Our original Russian River Valley vineyard dates back to 1890. People describe old vineyards like ours as “Italian field blends”, but many of them pre-date the Italians, and they seldom include any Italian varieties.
Our vineyard was planted by a family named Brumfield that came from Virginia in 1857. In vineyard censuses done in the 1880s, the Brumfields reported they were growing Zinfandel and Mission. When we bought the vineyard, there were still a couple of Mission vines near the old house, which is no longer part of our property. Of course, “Zinfandel” meant Zinfandel plus other complementary varieties. The Sangiovese in our vineyard was added 60 years ago, in 1950, by A. Raffanelli, who owned the vineyard at that time.
The Heritage Vines Zinfandel blocks are a mixed planting that is 78% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, & 10% Alicante Bouschet. The remaining 2% includes Carignane, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette, Syrah, Plavic Mali, Tannat, Muscat Noir, Peloursin, Beclan, Mataro, Cinsaut, Grenache, and a few white grapes: Palomino and Monbadon. We believe that the mix of inter-planted varieties evolved over the years. As a vine died and was replaced, it wasn’t necessarily replaced with the same variety. Our particular mix of varietals is unique.
The different varieties are inter-planted, and each block in the vineyard has a different mix. We pick all the varieties in a block together and co-ferment them, so they are blended from the day they are picked. After we bought the property in 1990, and after we identified and inventoried the existing vines (using an ampelography book), we planted the adjacent pasture land to grapes. Part of the reason we planted Syrah and Sangiovese was that we could see that they were already thriving in the old vineyard.
Inspired by the tradition of old field blend wines, we decided that all our other wines would be field blends as well. Our Russian River Valley Sangiovese includes some Canaiolo and Mammolo; our Dolcetto includes some Barbera and Freisa; our Cabernet Franc includes some Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon; our Syrah includes Viognier. We’ve also created two other field blends (actually a blend of field blends). One we call Medley, which varies year-to-year but always includes Cinsaut, several black, red, and white muscats, and Viognier blended with some of the major varieties we grow. The other is Acorn Hill, and is a blend of the varieties that grow in our Acorn Hill blocks. Although it varies from year to year, our Sangiovese and Syrah field blends have been consistent components.
Planting a mixture of vines/varietals was standard practice in the 19th century. Also, a certain amount of the mixing might have happened by mistake. When Alicante Bouschet was first released (mid 1870s) it was so popular and in such short supply that you could only buy it mixed with Petit Bouschet.
Alegría Vineyards is registerd by the Historic Vineyard Society. For futher details on our historic vineyard, please visit our page on The Historic Vineyard Society website.
Download an outline of the history of Alegría Vineyards.