- Alicante Bouschet
- Cabernet Franc
- Field blend
- Petit Bouschet
- Petite Sirah
- Russian River Valley
- What is Alegría?
A cross between Grenache and Petit Bouschet, created in France by Henri Bouschet in the 1880s, Alicante Bouschet adds color, tannin, and texture to our field blend with spicy black raspberry flavors and notes of licorice. Unlike most red grapes, Alicante Bouschet has red flesh which supplements the color that comes from its thick skin. Its abundance of color made it very popular among home winemakers during Prohibition.
Cabernet Franc (the red parent of Cabernet Sauvignon). Our Russian River Valley Cabernet Franc form Alegria Vineyards takes a very long time to ripen in our cool Russian River climate, but the grapes produce one of the best versions of Cabernet Franc in California.
A grape from Spain, and the most-planted variety in France, Carignane adds acid and tannin, aromas of violets and roses, and flavors of blackberry and blueberry to the field blend. A later ripener than Zinfandel, it is more prevalent in field blends in warmer areas like Dry Creek and Alexander Valley.
From the south of France, Cinsaut adds softness and bouquet to the field blend.
The Dolcetto grape variety originates in the Piedmont area of Italy, which, like the Russian River Valley, has a climate where fog plays a major role. Our Russian River Valley Dolcetto is perhaps the best Dolcetto wine made in California.
A field blend is when multiple grape varieties are grown together, harvested together, crushed, and co-fermented. The melding of flavors from the different grapes starts at the very beginning of the winemaking process—on the day the grapes are picked.
Spain’s most widely-planted red grape and the second most planted grape in France, Grenache adds fruitiness to the field blend.
Formerly known as Pinot St. George in California, Negrette comes from the south of France near Toulouse. It adds strawberry, blackberry, and cherry notes to the blend.
In the 1820s Henri’s father, Louis Bouschet, created this variety by crossing Aramon and Teinturier du Cher. It was very popular until supplanted by Alicante Bouschet. It has similar flavors, but its red flesh is not quite as red as Alicante’s. In the 1880s, Alicante Bouschet was in such demand and was so expensive, that nurseries required growers to take some Petit Bouschet along with it.
A cross of Syrah and Peloursin (Gros Béclan) propagated in France around 1880 by Francois Durif. It is called Durif in France, but it is hard to find any growing there. Petite Sirah is very often found in old Zinfandel vineyards in California. It provides “backbone” to the field blend. It adds color, tannin, blackberry flavors and notes of pepper and spice. It thrives in California’s dry summers but, because of its tight cluster and thin skin, it would not fare well in the summer rains of Europe.
Russian River Valley
The Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (appellation) includes about 1/6 of the grapevines planted in Sonoma County. The terroir of the Russian River Valley is strongly influenced by the daily invasion of fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The fog prolongs the growing season and promotes the development of great flavors in the grapes we grow in our Alegria Vineyards. Our Russian River Valley Syrah and our other wines have an elegance that reflects the influence of the cool climate.
Sangiovese is the principal red wine grape in Tuscany, used to produce Brunello and Chianti. There are not many Russian River Valley Sangiovese wines, but we were confident that the variety would thrive at Alegría Vineyards because our old Zinfandel field blend vineyard includes Sangiovese that was planted more than 60 years ago by A. Rafanelli when he replanted part of the vineyard. Our cool, fog-influenced Russian River Valley climate preserves the grapes’ natural acidity and gives us a very Italianate Sangiovese.
Syrah, the noble grape of the northern Rhone Valley in France, came to California more than a century ago. Our vineyard planted in 1890 includes some old Syrah vines as part of our Zinfandel field blend. So when we planted more Syrah vines in 1991, we were confident that they would thrive. Acorn Winery produces one of the best Russian River Valley Syrah wines. The terroir of Alegria Vineyards highlights Syrah’s cool climate character of blackberry and pepper. We field blend our Syrah with Viognier to add aroma and stabilize color.
A variety from the Jura area in eastern France, Trousseau adds body, cranberry and cherry flavors, and spice to the field blend. In the 1880s, Charles Wetmore, a leading California viticulturalist, recommended adding Trousseau to a field blend for its “preservative qualities.” The grape is known as Bastardo in Portugal, where it is used to make port.
What is Alegría?
Alegría, our vineyards’ name, is a Spanish word that means joy and happiness.
A successful immigrant in the Horatio Alger style, Zinfandel was not well known and got no respect in Europe. It emigrated to the U.S. in the 1820s to start anew and, like many immigrants, changed its name. It was worked for several years as a table grape in New York and Massachusetts before coming west around the time of the Gold Rush. In California it found enormous success. It quickly became California’s predominant wine grape, a position it held for a hundred years. Until recently, its exact European origin remained a mystery. We now know that it came from Croatia where a few vines were recently found. There it is called “Crljenak”, a name that simply means “red grape’. (It was also recently learned that before leaving for the New World Zinfandel fathered another grape, Plavac Mali, which is now Croatia’s most important wine grape.)
For about 100 years, Zinfandel was the most widely planted red grape in the Russian River Valley. Our Alegria Heritage Vines field blend Zinfandel is a perfect example of how beautiful and complex a Russian River Valley Zinfandel can be.