Terroir [ter wah] is a French word that describes the "sense of place" you can find in a glass of wine, particularly in a vineyard-designated wine.
The term (unfortunately, there is no English equivalent) sums up the effects of climate, soil, terrain, and other aspects of the vineyard site. We try to make wines that reflect the unique character of our vineyards and show how the grapes we grow express themselves in our particular location.
Alegría Vineyards has its own unique terroir. Located south of Healdsburg in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, on river terrace soils less than a mile from the river our vineyards have four distinct types of alluvial soil. The topography varies from gently sloping to steep hillside. The very cool climate prolongs the ripening process.
Fog is the major environmental factor in the vineyard's terroir because it provides a strong cooling influence. The fog comes up the Russian River Valley from the Pacific Ocean in the summer months and often lingers until 11:30 in the morning. Vineyards just a couple of miles away in Dry Creek Valley or Alexander Valley get a full day of sun and higher temperature. With less sun and less heat, we have a significantly longer growing season to develop the flavors that are the hallmark of our vineyards.
The vineyard soils show the influence of the crash of tectonic plates and the movement of the river over millions of years. From the ocean to the west of us and volcanoes to the east, we find a diverse mélange of rocks scattered in our well-drained alluvial soils. The soil is quite variable. There can be enough clay near one vine to make a pot, while six feet away the soil might be half gravel. These differences can translate into subtle differences in the flavors in the grapes.