenge with any winery.
In in the older European models, usually, the family business is going to one child.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And that keeps it that that's easier for longevity, then if you begin to spread it out.

Doug Shafer:
Spread it out.

Pete Seghesio:
And treat all the -

Doug Shafer:
Yeah yeah it -

Pete Seghesio:
All the -

Doug Shafer:
It prevents all the conflict. The potential conflict

Pete Seghesio:
And and you know god bless my dad and my uncles, but they gifted to their kids equally.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
You know, which is a wonderful thing to do. In the end, that makes things more complicated from the management standpoint. But it was a it was a no it was a good thing to do.

Doug Shafer:
Well I'm with you. Keeping family together is pretty important.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
So. Cause there's lots of stories we've all read about family businesses where the third or fourth generation are in court, never speak to each other, and no one wants that to happen.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah and you don't want to spend, yeah, how do you, it would have, to try to consolidate things, it just it would have taken -

Doug Shafer:
Yeah -

Pete Seghesio:
The rest of our lives to be able to, to narrow it. And so this was uh, we looked at it as a great opportunity, a great pairing. Crimson's a very good company, cares about quality. My cousin Teddy is GM, doing a fantastic job, uh, there's three other family members that work there.

Doug Shafer:
Great.

Pete Seghesio:
So it's a good thing.

Doug Shafer:
And meanwhile, you got to go out and -

Pete Seghesio:
[laugh]

Doug Shafer:
You got to go out and start a new winery. You know, we are going to talk about your meat. But tell, you started making wine again. On your own, your own label.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, it's just it's just, we have two labels.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
Journeymen, which is Chardonnay and Pinot.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
And then San Lorenzo, which is when I was running Seghesio, the two top properties were San Lorenzo and Home Ranch, and -

Doug Shafer:
Okay

Pete Seghesio:
So that's why we have two labels. One, one was the uh, which is, dealing with some wonderful grower friends in, in uh the colder part of Russian river, Richie Martinelli, Ulysses Valdez, the Dutton family,

Doug Shafer:
Great

Pete Seghesio:
And for Chard and Pinot
And then the San Lorenzo's just the estate. But it was, was, important to teach and it is important to teach our children how to make wine. And, they're not, uh, they're not seeing it. The may not see it now, but I firmly believe they're going to want to be winemakers. Uh, I uh uh remember Piero talking about that that you know the children as they come of age, they begin to see, the value of wine and that how wine shows you all the different seasons. The grape vine shows you

Doug Shafer:
Right

Pete Seghesio:
All the different seasons. And I I just think that that's an important thing to do. So my boys help me farm, they help me make the wine. And it's, in the word of my cousin, a small amount of great wine.

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
We make, we make about 800 cases. But it's uh, you know, it's very fulfilling, and it's important, just for their education.

Doug Shafer:
Good for you. You know Elias does that. Well his kids are all grown now, but he had three boys, and he had a home vineyard in his house up in north of Calistoga and they have I think about an acre of grapes that basically, every weekend or even after school, he'd made them go out there and prune or sucker, disk and weed and the whole thing, and they used to complain, complain, complain. But he said like this is your, you know, your, all the money they earn is going into a special account for their college. And um, he taught em the values. And one of his sons has got the bug and is in Australia doing internships in wineries right now, so

Pete Seghesio:
Aww that's great

Doug Shafer:
So pretty, pretty cool. So you're making wine and the wine is at home?

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah

Doug Shafer:
It's in the basement?

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah it’s in the basement, it's uh, uh, I think production capacity is probably 1500 cases. It's you know we're doing about 800 and it's underneath, it's an underground cellar. It's maybe, uh, 1500 square feet of a cave and then a temperature controlled barn. So probably total size is maybe 3000 square feet. And um, but no it's it's to

Doug Shafer:
I'm a little jealous. It sounds like, really fun -

Pete Seghesio:
it's it's

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
It's a do, it's to do the best of class but a small amount -

Doug Shafer:
Yeah

Pete Seghesio:
Of these different varieties. It's

Doug Shafer:
Yeah

Pete Seghesio:
Char, pinot, a Zin, and a wine called The Pearl, which is the oldest part of the vineyard.

Doug Shafer:
Huh

Pete Seghesio:
That was my mom's favorite part of the vineyard. 90 percent of the fruit still goes to Seghesio, so I'm just taking what I think is the best part of the ranch and making a small amount of wine.

Doug Shafer:
Nice.

Pete Seghesio:
With that.

Doug Shafer:
Nice.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
So good. And then now, now, you're a meat guy. You've this is, you guys can't see it, but Pete bought me a gift this is called the Journeyman Meat Company, Sonoma, and I can't pronounce the salu salu..

Pete Seghesio:
Salumeria.

Doug Shafer:
Salumeria. Which means what

Pete Seghesio:
It just means, place of salami.

Doug Shafer:
Salami.

Pete Seghesio:
It's like delicatessen.
So, but yeah, we have a we have a salumeria and butchers shop in downtown Healdsburg.

Doug Shafer:
Right on the square, right.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, one block north.

Doug Shafer:
One block north.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah and it's just called Journeyman Meat Company. And the credo is we make all the meat in the shop.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So you come into the shop, the salumi, the jerky, the snack sticks, all of the meat, is uh, is made by us. And so cut, cured, and crafted. The, and it's it's one of a kind, the facility, the salumificio, or plant

Doug Shafer:
Right

Pete Seghesio:
Is about 5000 square feet, but it's Italian designed. It's designed by Frido Mechanica. It's Italian components from Parma, and uh, and uh, you know we put all of that in and uh it's in Cloverdale, so it's in wine country. And we have four fermentation rooms and two large aging rooms and I think one of the things that's really unique is by having four individual aging rooms, it's you know, like wine, it's about purity of flavor, and most people in America will will have a common room for fermentation.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So fermentation will occur. We do it in the in the 70s, most people are going to be higher than that. But most people will put their batches of salumi in one room. Its gonna be higher humidity, so you're going to have that cross pollination or that humidity interchanging, between the salumi. I don't want that. I don't want my chorizo with my soppressata. I want -

Doug Shafer:
This sounds like making wine man.

Pete Seghesio:
It is.

Doug Shafer:
I mean, come on, Chardonnay, keep the reds separate.

Pete Seghesio:
Keep the reds separate.

Doug Shafer:
You don't want malactic in the white wine, you've got to keep in separate.

Pete Seghesio:
[laughs]

Doug Shafer:
Okay now, you know, pardon me for being asking probably a really dumb question, but I've got to ask it. You're talking about fermenting meat. I mean, wait a minute, I ferment grapes, I make wine. I know about beer, that's fermentation. I've never, seriously, so pardon me for my ignorance. What are you talking about, fermenting meat?

Pete Seghesio:
Meat is, meat has to uh, has to be safe, it has to uh, undergo a pH change. So it's not just drying the meat.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
The meat also has to go through a pH change and that fermentation will release acid, and that is what helps purify the meat.
Meat will begin at a pH of about 6.0.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
And to be safe it has to get under 5.3, per USDA.

Doug Shafer:
Okay under 5.3 so folks, pH is a measurement of acidity and the lower the pH, that means, the more acidic it is.

Pete Seghesio:
Yes.

Doug Shafer:
And a pH ranges from 0 to 14, 7 is like, neutral. And so we're saying meats normally 6.3. it ferments -

Pete Seghesio:
And you.

Doug Shafer:
And it ends up being a 5.3 which is more acidic, which is safer per the guidelines.

Pete Seghesio:
Yes.

Doug Shafer:
Okay, I'm just thinking through that.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah and and, most the the challenge is the challenge is um, getting in under 5.3, but not, we don't like it to go under 5.0.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So industry is gonna be 4.7, 4.8, 4.6, and uh but in Italy, it's gonna be closer to five.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
And so the the the style, and to me what's going on in the meat industry is you have some of us from a crafts perspective that are doing smaller batch, smaller batch salumi.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
At a higher pH because that's what we all fell in love with in Italy.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
You go, I I interned with the Marini family for five, five Februaries. That's my February, when the wine is done, when the vineyards done, when I can relax, I would go to the Marini family out of Florence, and that was where my apprenticeship was. And I try to go back there, still, I try to go back every year.

Doug Shafer:
And this is in Panzano.

Pete Seghesio:
Well, well, Dario.

Doug Shafer:
Panzano.

Pete Seghesio:
Panzano.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
The Marino family is in Pistoia, just ah, it's in the other side of Florence.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
From Panzano, and just about 20 minutes from downtown.

Doug Shafer:
How did you find these guys?

Pete Seghesio:
Alberto Antoinini who is our lead consultant at Seghesio -

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
Is good friends with the Marini family.

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
And that's, so I that's how I got in I was the first outsider let in, they let me see, they let me see all of the recipes, I made product with them, and it's different over there, they have one week to accomplish being under 5.3. Here, we have less time, it has to be more rapid, and that's the challenge is, is, the slower the fermentation, you risk not complying with USDA, but the slower the fermentation, it's like doing a natural fermentation on Chardonnay.

Doug Shafer:
Got it.

Pete Seghesio:
You're going to have a lot more nuance, a lot more buttery-ness, a lot more  -

Doug Shafer:
Complexity and -

Pete Seghesio:
Complexity.

Doug Shafer:
Aromas, yeah, the whole thing.

Pete Seghesio:
So in the speed of fermentation, dictates how quickly it ages, so so, the the the release of moisture during fermentation basically sets the gauge for how that salumi is going to age.
So if it ages, if it ferments very fast, that means you have large pores, so that means it's going to age faster because there's large pores are channels for the moisture to get out.

Doug Shafer:
Right, got it.

Pete Seghesio:
But if you do a slower fermentation, smaller pores, then it's gonna take longer, and that's how you get more complexity.

Doug Shafer:
I'm with you, so now you're fermenting with yeast, what's the, what's the …

Pete Seghesio:
It's a bacteria

Doug Shafer:
It's a bacteria, it's like a malactic thing, okay.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
It’s a bacteria.

Doug Shafer:
So how do you.

Pete Seghesio:
We we are using we have to use a little bit of a sugar source, a food source for that bacteria.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah, got it.

Pete Seghesio:
And so that's the other thing, its not just the temperature of fermentation, it's also how much you feed the bacteria.

Doug Shafer:
Just like wine.

Pete Seghesio:
Exactly.

Doug Shafer:
[laughs]

Pete Seghesio:
It's an amazing, it's amazing, and so like there's industry will make chubs, you know that, that, like, industry can make something that diameter in in probably 20 days, that took us 60, you know.

Doug Shafer:
Wow.

Pete Seghesio:
So we're twice, if not three times as long. But you just get much more complexity, more buttery-ness, more layers of flavor.
It's all about palate, weight, depth of flavor, it's same as wine

Doug Shafer:
So how do you stop the fermentation which is a wine-making question

Pete Seghesio:
It's got to be all the way fermented.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
Has to be fermented to dry.

Doug Shafer:
So it's to dryness.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
Okay got it. So then now you said, now you're talking about aging, you've got to age it.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
How long do you age?

Pete Seghesio:
Well the little chub, so our fermentation are typically five days.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And then, uh, and then the chubs will age for about 25 so total time is 30. But -

Doug Shafer:
Sorry what's a chub

Pete Seghesio:
A chub is gonna be about a 30 millimeters around.

Doug Shafer:
That's like your middle finger and thumb almost touching,

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah.

Doug Shafer:
And how long.

Pete Seghesio:
Well they're gonna be an 8 ounce chub is gonna be about 6 inches 7 inches long.

Doug Shafer:
Got it, okay, so no you're gonna age it.

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah, so that total time is about is about uh 30 days.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
But if you go with the 70 millimeter, which that one is, so

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
So twice the size, that's gonna take you 60 days.

Doug Shafer:
Okay and aging temperature is?

Pete Seghesio:
We like to be in the mid 50s.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
So 53, 54 and humidities, you know I shouldn't say.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
But ah higher than what's your humidity in your wine cellar.

Doug Shafer:
Ah. God hopefully it's 65 percent.

Pete Seghesio:
Ah we're higher than that.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
We're typically, we're, it's gonna range.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
It's gonna range between the upper 70s typically in the upper 70s, lower 80s, but the important thing is that salumi is a living entity. It's a living, it's a living entity so in that aging room, it is, with the aging, it is releasing aroma and you need to bring in fresh fresh air.

Doug Shafer:
Got it.

Pete Seghesio:
So we bring in, typically, air every night, and then one time during the day but it's all filtered.

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
But it's ah, but we're bringing in outside air and releasing some of the air inside so you, you need to bring in fresh air, usually about an hour every 12 hours.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
Of fresh air, that's coming in so that you don't build up too much of an ammonia smell.

Doug Shafer:
Got it. And what happens during the aging process, how is that is the changing the taste, the aroma?

Pete Seghesio:
It's really what the the the aroma coming out of the fermentation, to me the most beautiful smell is is well it used to be fermenting Zinfandel grapes.

Doug Shafer:
It's -

Pete Seghesio:
Now it's fermenting salumi.

Doug Shafer:
It's fermenting Chardonnay for me in the barrel

Pete Seghesio:
Yep so so, it's really just the the main thing is we are just seeing the concentration of meat. So the whole um, meat process, we figure we lose about 40 percent.

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
So, that's the thing is that you will see more concentration of flavor.

Doug Shafer:
Okay.

Pete Seghesio:
Between day 1 in the aging room and day 25, you're going to have much more concentrated. So you're just watching, the flavors are just going to become more and more pronounced as that product dries.

Doug Shafer:
You know, I'm just sitting here, I'm just kind of stunned. I love it. So you're still you're still an artist, my friend

Pete Seghesio:
Yeah

Doug Shafer:
You've gone from wine to salumi

Pete Seghesio:
It, it you know, one of the one of the and I didn't realize this, at the beginning

Doug Shafer:
Right

Pete Seghesio:
You know, I didn't, I you know my opportunity to work with Dario Cecchini, from Panzano, um, you know, it it's been an amazing uh journey and Dario's words were very important and you know Dario, just some of the things like, Peter don't don't worry about trying to figure it out, just like make great quality and
And it's a symphony. The butcher shop, the salumificio, the celle, where they make it, the and the little bites of food, it's all a symphony, it all works together. And just focus on your region. Dario's salumi, that he he makes and his sausage that he makes, um, and the lardo that he makes are with indigenous herbs to Tuscany. Lot of juniper, some bay, and so two of the salumi that we make are Bianca and Rosso, are basically indigenous herbs from this area, from Sonoma and Napa.

Doug Shafer:
Right.

Pete Seghesio:
And and are indigenous in that these are spices that have been here for the past century. And utilizing the whole animal, focusing on the quality of ingredients, and um, but yeah I guess I didn't realize, uh, the similarities between wine and salumi with fermentation, with aging, how critical the components are, and the importance of fresh ingredients, the importance of the best ingredients. And uh, I think a common thing is that salumi today in America are not balanced, they're bold, they're

Doug Shafer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Pete Seghesio:
Big. They're most Italian, salumists, salumi

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
Would come and they can't eat, what the salumi we make today here in America. It's too spicy, it's too heavy, and -

Doug Shafer:
Right right

Pete Seghesio:
So we want it flavorful but we want it balanced, and one of the things that's interesting with salami, if you put too many spices in, because they're going to be concentrated -

Doug Shafer:
Right

Pete Seghesio:
Because of the aging process, it's very easy for them to clash. And so, I've had to throttle back substantially, and these are recipe, a recipes that I'm working on for five years now.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
Six years.

Doug Shafer:
Yeah.

Pete Seghesio:
And I've had to dramatically pull back on ingredient amounts and number, just because it clashes too much so it's it's very it's it's amazing

Doug Shafer:
Pete. I'm so glad you're here. I it is so cool to see you and see the passion you had making wine and now you have with the salumi, and you're just, you're like a light bulb sitting over there.

Pete Seghesio:
Oh.

Doug Shafer:
You're you're just flaming on. But, thanks for coming today it was a great time, great to catch up.

Pete Seghesio:
Thank you so much, Doug, appreciate it

Doug Shafer:
Thank you, yeah take care.

Pete Seghesio:
Alright